Election Commission should stop focusing on trivia and address substantive issues of ensuring free, fair and clean elections especially as it is asking for RM90 million to conduct next general election, more than double the cost of the 1995 general election
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): Recently, the Election Commission had been hogging the news with almost daily coverage, with headlines or news-leads such as the following:
The Election Commission should stop focusing on trivia and address substantive issues of ensuring free, fair and clean elections especially as it is asking for RM90 million to conduct the next general election, more than double the cost of the 1995 general election which cost only RM42.5 million. The 1999 general election cost RM70 million.
The increase in the parliamentary seats from 194 to 219 and state assembly seats from 504 to 567 can be no justification for such hefty increase in the budget for the Election Commission to conduct a general election unless it is going to conduct a totally unprecedented one to truly discharge its constitutional mandate of ensuring a clean, free and fair election.
The Election Commission is misguided in some of its pre-occupations and obsessions. For instance, wouldn’t the Election Commission be wasting public resources and time trying to monitor material posted on the Internet during the campaigning period, when it had never tried to prevent unfair, dishonest and unethical printed propaganda material and advertising in both the printed and electronic media?
Why should the Election Commission prevent candidates from displaying posters and banners without first paying the required deposits, when the Election Commission had never been bothered whether a candidate or a political party conducts a free, fair and clean election campaign?
Is the Election Commission going to impose a deposit on every candidate which could be forfeited if there is legitimate complaint of unfair and dishonest campaigning involving money politics and other forms of electoral abuses?
The Election Commission should stop wasting time and resources on less essential and even trivial matters like poster/banner monitoring squads and focus on its primary constitutional duties to conduct free, fair and clean elections.
Something is very wrong about the Election Commission’s sense of priorities and its understanding of its constitutional mandate and responsibilities when it regards posters and banners as more important than the scandal of three million “phantom voters” who represent some 30 per cent of the total registered electorate, two million eligible voters but who are not on the electoral register and could not exercise their constitutional right to vote in an election, electoral abuses such as money politics, corrupt misuse of public resources and unfair media.
The recently-introduced `Agency Link Up System' (Alis) system does not resolve the problem of the 2.8 million phantom voters highlighted by both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in November last year, as the Alis system which provides an electronic link-up between the Election Commission and the National Registration Department merely furnishes the latter with a more efficient way of removing deceased registered voters from the electoral roll.
The Election Commission should take serious heed of the recent warning by the University Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas) after a two-year study that the Malaysian electoral system and the Election Commission are facing a grave crisis of credibility, legitimacy and confidence.
For this reason, the Election Commission must be prepared to be evaluated in terms of its efficiency, effectiveness, professionalism and independence by the following eight bench-marks:
The Election Commission is holding a second series of meetings with political parties in ten days’ time. Why is the Election Commission, as in the first series, setting the bad example of having separate meetings with ruling and opposition parties, when it should be conducting a meeting with all political parties in one go instead of two separate meetings? In the past decades, the Election Commission had always met political parties, both ruling and opposition, at the same joint meeting and never separately.
If the Election Commission has now no confidence that it could convene an all-party meeting to discuss how best to conduct free, fair and clean elections, isn’t this the most convincing proof of its crisis of confidence, credibility and legitimacy?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman