Election Commission should introduce an efficient voters’ registration system to allow for monthly update of the electoral roll and after dissolution of Parliament at least a 10-day period for final voter registration
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): Kwong Wah Yit Poh today reported the speculation that the next general election could be held in September before Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad steps down as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia in October.
Without commenting on this speculation, it should be noted that if the next general election is held in September, then unregistered eligible voters have only 18 days to register themselves to be in time to exercise their constitutional right to vote in the general election, as anyone who registers as a voter after July 1 will not be able to vote in any general election held before end-November.
This is because under the present round-the-year voters’ registration, the Election Commission can take as long as five months before a new voter is allowed to exercise his constitutional right to vote from the date of registration.
For instance, the 58,452 new voters who registered in the fourth voter registration quarter last year from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 only became qualified voters after their registration was gazetted on 24th February 2003, following the public display of the new supplementary electoral roll from Jan 23 – 29.
This means that it takes a person who registers as a voter on Oct. 1 last year almost five months before he is entitled to cast his vote in an election.
This is clearly most inefficient and unsatisfactory. I have pointed out again and again that if in New Zealand, a voter could vote in a general election after registration 24 hours before the polling day, there can be no reason or excuse whatsoever why the Election Commission must take some five months (or closely to nine months before the 1999 general election) to enfranchise a qualified voter.
The Election Commission must do better and it should introduce an efficient voters’ registration system to allow for monthly update of the electoral roll and after dissolution of Parliament at least a 10-day period for final voter registration.
If the Election Commission is incapable of ensuring free, fair and clean election campaign to check the evils of the 3Ms abuses of the politics of money, media and (government) machinery, the least it should do is to draw up a comprehensive and clean electoral roll, meeting two important criteria, viz:
Officers and officials of Election Commission incapable of performing these two most elementary tasks in their constitutional mandate to conduct elections should resign to give way to others who are capable of accomplishing them, so that the next general election would at least have a clean and comprehensive electoral roll although it will still be marred by the 3M electoral abuses of money politics, media manipulation and unlawful misuse of (government) machinery.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman