Election Commission should not shirk its primary constitutional responsibility to ensure that the two million qualified voters are registered on the electoral roll to be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote in next general election
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Monday): The Election Commission should not shirk its primary constitutional responsibility to ensure that the two million qualified voters are registered on the electoral roll to be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote in the next general election.
The statement by the Election Commission Secretary, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar that it was not the sole responsibility of the commission to ensure the two million people who are eligible to vote registered as voters, and that it was also the responsibility of the community, political parties, heads of departments, non-governmental organisations and companies to do so (Bernama) is a lame and tame excuse for the Election Commission in failing to devise an efficient and satisfactory voter-registration system, such as automatic voter registration system based on the identity card when a person reaches the age of 21.
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 close to nine months before the 1999 general election) before a qualified voter can cast his vote after registration.
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.
The preparation of a comprehensive and clean electoral roll is the least it should do after it had been guilty of the shenanigan of disenfranchising 680,000 new qualified voters from voting in the 1999 general election by delaying the whole process of registration by nine long months till after the general election – and which was admitted at the recent UMNO General Assembly as an important factor in saving UMNO and Barisan Nasional from worse electoral defeats.
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:
Yesterday, Wan Ahmad gave a lecture on “Democracy in Malaysia: Method and Implementation:, where he said that based on his observations of the by-elections in Pendang and Anak Bukit, Puteri UMNO has been instrumental in reducing PAS’ influence in the rural areas.
The Star quoted him as saying: “They are really effective. Puteri UMNO is really active and the village folk are more accepting and welcoming of these young women.” Wan Ahmad also said that past trends showed that Malay voters in the Klang Valley who supported Barisan Nasional would continue to do so and that Barisan Nasional seats in Kuala Lumpur would be quite secure.
I am raising this issue not to discuss whether Wan Ahmad’s political analysis and prognosis are right or wrong, but whether it is right and proper for the highest executive officer of the Election Commission to stray from his constitutional duties to be independent and impartial in conducting clean, free and fair elections in the country to express his political views and analysis in favour of the ruling coalition.
At a time when the legitimacy of the Election Commission is under considerable cloud because of its chronic inability to conduct free, fair and clean elections, in particular to check the evils of the 3Ms abuses of the politics of money, media and (government) machinery, Wan Ahmad partiality towards the ruling coalition is a grave disservice to the system of parliamentary democracy in further undermining public confidence in the independence, professionalism and impartiality of the Election Commission.
The Election Commission should make a public stand as to whether what Wan Ahmad had done is right and proper, whether the Election Commission Secretary should be disciplined or even asked to vacate his office so as to protect public confidence in the independence, credibility and integrity of the Election Commission.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman