Election Commission must avoid suspicion that it is colluding with Barisan Nasional to deny 650,000 new young voters the right to cast their votes in next general election


Speech (2) 
- Budget 2000
by
Lim Kit Siang
 

(Dewan Rakyat, Monday): The Election Commission is another important organ  of the state which has a cloud over its head about institutional independence and integrity.

I am very dissatisfied with the reply given by the Deputy  Finance Minister, Datuk Nazri Aziz, during the winding up of the debate on the 1999 supplementary estimates last week  on the many issues I had raised about the Election Commissionís  preparation for the nationís  tenth general election.

Nazri had even misled the House and the people when he said that there had been instances in previous general elections when  voters could not vote because the new electoral roll being prepared by the Election Commission was not ready when Parliament was dissolved.

This is untrue. I have checked the four previous general elections held under the tenure of Mahathir as Prime Minister, whether 1982, 1986, 1990 or 1995, and in everyone of these general elections, the electoral roll used was the latest one, and there was never an occasion when new voters could not  exercise their constitutional right to vote because the new electoral roll was in the process of revision and was not yet ready.

Nazri  also misled  Parliament when he said that it was not unusual for the Election Commission to take eight months to prepare its electoral roll.

For the new electoral roll used for the 1995 general election, the Election Commission  took six months and nine days to prepare.  For the 1990 general election, it took four months to prepare the new electoral roll for the whole of Malaysia except for Sabah, which took another month.

For the 1986 general election, the Election Commission took eight months and four days to prepare the new electoral roll for the whole of Malaysia except for Sabah.  For the 1982 general election, the Election Commission took five months 19 days to prepare the new electoral roll.

Why then should the Election Commission, on the eve of the new millennium and in the age of Information Technology, take more than eight months to prepare the latest electoral roll, as the votersí registration exercise ended in the first week of May.

The Election Commission will be taking more than eight months to prepare the new electoral roll if the new electoral register cannot be ready by Hari Raya on 7th or 8th January 2000.

It is open secret that the Barisan Nasional is uneasy with the new electoral roll being prepared by the Election Commission, because it will have 650,000 new voters, mostly from the younger generation.

The Barisan Nasional has no confidence that it could get the support of the majority of the young generation of Malaysia, and this is why it is worried that it would not be able to preserve its two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next election if the 650,000 new young voters are allowed to vote.

There are people who had expected Parliament to be dissolved after the 25th anniversary Barisan Nasional bash the previous  Sunday on Oct. 24 or after the 2000 Budget last  Friday.  I am now more inclined to the view that Parliament would not be dissolved this  month because Mahathir needs more time to ensure that he could secure two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next election.

If Parliament is not dissolved this  month, then  the tenth general election cannot be held until after the Hari Raya on 7th or 8th January 2000. However, as the Barisan Nasional is loth to use the new electoral roll being prepared by the Election Commission because of its 650,000 new young voters, it is likely that the general election would be held around the third week of January.

The question is whether the Election Commission would collude  with the Barisan Nasional to deliberately delay the finalisation of  the new electoral roll so that it would not be in time for the next general election if it is held in the second half of January.

I do not wish to question or doubt the independence and integrity of the Election Commission as the DAP wants it to be able to carry out its constitutional mandate and responsibility to conduct a free and fair general election.

It is important, however, that the Election Commission  should conduct itself in a manner  so as to avoid  suspicion  that it is in any way implicated in a campaign to make the next election the "dirtiest" in the nationís history by denying the new 650,000 voters a chance to cast their vote in the next general election.

This is why the Election Commission should give satisfactory and acceptable explanation as to why it is going to take the longest time since Mahathir became Prime Minister to finalise the preparation of the new electoral roll and why it is impossible for the Election Commission to speed up the process to ensure that the new electoral roll would be completed latest by the end of this year.
 

(1/11/99)


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