The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) today releases its election observation report of the Port Dickson by-election. The report combines findings of the monitoring of the nomination day, election campaign, early voting, polling day and vote tallying process during the by-election.
The by-election was marred by various election offences and misconducts during the campaign period. Ten issues had been recorded and all were committed by Pakatan Harapan and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS).
Pakatan Harapan candidate Anwar Ibrahim was found to make a surprise appearance at an awards ceremony for army veterans at the Army Museum Port Dickson in army camp on 3 October 2018 and given VIP treatment while no other candidates of the by-election were invited and given the same treatment. In the awards ceremony, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu hinted that army veterans’ welfare would be assured if the next Port Dickson MP was to become the prime minister. The fact that government property army camp was involved in the award ceremony and the access to the event, gave Anwar Ibrahim unfair advantage over other candidates. Anwar Ibrahim was also able to attend a zakat aid distribution event at Masjid Jamek Permatang Pasir together with the Chief Minister of Negeri Sembilan where receivers were requested to attend by Negeri Sembilan Islamic Religious Council. It again raises question on the abuse of government machinery and created an unfair level playing field among the candidates.
Anwar Ibrahim also launched a free online tuition portal named pdtuition.com, but the portal is connected to a Perak state government-linked tuition portal, ezlearn2u.my. It raises questions on the abuse of Perak state government’s resource.
Anwar also campaigned at a free concert and two dinner events. It was unclear who paid for these events and if both events were organised with his or his agent’s authorisation as part of election campaign in accordance with Section 15A of the Election Offences Act, where the event expenses have to be reported in the candidate’s account. The law set election spending limit at RM200,000 for each parliamentary candidate. Furthermore, according to Malaysiakini’s report on October 12 (https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/446954), some guests at the dinner event in Lukut claimed that the dinner was free of charge, which made it an offence under section 8 of the Election Offences Act.
BERSIH 2.0 recorded four offences committed by PAS and its candidate Mohd Nazari Mokhtar. They were found giving out free gifts such as television, home appliances, hampers, etc and providing free medical check-up repeatedly in their campaigning events.
On the polling day, BERSIH 2.0 observed at the polling centres in Chuah, Linggi and Sri Tanjung state constituencies. The polling process was generally smooth except for some issues as follows:
- Party booths (pondok panas) were noticed at all polling centres in the three constituencies despite it is not allowed under the law.
- Unauthorised party supporter were found entering Kolej Vokasional Port Dickson and SK Port Dickson together with the candidates. Street vendors and party supporters were found within a distance of 50 metres from Kolej Vokasional Port Dickson.
- An election observer was not allowed to enter polling stream at Kolej Vokasional Port Dickson, but was later resolved.
- Wheelchair user facilities at SK Kampung Sawah and Balai Raya Ladang Leong Hin San were not up to standard.
BERSIH 2.0 believes that stronger law enforcement and more effective trainings for election workers are keys to resolve these issues.
Overall, the by-election was conducted smoothly with some improvement by the Election Commission (EC) as follows:
- When the independent candidate Kan Chee Yuen planned to distribute free pens to voters, the EC acted proactively by reminding him that it is an election offence. Kan decided to cancel his plan after the advice from the Election Commission.
- The EC reminded ministers to only campaign outside office hours and ensure that no government assets were used, reminded the candidates that it might be an offence if development projects were launched to fish for votes and called on the Defence Ministry to give candidates equal access to army camps.
- The EC Chairperson Azhar Harun instructed election enforcement officers to take action against party supporters campaigning outside SK Teluk Kemang polling centre on the polling day.
BERSIH 2.0 applauds the EC for taking such proactive preventive measures and such measures should continue and be strengthened in future with clearer guidelines and briefing to all the candidates and their election campaign team before election campaign period starts.
We call on all ministers and government agencies to refrain from inviting any election candidate to government public events or functions during election campaigning period in future election. The principle of separation between political party events and government events and administrative neutrality must be observed at all times.
BERSIH 2.0 urges all political parties to extend their full cooperation with the Election Commission and abide by the election laws. It is crucial to ensure that corrupt practices are not tolerated in election processes if Malaysia aspires to become a truly democratic country.
Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0