Elections Commission barking up the wrong tree with the new batch of Elections Act amendments as quadrupling election deposits for candidates when there should be new national  limit for election expenditures by political parties for each general election

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Friday):  The Elections Commission is barking up the wrong tree with the new batch of Elections Act amendments, focussing on unimportant and even irrelevant issues while ignoring important questions casting a dark shadow on its ability to carry out its  constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean elections as the bedrock of a functioning and legitimate parliamentary democracy.  

The Elections Act (Amendment) Bill which had been presented to Parliament quadruples the election deposit of a candidates from the present RM5,000  to a maximum amount of RM20,000, which is completely irrelevant to  the cancer of the Malaysian electoral process - the politics of money. 

The electoral law to restrict the politics of money in the form of a legal limit to a maximum of election expenditure of RM30,000 for a state assembly candidate and RM50,000 for a parliamentary candidate is broken many times in a single day of election campaigning  by a Barisan Nasional candidate - sometimes broken by the hour -  and this  is further compounded by even greater election expenditures in the name of the Barisan Nasional and its component parties.  

Instead of quadrupling the election deposit of candidates, discouraging free electoral contest and turning elections into a contest of money, the Election Commission should have introduced amendments to effectively enforce the legal limits on election expenditures for candidates so that this provision will cease to be the  biggest joke on the statute books for its most frequent breach.  

The Elections Act should also be amended to limit the election expenditures permitted to political parties in each constituency and for the whole country in a general election.  No  political party or coalition, for instance, should be allowed in its name to exceed  the RM50,000 permissible to be spent by  its parliamentary candidate for each constituency.  This will place a national limit to the election expenditures which a political party or coalition could spend for the whole country in a general election.   

On the basis of legal ceiling of RM50,000 for each of the 193 parliamentary constituencies, this will work out to maximum ceiling of  RM9.65 million that could be spent by a political party or coalition nationwide for 193 parliamentary constituencies in any general election  - which is a far cry from the hundreds of millions of ringgit if not billions spent by the Barisan Nasional for each general election.  

The Elections Amendment Bill  proposal  to raise the compensation  payable by a complainant who lodges an objection without reasonable cause or good faith  over the insertion of voter’s name on  the electoral roll from RM200 to  RM1,000 is most ridiculous and another  abuse of the parliamentary process - in utter disregard of the fact that one of the biggest blots of the electoral process is the lack of a reliable and credible electoral roll with the endless complaints about phantom voters, electors who had voted for several previous general elections suddenly disappearing from the roll as in Ketari in Pahang  in the upcoming by-election and the absence of a mechanism to speedily register or reinstate eligible voters so that they could exercise their constitutional right to vote.  

The five-fold increase of  RM200 to RM1,000 as “compensation” for a baseless complaint is uncalled for, as Malaysians should be encouraged to be public-spirited to help the Election Commission to clean up the electoral roll of phantom and unqualified voters in a particular constituency rather than penalised for helping to verify to ensure a clean electoral roll.   

Surely, it does not cost the Election Commission or any voter RM1,000 just to verify that a voter registration is correct and proper? By the same logic, is the Election Commission going to give a reward of up to RM1,000 for every objection to the insertion of a name on the electoral which is sustained and proved to be true?  

The  provision to make an electoral roll which has been certified or re-certified to be “deemed to be final and binding and shall not be questioned or appealed against in, or reviewed,  quashed or set aside by, any court” is most undemocratic and retrogressive, as it is designed to remove an important check and balance against a  faulty or dishonest electoral roll.  

All in all, the amendments proposed to the Elections Act 1958 are most retrogressive measures as they are not designed to make the Malaysian electoral process free, fair and clean but to forestall effective checks and balances to achieve this objective.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman