(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The
Barisan Nasional government is amending the election laws to turn Malaysia into
a “dubious democracy” by institutionalising Barisan Nasional electoral
abuses and malpractices while criminalising unfettered Opposition campaigning.
the Elections Amendment Bill and the Election Offences Amendment Bill become law
after passage in the current meeting of Parliament, it will even become even
more difficult to uphold the integrity of elections by ensuring that they
are free and fair - as the odds are increasingly being stacked
in favour of the rich and wealthy by
turning electoral politics into a money game.
Elections Amendment Bill quadruples the election deposit from the present
RM5,000 - which is already the highest in the Commonwealth barring Singapore -
to as high as RM20,000.
Election Offences Amendment Bill now requires a second election deposit from all
candidates, RM10,000 for a parliamentary candidate and RM5,000 for a State
Assembly candidate, to the State Elections Officer for permission to “display,
furnish or distribute election campaign materials to members of the public in
the new section 24B of the Election Offences Amendment Bill, this second deposit
will be forfeited if the any election campaign material, whether advertisement,
leaflet, brochure, flag, ensign, banner, standard, poster, placard, handbill,
label or any form of temporary billboard displayed or affixed in the
constituency is not removed within 14 days after polling.
is the further provision that if the cost of removing the election campaign
materials in the constituency exceeds the second deposit forfeited, the
difference shall be a debt due from the candidate to the Federal Government and
may be recovered from the candidate accordingly.
is most unfortunate that the two far-reaching sets of amendments to the election
laws in the nation’s history are not designed to democratise elections to
ensure that it will free and fair, but calculated to raise the financial stakes
for intending candidates.
there are amendments to increase the penalties for corrupt practices, it is a
meaningless exercise as neither the
Election Commission nor the other enforcement agencies had
ever been serious in enforcing the election laws to wipe out
corrupt and illegal electoral practices.
instance, Section 8 of the Election
Offences Act 1954 makes it a “corrupt practice” for any election candidate
“who, corruptly, by himself or by any other person, either before, during or
after an election, directly or indirectly” provides “any food, drink,
refreshment or provision” to “corruptly
influence” a voter to give his vote in
an election, resulting under Section 11(2) in the candidate, if elected, losing
his State Assembly seat on such conviction.
law is therefore very clear that it is a “corrupt election practice” to
treat a voter to any food, drink or refreshment to influence a voter in the
casting of his vote which could lead to an election victory being null and void
- but the Barisan Nasional campaign
in the Ketari by-election was marked by sumptuous
free flow of food, drink and refreshment for the Ketari voters every day
from nomination day, with nightly average of one hundred tables for the Chinese
voters and kenduris for hundreds and thousands of Malay voters.
is the use of the Election Commission enhancing the penalties for “corrupt
election practice” when the the Barisan Nasional candidate in Ketari can make
a mockery of the ban on treating
voters to “food, drink or refreshments”,
whether directly or indirectly, by having sumptuous
free-flow of “food, drink and refreshments” for hundreds or thousands
of voters every day?
election law changes also criminalise unfettered Opposition campaigning with the
creation of a “super sedition” offence under the Election Offences
(Amendment) Bill, which is wider in scope with heavier
penalty than the Sedition Act on which it is based.
proposed new “super sedition” offence on “promoting feelings of ill-will,
discontent or hostility between persons of the same race or different races or
of the same class or different classes of the population of Malaysia” to
influence voters in an election campaign is a “catch-all” provision which
could be used to prohibit all fair
and legitimate criticisms by Opposition candidates against the Barisan Nasional
calls for withdrawal of the two sets of election law amendments which will
turn Malaysia into a “dubious democracy” by institutionalising
Barisan Nasional electoral abuses and malpractices while criminalising
unfettered Opposition campaigning and the establishment of a Parliamentary
Select Committee to invite public feedback on how to democratise the election
laws and not the reverse.