Election Commission should suspend postal balloting in the next general election unless the armed services and police can assure a free, fair and clean process by allowing representatives of candidates to monitor the postal voting
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The second series of meetings between the Election Commission with political parties in Putrajaya in the past two days were again another wash-out, making no progress whatsoever in ensuring that the first general election in the new century is a model of a “free, fair and clean election” not only in the history of Malaysia but for all other countries, both developed and developing democracies.
I had outlined eight critera to evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness, professionalism and independence of the Election Commission but there had been no satisfactory accounting or progress for anyone of them. The eight bench-marks for a free, fair and clean election and an independent, efficient and professional Election Commission are:
After the meetings, the Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the Election Commission was powerless to resolve the problem of “phantom voters” as they are caused by discrepancies in voters’ addresses – in their identity cards and those used for voting – as the problem was under the jurisdiction of the National Registration Department.
He said the commission could not do anything about the problem because the EC defined a phantom voter "as a deceased registered voter or a person not qualified to vote because he or she was not a citizen or below 21 years of age" but political parties define phantom voters as people who register at a certain place, but are unable to be traced at that place during election time. He said if someone registers as a voter according to the address stated in the identity card and he or she is later found to have moved from the address, nothing can be done by the EC.
Rashid is being disingenuous and dishonest in trying to explain away the “phantom voter” scandal and to justify the Election Commission’s refusal to tackle the problem, as he knows that political parties are not referring to voters who had moved to another locality but had retained their original voting addresses, but to “phantom voters” who had no residential or work relationship or history whatsoever with the constituency he or she is registered to vote.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said last November,
On postal balloting, Rashid said the Election Commission has asked the Defence Ministry to allow representatives of candidates contesting in general elections to monitor postal voting, and that this was another matter beyond its control as it involved “security of the camps”.
During a general election, the security and integrity of the electoral process must take precedence and priority over the so-called security of defence and police establishments. In the next general election, the Election Commission should suspend postal balloting in polling centres used by the armed services and police where there is no assurance of a free, fair and clean election by allowing representatives of candidates to monitor the postal voting process.
In India, the Election Commission had suspended elections in states where state governments could not give assurance or create conditions for free, fair and clean elections. Why can’t the Election Commission exercise such powers in the discharge of its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean elections?
What is the use of the Election Commission setting up election monitoring squads for each parliamentary constituencies to ensure the campaigning complies with the regulations in terms of banners, posters, ceramahs, etc., when it is completely powerless to ensure that campaigning conditions at the macro level are also honest and above-board – for instance, to clamp down on money politics by political parties on the national scale, mass media abuses and violatios of the code of conduct for a caretaker government during the election campaign?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman