Shortest 8-day election campaign period in history - how can Pak Lah do such an outrageous thing

Media Comment
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaFriday): Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, has announced the nomination for the 2004 GE on the 13th March and polling on 21st March. The most fitting reaction to Rashid’s announcement is: “It is outrageous. How can Pak Lah do such a thing!”  

Rashid’s announcement signals two things:


Firstly, that the EC is not free, independent and impartial, as the polling date of 21st March had been speculated as far back as early January, confirming that the polling as well as the date of dissolution are both political decisions made by the Prime Minister, when under the law and Constitution, the date of dissolution is a political decision of the PM while the date of nomination and polling are the prerogative of an independent EC which only decides after dissolution of the parliament. It is clear that the EC does not even have the leeway to alter the directive of the polling date by one or two days to be different from the speculated date to at least to be seen to be independent.


Secondly, that the 2004 general election is most undemocratic and unfair in having the shortest campaign period in all 11 general elections in the nation’s 46 years history. It is even shorter than the 9-day campaign period in the 1999 general election, the fifth and last general election in the 22 year rule of Tun Dr Mahahtir Mohamad – “the dirtiest” GE of all five elections held by Dr Mahahtir.


Malaysians had hoped tat Abdullah with his pledge of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, people-oriented and trustworthy government, will usher in a new system of good governance. However with the shortest election campaign period in the nation’s history, with an EC which is not allowed even to be seen to be independent, raises the question whether Abdullah can or will be allowed to overhaul the entire system of injustice and unfairness which had corrupted political and moral values and the system of governance in the country. 


The short 8-day campaign period is particularly reprehensible with the 3M electoral abuses - money politics, media manipulations, and abuse of government machinery - and resources, shutting out free space and opportunity for the opposition to get their views and positions across to the electorates. A general election  is not just about voters casting their votes. It must include a meaningful process whereby voters are fully informed about the critical choices before them as well as the right of contesting candidates and political parties to present their programmes to the voters.


It is sad that instead of ushering in reforms by ensuring the most free, fair and clean election in the nation’s history, Abdullah’s first general election will go down in history as the most unfair and undemocratic, at least for the short campaign period.


Only time will tell whether it will also be more unfair and undemocratic than all previous elections in other aspects in particular the 3M abuses.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman