Election Commission should come down to earth to first resolve its chronic inability to produce a clean and comprehensive electoral list and to conduct free, fair and clean elections before tinkering with proposals of e- voting

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang Wednesday): On Monday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad made a working visit to the Election Commission which gave a demonstration of the electronic voting system although the Election Commission Chairman Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said later that the system is unlikely to be implemented just yet.

Yesterday, Mahathir said that country will in time adopt an electronic voting system, as it will facilitate the election process. He said the government, however, had yet to decide whether electronic voting will be used.

Mahathir's final comment illustrates, confirms and reinforces the Achille's heel of the Election Commission - its total lack of autonomy and independence in the discharge of its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean elections in the country, which is not beholden to the ruling government of the day with full and untrammeled powers to decide on the mechanism of the electoral system, as for instance whether to introduce e-voting or not.

DAP agrees however that it is premature in the present circumstances to talk or even plan for e-voting in Malaysia - not because of the absence of IT expertise but the absence of the political prerequisites and conditions.

The Election Commission should come down to earth to resolve its chronic inability to produce a clean and comprehensive electoral list and to conduct free, fair and clean elections before tinkering with any proposal of e-voting to "keep up with the Joneses" in respect of the latest IT hardware and software but without the even more important humanware!

If the Election Commission is capable of producing a clean and comprehensive electoral roll and to conduct clean, free and fair elections, then Malaysia is ready to introduce e-voting even for the next general election. Otherwise, it is ridiculous and laughable for the Election Commission to tinker with proposals of e-voting.

Before the Election Commission wastes precious time and resources planning for e-voting, it should first implement an electronic voter registration system. A search of the Internet will show that many countries allow their citizens to register as voters electronically, or to download the voter-registration form from the Internet for onward transmission. In Malaysia, the Election Commission is incapable of any such elementary electronic services.

I am surprised that in his working visit to the Election Commission, Mahathir did not pursue his grave allegation of 2.8 million phantom voters on the electoral register.

Speaking in Penang after delivering his keynote address at the Penang Barisan Nasional convention on November 1 last year, Mahathir alleged that some 2.8 million registered voters (or more than 30 per cent of the total registered voters in the country) have had their names relocated by certain parties to constituencies of which they have nothing to do with them.

The Prime Minister said a thorough examination of the electoral roll revealed that these voters did not have the address in these constituencies. He said that obviously this had been going on for a long time, probably over the past 30 years.

DAP had been complaining about phantom voters for over two decades, but we had never suggested that over 30 per cent of the electoral register had been contaminated with phantom voters, undermining the credibility of the Election Commission and the legitimacy of the results of all past general elections.

After Mahathir's shocking revelation, Deputy Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional Deputy Chairman Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that the Barisan Nasional would submit details on the 2.8 million voters, who had been transferred to other constituencies, to the Election Commission for action before the next general election.

Had the Barisan Nasional submitted proofs of these 2.8 million phantom voters on the electoral roll? Is there any basis in these high-level Barisan Nasional allegations of planting of rampant phantom voters exceeding 30 per cent of the national electorate on the electoral roll and if so what action had been taken by the Election Commission to purge the "phantom voters" from the electoral register? Or are Mahathir and Abdullah's allegations of 2.8 million phantom voters completely false and baseless and if so, are they prepared to publicly retract their allegations?

Last July, when the Election Commission introduced the round-the-year voter registration system, it announced that there were 2.1 million Malaysians who had attained eligibility to register as voters.

In the six months from July to January, only some 100,000 new voters had registered, excluding the over 20,000 applications from existing voters for change of address. This is less than five per cent of the eligible voters in July last year, without taking into account the new increase of eligible voters since then.

This is most unsatisfactory and a big flop for the round-the-year registration system and the Election Commission must devise a system whereby at least 90 per cent of the new eligible voters - and not less than 5 per cent as at present - are placed on the electoral roll so that they could exercise their constitutional right to vote in the next general election.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman