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

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangThursday):  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:

  • Ensure a comprehensive and inclusive electoral roll with the highest possible percentage of eligible voters on the electoral register. There are 1.5 million Malaysians aged between 21 and 30 who had yet to register as voters.  Together with eligible voters above 30 years who have not registered as voters, there are easily some two million voters in the country  who have not registered themselves on the electoral roll. This is most outrageous.  The Election Commission should aim to register at least 90 per cent of the two  million unregistered voters in time to cast their votes in the next general election.
  • Remove  the some three million “phantom” voters on the electoral roll in a three-month clean-up operation involving the co-operation of all political parties.  The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir and his deputy, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said  that they have proof of  at least 2.8 million “phantom” voters.  It is a blot on the independence, professionalism and integrity of the Election Commission that some 30 per cent of the electoral roll of some 10 million voters are “phantom voters” with no residential or  work relationships with the constituency he or she is registered to vote and it is not prepared to do anything about it.

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