Bersih 2.0 Statement on Election Commission’s Changes to Postal Voting Regulations
6 February 2013
BERSIH 2.0 and various other non-government organisations (NGOs) have over several years demanded comprehensive and transparent reform of Malaysia’s electoral system, which is rife with evidence of fraud. This environment has led academics, independent observers and Malaysians themselves to continually question the veracity of election results that have provided political parties an apparent mandate to govern. Malaysia’s Election Commission on 15 January 2013 gazetted changes to the Election Regulations that gave postal voting rights to certain overseas Malaysians, where these rights were previously available only to public servants, students, uniformed (army, navy, police etc.) personnel and their spouses. The coming 13th General Election has shaped up as the most critical and historic poll in Malaysia’s history thus far.
STATEMENT TO ALL MALAYSIANS
The changes to Malaysian postal voting regulations by the Election Commission (EC) are unconstitutional, discriminatory and arbitrary.
The restrictive conditions that underpin the gazetted changes continue to deny the postal vote to hundreds of thousands of Malaysians in Singapore, southern provinces of Thailand, Brunei and Kalimantan (an estimated 400,000 Malaysians work in Singapore alone).
The requirement that Malaysians must show they have visited the country for at least 30 days in the five years before an election date is announced is unprecedented and totally unnecessary. Most countries imposing any such condition focus on a citizen’s future plans to return to their home country, not duration of past visits.
While BERSIH 2.0 welcomes the fact that more overseas Malaysians now have postal voting rights previously accorded only to public servants, students, uniformed (army, navy, police etc.) personnel and their spouses, the changes together serve to only disenfranchise a huge constituency of voters in the coming general elections.
Significantly, the changes do not include any provisions to allow the political parties or independent observers to monitor and verify the distribution, return and counting of ballots and ballot-envelopes at embassies and overseas missions.
BERSIH 2.0 is also concerned that, given the relatively short lead-time to the general elections, the EC has crucially failed to state if a listing of all overseas postal voters will be made available to all political parties and the public, which would allow for proper scrutiny by all interested parties and limit the likelihood of phantom-voting and other potential fraud.
A BERSIH 2.0 survey of its global representatives also points to the failure by Malaysian officials posted in high commissions, consulates and other overseas missions to provide correct, clear and consistent advice on the postal voting process.
In this light, and considering the fact that the EC has had more than one year to heed the directives of the Parliamentary Select Committee on all these matters, BERSIH 2.0 unequivocally believes that the latest developments on postal voting clearly show that Malaysia is a long way from implementing and operating a proper and transparent election system that meets universal standards for transparency, accountability and, above all, democratic legitimacy.
However, we do not believe that a boycott of the postal vote at this time would be either wise or effective. Malaysia needs every single overseas Malaysian to turn out to cast their vote, whether by returning to Malaysia or voting by post, in order to outweigh any phantom voters. The risk of voting fraud exists, but in our considered view a boycott will not reduce this risk, and will only make it easier for phantom voters to affect the result of the general election.
BERSIH 2.0 calls on Malaysia’s Election Commission to immediately:
- begin formal discussions with electoral stakeholders such as MyOverseasVote and all political parties to address all these issues and to develop and agree to implement procedures that will underpin a transparent postal voting process that meets universal standards of accountability;
- give postal voting entitlements to all registered voters without discrimination by withdrawing the regional restriction and condition on past visits to Malaysia;
- announce and widely publicise a proper list of overseas missions that will be used as polling stations, with full addresses, phone numbers and names of contact officials, so Malaysians overseas may begin planning their participation in the coming elections; and
- without fear or favour invite all political parties to nominate postal voting agents for all overseas polling stations, and likewise to invite election observers to be present at all overseas polling stations.
BERSIH 2.0 believes that any refusal by the EC to act on these issues and to engage with stakeholders can only be viewed as unwillingness on the part of the Commission to oversee the coming election process in an impartial and non-partisan manner. Any such refusal by the EC will also erode any confidence held by the rakyat that the 13th General Election will be conducted by the EC and the government properly and fairly.
BERSIH 2.0 calls on all registered voters overseas to immediately:
- make plans to return home to vote in the coming 13th general elections, or
- urgently apply to become postal voters and to take all necessary follow-up action to ensure the application is processed and approved quickly, and hence to heed forthcoming advice from BERSIH 2.0 on how to keep your vote tamper-proof, and to protect the integrity and legitimacy of your vote.
BERSIH 2.0 calls on overseas Malaysians who are not registered voters to immediately:
- apply to register as voters, so they may take part in any by-elections.
BERSIH 2.0 calls on all public servants working overseas to:
- offer all help, co-operation and advice that is necessary to other Malaysians abroad to ensure all citizens are treated equally in the coming postal vote process;
- accept this memorandum in the spirit of nationhood and solidarity with which it is presented; and remember that they are servants of the public, and not of any political parties.
BERSIH 2.0 finally calls on Global BERSIH and other citizens to personally deliver this memorandum to all Malaysian Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consuls-General, or their representatives, this Wednesday, 6 February, 2013, when BERSIH 2.0 will present this statement to the Malaysian public, the media and the EC.
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (BERSIH 2.0)
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 comprises:
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Co-Chairperson), Datuk A. Samad Said (Co-Chairperson), Ahmad Shukri Abdul Razab, Andrew Ambrose, Andrew Khoo, Anne Lasimbang, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Awang Abdillah, Dr Farouk Musa, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Matthew Vincent, Niloh Ason, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh and Zaid Kamaruddin