29 November 2019
TANJUNG PIAI BY-ELECTION: ELECTION MARRED BY MISUSE OF GOVERNMENT RESOURCES AND UNLAWFUL POLICE RESTRICTION
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) today releases its election observation report on Tanjung Piai by-election.
Bersih 2.0 had deployed five observers to observe the by-election and documented 21 cases of election offences and 10 cases of misconduct since the Tanjung Piai parliament seat fell vacant.
The 21 cases of election offences comprise 3 cases of treating and gifting during campaigning period and 18 cases of breaching the limitation of campaigning on the polling day.
We would like to highlight another 10 misconduct cases, which saw a worsening trend of misusing government resources for campaigning. All cases involved Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal ministers and Johor menteri besar announcing new development projects and allocations that targeted the people in Tanjung Piai. The total amount of allocation announced was RM23.93 million.
While we recognise that federal government and state government of Johor need to continue to operate during by-elections, using state resources to win support for candidate of ruling parties is unethical. The PH government should adhere to the principles of free and fair elections by withholding announcement of any new project or allocation during the by-election period. There has to be a clear separation between what constitutes government function and party activities.
The defeat of the PH candidate in the by-election also clearly indicates that such kind of inducements no longer work in winning voters’ hearts and votes. Political party leaders, no matter who becomes the government, should set a higher ethical standard in campaigning and stop underestimating the wisdom of voters with material and monetary inducements.
As the Election Offences Act 1954 does not have provision regulating the use of government resources for campaigning at present, we call upon lawmakers to support electoral reforms and amendments to the Election Offences Act to ensure a level playing field among all election candidates.
In addition, we condemn the unlawful restriction imposed by police on the requirement of permit for door-to-door campaigning in the Tanjung Piai by-election. Such restriction has no legal basis and is an unnecessary restriction upon the freedom to campaign.
Bersih 2.0 urge the police to respect the rule of law and do not impose unreasonable and unnecessary rules to restrict campaigning methods. We wish to remind the police, the EC and all parties that when it comes to elections, the EC is the constitutionally mandated authority to conduct elections, not the police. Unless there are actual security or public order concerns, freedom to campaign is a key element of free and fair elections.
Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee