Last week, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Abang Abu Bakar Abang Mustapha announced that Malaysia was seeking to run the next general election on the information technology system used by Australia, as the use of IT in voter registration, updating of electoral rolls and allowing a voter to cast his vote at the polling station of any constituency unlike Malaysia where the voter could only vote in a designated location.
Any modernisation to improve the efficiency of the electoral system is to be welcomed, although going by past record, it is quite dubious whether the Election Commission would be able to benefit from studying the more efficient electoral systems in other countries.
For instance, the Election Commission had previously spent a lot of money and man-hours to study the automatic voter registration system in other countries and had even submitted a recommendation to the Cabinet to introduce such a system - but to no avail whatsoever.
In this connection, the Election Commission should explain what is the position of its proposals to amend the election laws following the numerous complaints about the election system in the April 1995 general elections.
The 1995 general elections had been marred by numerous defects and scandals, like the arbitrary disqualification of candidates on nomination day, the mess-up in the colour choice of the parliamentary and state assembly ballot-papers, the mistakes on counting of votes on polling day, the scandalous process of registration of voters with the massive “planting” of phantom voters (who neither lived nor worked in the constituency in question), the total lack of accountability and transparency in the postal ballot voting which makes a mockery of a democratic election as well as the unfair redelineation of the electoral constituencies.
Worst of all, the whole general election failed to live up to the standards of being “free, fair and clean”, not only because of the unrestricted use of money politics, abuse of government machinery but also the unfair media, both printed and electronic.
After the 1995 general elections, there was also the most undemocratic spectacle where the duly-elected DAP MP for Bukit Bintang, Wee Choo Keong was disqualified, and the voters of Bukit Bintang denied their fundamental constitutional right to elect the MP of their choice when the defeated MCA candidate was declared the MP for Bukit Bintang and allowed to enter Parliament by the backdoor.
After the 1995 general elections, the Election Commission had announced that it would be making proposals to amend the election laws but there are no signs that the Election Commission is making any study or will be able to address the fundamental issues of how to make the Malaysian election ssytem “free, fair and clean”.