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A terrible indictment on the professionalism of the Election Commission if some 200,000 new voters who registered in the last quarter of last year could not vote in next general election because of the dissolution of  Parliament next week before the gazette of the 2003 Electoral Master Register


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaSunday):  It is a terrible indictment on the professionalism of the Election Commission if some 200,000 new voters who registered in the last quarter of last year could not vote in next general election because of the dissolution of  Parliament next week before the gazette of the 2003 Electoral Master Register in the middle of March. 

Only a fortnight ago, Election Commission officials were urging eligible voters that it was not too late for them to register on the electoral roll, and that those who register before March 31 would have a chance to vote in the general election if it is held before the end of April, as the Election Commission needs about 15 days to process the registration to enable them to exercise their constitutional right to vote. 

It is most shocking therefore that the Election Commission has now admitted in meetings with representatives of political parties in the past few days that if Parliament is dissolved next week, the electoral roll that will be used would be the one updated till September 2003, as the new voters who registered in the last quarter of last year from October to December could not be gazetted in time.   

Election Commission Secretary Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar has said that the registration of new voters in the last quarter of last year would only be gazetted in the second week of March which is most likely to be after the dissolution  of Parliament generally expected by next Friday on March 5. 

In the 1999 general election, there was the scandal of the disenfranchisement of 680,000 new voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote, although they had registered for more than six months.  The Election Commission does not seem to be able to learn from their colossal mistakes to be more professional as there is now the scandal of the disenfranchisement of some 200,000 new voters who registered in the last quarter of last year who would not be able to vote if Parliament is dissolved next week. 

The Election Commission must explain what is the use of sending their members and officials overseas on all sorts of study tours at public expense  if they cannot adopt the international  best practices of other countries, such as  in New Zealand where eligible voters  could still vote by registering one day before polling day!

In the era of IT, there is no reason why the Election Commission cannot create a window of opportunity with full legal backing of say a week after dissolution of Parliament for eligible voters to register on the electoral roll so as not to lose the constitutional right to vote in the general election. All that is needed is modification of the time-line between dissolution and polling to take account of such a final voter registration opportunity.

Fifteen months ago,  the Prime Minister,  Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that there should not be much difficulty in tracking the  2.8 million phantom voters and cleaning up the electoral roll as the Election Commission and the relevant government departments were  fully computerized.

Abdullah said:


"A voter must be genuinely connected to the place where or she is registered. If the commission finds 20 or 30 persons using the same address, or the voters come from places unrelated to the place of registration, then something is wrong and this should be investigated." (Star 5.11.02)


The Election Commission, however, has failed to produce a clean and comprehensive electoral roll, which is the first precondition for the conduct of a clean, free and fair election with 2.8 million phantom voters on the roll, some two million unregistered eligible voters and now 200,000 voters who had registered in the last quarter of last year who will be disenfranchised in the coming general election if Parliament is dissolved next week! 

In these circumstances, how can the Election Commission expect full public confidence in its independence, impartiality and professionalism and its ability to conduct a free and fair general election?

(29/2/2004)


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman