MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT!
In 2017, Malaysians now face the prospect of another General Election mired in bias, fraud and corruption. It is now a matter of urgency that the Election Commission and the Federal Government take steps to restore the faith of the public in our most basic democratic right. The memorandum highlights reforms that can all be implemented within 10 months, before the necessary dissolution of Parliament in June 2018.
Corruption in Elections
There are no existing laws or structures governing political parties’ income and expenditure. There are also no clear election laws that forbid the use of government machinery for election campaigning. Bribery, treating and money politics continue to be widespread during elections, with little enforcement by the Election Commission or the police.
- The (independent) EC should take over the role of registering and regulating political parties.
- A new law should include rules on campaign contributions, limits on expenditures for parties and mandate disclosure and reporting of funding sources and spending.
- Elected representatives are required to publicly declare their assets before taking public office.
- The Enforcement Teams established under Section 27 of the Election Offences Act must be fully equipped with the resources, training and power to enforce election laws. All reports of bribery and corruption must be investigated by the enforcement team.
- A Code of Conduct for Caretaker Governments should be implemented and it should be made a clear election offence to use government machinery and resources for political campaigning.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry on Immigrants in Sabah confirmed there were non-citizens on the electoral roll and the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (MERAP) has found thousands of inconsistencies in the electoral roll. These include voters with the same name, same date of birth, same address and almost identical IC numbers, many voters registered in one address and voters that appear as both an ordinary voter and a postal voter in the electoral roll.
- Repeal Section 9A of the Elections Act to allow challenges to the electoral roll in court.
- Illegal alterations of the electoral roll or attempts to add voters to the electoral roll illegally should be made an election offence.
- The establishment of an Independent Electoral Roll Auditing Committee.
There has been limited information on how overseas Malaysians can register and apply to be overseas voters. There are concerns relating to the eligibility of absentee voters, storage and transportation of ballot boxes in advance voting, access for polling and counting agents and the possibility of voters appearing both as advance voters and ordinary voters.
- Absentee voter must be military and police personnel, on-duty civilians (who will be limited to those with election-related duties on polling day), out-of-region civilians, (who are registered to vote in one of the three regions of Malaysia, but will be in another region on polling day) and overseas voters.
- Postal voting will be available only to overseas voters in countries without any designated overseas polling stations or voters that are 1000km away from the nearest polling station.
- All advance voting will take place one day before the national polling day.
- Polling Agents, Counting Agents and Booth Agents shall have free access to all advance polling centres.
- Counting of votes will be done at the close of advanced polling at the polling station. For overseas votes, advance and postal ballots will be counted at the overseas polling stations designated by the EC.
- All domestic advance voting will be conducted in civilian polling stations, such as schools or community halls, not in military and police camps.
- The gazetted electoral roll will indicate advance voters’ status. Military and police personnel will have their civilian IC numbers listed in the electoral roll alongside their service IC numbers.
Fair Election Boundaries
The Federal Constitution has clear provisions for the drawing of election boundaries to ensure fair boundaries, including constituency sizes in a state being “approximately equal” and the maintenance of local ties (to prevent gerrymandering). Currently, constituencies within the same state can vary from 37,000 voters to 150,000 voters. This occurs in urban and well-developed states such as Selangor.
- The EC should re-do its delineation proposals in line with the Federal Constitution, requiring all constituencies in a state to be approximately equal in size.
- With an allowance given for rural constituencies, there should be a maximum deviation of +15% and -33% from the state average for constituency size.
- Article 46 of the Federal Constitution should be amended so the number of seats allocated per state is reflective of the number of voters in those states.
Independent Election Commission (EC)
The appointment of Election Commissioners is made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, but on the binding advice of the Prime Minister. This brings into question the independence of the appointees.
- An Election Commission Nomination Committee should be formed to select appropriate candidates. The candidates must be approved by Parliament and the Agong.
- No EC Commissioner can be a member, employee or registered donor to a political party.
- The EC should report directly to Parliament and have control over its own budget. A Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform should be established, to receive reports submitted by the Election Commission.
In GE13, election observation was considerably restricted. Accredited observers were not able to view the postal voting process in its entirety. On polling day, observers access to polling rooms were limited and they were prevented from freely selecting the locations to observe vote counting. Only three observers were allowed per parliamentary constituency.
- There should be open and public applications for accredited observers, both international and domestic. The selection of observers should be based on their resources and experience in election observation. Election observers should also be non-partisan and have no active members or donors of political parties in senior positions.
- Observers should have adequate time and resources to fully monitor the elections.
- Comprehensive coverage of the elections, nation-wide, must be allowed, with international and domestic observers free to observe areas the choose.
- Observer reports should be made available to the public.
Automatic Voter Registration
As of March 2017, there are still over 4 million eligible citizens that have not registered to vote. Qualified citizens should be automatically registered to vote upon reaching the age of 21. The National Registration Department (NRD) already has the requisite information on Malaysian citizens which can be used for the purpose of automatic registration of voters.
Minimum 21-day Campaign Period
A longer campaign period would allow voters more time to gather information and deliberate on the candidates. Three weeks is a minimum for the people to be able to assess those putting themselves forward as elected representatives.
Free and fair access to the media during the campaign period
A Code of Conduct for Media during elections should be developed by the Election Commission, in consultation with media outlets, civil society and journalists. This code should include granting equal opportunity and treatment to the various candidates, the dissemination of news based on concrete facts, impartiality and independence and refusing gifts, favours or special treatment from candidates or their representatives.
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)
For the full memo, click here.