Election Commission must not be allowed to deflect attention, whether through issues like Akujanji for candidates or letting NGOs contest in elections, from proper accounting in carrying out its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean elections as drawing up a Code of Conduct for a caretaker government after dissolution
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Friday): There seems to be conflict of views between the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his deputy, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi about Non-Government Organisations ( NGOs) contesting in elections, in response to the Election Commission’s statement that NGOs registered under the Societies Act could contest in the general election on condition that they registered with the Election Commission.
Mahathir said NGOs must register as political parties in order to contest in elections while Abdullah said NGOs should not be allowed to function as a political party as both played a different role in society.
There should be no bar on NGOs which wish to contest in elections, but the issue seems to be a very contrived one as there is no demand by any NGO so far to contest in elections.
What is more important is that the Election Commission should not be allowed to deflect attention, whether through issues like Akujanji for candidates or letting NGOs contest in elections, from proper accounting in carrying out its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean elections.
The Election Commission has called for a meeting with all political parties next Thursday (May 22) on three proposals to be tabled at the next parliamentary meeting next month, including one which makes it compulsory for candidates to sign a pledge or “Akujanji” to ensure smooth and incident-free campaigning before contesting in the election.
Are the Election Commission Chairman, members and officers prepared first to set an example by signing an “Akujanji” pledging to conduct free, fair and clean elections before requiring candidates and even political parties to sign Akujanji pledges.
There should be a mechanism where the Election Commission Chairman, members and officers could be publicly called to account if they fail this “Akujanji” pledge to conduct free, fair and clean elections, in particular in the following areas:
If the Election Commission is serious in wanting to ensure free, fair and clean election campaigns, the “Akujanji” pledge proposed for candidates should be comprehensive enough to provide for the disqualification of candidates who either directly or through their agents or political parties are involved in unfair electoral practices like money politics , abuse of government machinery and resources, and unfair media practices.
For instance, when Parliament stands dissolved during a general election and there is only a care-taker government, Cabinet Ministers should not abuse government positions, machinery, resources and funds for any electioneering purpose for a political party. A candidate who benefits from any such “unhealthy” and dishonest practices, as campaigning assistance by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister or Cabinet Minister through the abuse of their government positions or misuse of public funds and resources, should be subject to disqualification.
For this reason, one important item of the agenda in the meeting of the Election Commission with political parties on Thursday should be the drawing up of a Code of Conduct for a caretaker government in the interim of the election campaign after dissolution of Parliament to ensure that it does not abuse its powers and be a major contributor of unfair and dishonest electoral practices.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman