Election Commissionís statement that the new electoral rolls would only be ready  next February has confirmed  fears that the Election Commission  is not free and independent

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): I am shocked by the statement of the Election Commission Secretary Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar yesterday that the new 1999 electoral rolls  with 650,000 new young voters will only  be used if the general election is  held in February next year.

This has confirmed my fears expressed both inside and outside Parliament  that the Election Commission is unable to discharge its constitutional mandate to conduct the tenth general election in a free and fair manner, as the Barisan Nasional has decided that the next general election will be the "dirtiest" in the nationís history to preserve its two-thirds parliamentary majority.

I said in Parliament yesterday that despite general expectations, I do not think the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad will dissolve Parliament this month after the presentation of the 2,000 election budget.

This is not because Mahathir respects the parliamentary conventions and niceties that without a constitutional crisis, it is most improper for a government with a rock-like majority of five-sixth parliamentary seats to dissolve Parliament in mid-session, but because Mahathir is not confident yet of winning the next general election with two-thirds majority and needs more time to try to win back the Malay heartland.

However, Mahathir is not comfortable with the new electoral rolls currently being revised by the Election Commission, because of the 650,000 new young voters who are most likely to vote for political change and reforms and therefore support the Barisan Alternative.

If Parliament is not dissolved this month, general election cannot be held in December because of the holy fasting month.  This would mean Mahathir would have between Hari Raya on 7th or 8th January and end of January 31 to hold the next general election without having to use the new electoral rolls with the 650,000 new young voters.

This may serve the Barisan Nasional election game-plan but  it is clearly wrong and unconstitutional for the Election Commission to submit itself to the Barisan Nasional agenda of how to secure two-thirds majority in the next general election.

The Election Commissionís constitutional duty is to hold a free and fair general election and not to help the Barisan Nasional to secure its parliamentary two-thirds majority.

One of the fundamental prerequisites of a free and fair general election is to ensure that the 650,000 new young voters who have registered themselves in the April - May votersí registration exercise are not disenfranchised because of the unjustifiably long delays in the preparation and verification of the new electoral roll.

Wan Ahmad said that from yesterday, the Election Commission would monitor statements or issues raised by the Opposition and reply appropriately in the electronic and print media so as to "restore public confidence in the commission".

I am glad that the Election Commission has realised that there is a need to "restore" public confidence, but this can only be done by the Election Commission acting independently and professionally, and not by issuing daily statements to counter Opposition criticisms.

Yesterdayís statement by the Election Commission Secretary was the first time the Election Commission  has said that the new electoral roll cannot be ready until  February.

I had always suspected this. This is why I demanded to know  in Parliament what the  Election Commission meant when it had said that the rolls would be ready in January, refusing to be specific about the  dates. I specifically asked in Parliament whether this meant January 1 or January 31.

Compelled  now to admit that "some time in January" meant next February, the Election Commission is delivering another body blow to  "public confidence" in its own efficiency, independence, professionalism and integrity.

If the Election Commission treasures public confidence, then it should rework its entire schedule to ensure that the new electoral rolls would be ready by the end of this year, or at least, in time for the next general election, regardless of which week of January Parliament is dissolved.


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