Present Voters' Registration Exercise is probably the last one before the next general elections

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The present 30-day voters' registration exercise of the Election Commission from yesterday till 10th March is probably the last one before the next general elections.

This means that Malaysians above 21 who have not registered as voters should ensure that they register themselves so that they have the right to exercise their constitutional right to vote in the next general elections to help decide the country's future.

It is regrettable that the Election Commission has only sought the help of the ruling parties to help in the voters' registration exercise but not the opposition parties, when the primary concern of the Election Commission should be to secure the assistance of all political parties and even NGOs to ensure that every eligible voter is on the electoral roll so that no citizen loses the constitutional right to vote in general elections because of weaknesses or imperfections of the electoral registration system.

More and more Malaysians now believe that general elections could be held this year, in contrast to the conventional view a few months ago that general elections could only be held next year after the SUKOM 1998 and the APEC Leaders' Summit in November 1998.

The critical factor determining the date for the next general elections would be the economic crisis, whether there would be economic recovery in the next six to twelve months, or whether the economic recovery would take two or three years, with the next 12 months being the most difficult period for Malaysians when the real bite of the economic hardships would be felt by the people.

Two days ago, the president of the Japan Chamber Trade Industry, Malaysia (JACTIM), Tan Sri Kazuma Suzuki, said that Malaysia would be the first country to recover from the current economic problem in this region because of its political stability and strong and sound fundamentals.

If Suzuki is right that Malaysia would be the "first country in the region to recover from the current problems", implying of course that such a recovery would be in six to 12 months' time, then general elections would not be held this year.

However, if a panel of distinguished economists interviewed in the latest edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review (February 12, 1998), on the economic future of the region, and in particular "When will the Good Times Roll Again?" are right, then the outlook is not all that optimistic and would point to a general elections this year.

One question which the FEER asked the five economists was:

Whatever the public statements made by the government leaders about the period for economic recovery, whether Parliament is dissolved this year or next year will depend on whether the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad believes in optimists like Suzuki or pessimists like the economists interviewed in the latest issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik had reiterated that the country and people should not allow the question of the next general elections to distract them from the paramount challenge of overcoming the economic crisis.

I fully agree and the best way to make whole issue of a possible general elections this year completely academic is for the Prime Minister to publicly declare that there would definitely be no dissolution of Parliament and the State Assembly in the next 12 months, so that all energies and resources could be focussed on economic recovery and turnaround.

In the meantime, until such a categorical announcement is made by the Prime Minister that there would be no general elections in the next 12 months, the fact remains that the current voters' registration exercise is likely to be the last one for Malaysians above 21 who have not registered as voters to ensure that they could vote in the next general elections.

DAP has appointed the National Organising Secretary and MP for Cheras, Tan Kok Wai, as National Chairman of the 1998 National Voters' Registration Committee to be responsible for a national campaign to ensure as many eligible voters as possible could be registered as voters by March 10.

The DAP will also set up State Voters' Registration Committees and as a first step, the DAP National Voters Registration Committee will seek a meeting with Election Commission officials to see how the current voters registration campaign could be carried out in a fair, effective and efficient manner.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong