The much anticipated Kulim by-election will not be happening because the BN petitioner withdraw his case. Is it because he got cold feeted on his case or there are politically expedient agenda here? From a democratic perspective the by-election should be held to gauge who the voters there want to represent them. If a candidate failed to comply with a clear election rule he/she should be stopped. Since the Returning Officer failed to do his jo at the nomination the matter should be put right at the election petition stage. Since whether the candidate had filed his previous election campaign expenses is a factual matter there is little to argue about. But since the case was withdrawn we cannot get a verification from the Court if the violation has occured. But does it mean that a violation of election rule depends simply on a challenge from interested parties (voters/candidates) and not depend on objective standards?
When we look at the criteria here -ie whether a candidate has filed previous election expenses, it is a criteria which is capable of objective verification. So why is it not carried out -even at the nomination stage? With the case withdrawn does it mean that a possible error of judgment by the RO is overlooked-which means that the voters could have been made to bear with a unqualified candidate for the next 5 years? Something in the Election Commission procedures is wrong here! For objective criteria the RO or EC should not be given any discretion to make judgement-or else many unfairness can occur-and had occured! There had been cases of candidates who were barred from contesting due to their failure to file previous election expenses-a requirement under election law, just as there are others who were allowed to proceed to contest even though they could not produce any prove of their election expenses being filed before. One notable example would be the current PM himself in 2004 general election!
The EC allowed his candidature-but again he wasn’t challenged at the petition stage due to a political swap with the opponent-who also drop all other objections against Badawi’s party. Who is/are the loser/s? It is the voters-who need to suffer the unqualified candidates for the next 5 years! The message from the episode seems to be that only ordinary candidates need to follow the election rules while there are some elites who can get away without bothering with the rules they set for others! This is unfair and unjust!
To address this issue the EC should allow the candidates to be scrutinised longer-eg 1 week as in Thailand; and the candidates’s suitablity based on objective criteria should be verified by the EC itself rather than leaving it in the hand of ROs or depending on the election petition of interested parties.
Monday October 13, 2008 MYT 1:49:58 PM
BN withdraws Kulim-Bdr Baru election petition (update)
By EMBUN MAJID(Star)
ALOR STAR: A High Court here has struck out an election petition for the Kulim-Bandar Baru parliamentary seat after Barisan Nasional candidate Datuk Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir withdrew his petition.
Justice Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi made the decision after Abdul Aziz’s counsel Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaludin told the court of his client’s decision on Monday.
The withdrawal allowed PKR candidate Zulkifli Nordin to continue as Member of Parliament for Kulim-Bandar Baru.
When met outside the court Monday, Abdul Aziz said that his decision to withdraw the petition was made after discussions with Barisan leaders.
He said the decision was made after taking into consideration the current economic situation.
“I am willing to sacrifice my right to challenge Zulkifli so that the people and the government can work together to stabilise the country’s political, economic and unity situation, which are in critical condition right now,” he said.
He said that he also respected the decision made by Kulim-Bandar Baru voters in the March 8 general election.
Abdul Aziz also said that he would continue to serve the people in Kulim-Bandar Baru through a Barisan service centre that he had since set up.
In the petition he filed in April this year, he had named Zulkifli, the returning officer and the Election Commission (EC) as the first, second and third respondents respectively.
Abdul Aziz had requested the court to declare that the March 8 election results for the Kulim-Bandar Baru seat be null and void.
Zulkifli won the seat, polling 22,255 votes against Abdul Aziz’s 5,583.
Zulkifli was recently embroiled in the controversy involving the Bar Council forum on Muslim conversion.
The PKR disciplinary committee is inquiring into his action, but has not taken any disciplinary measure yet.
In the petition Abdul Aziz claimed that Zulkifli had failed to submit his statement of expenditure when he contested the Kuala Langat parliamentary seat in the 2004 general election, which contravenes the Election Act.
Abdul Aziz also claimed that the returning officer had failed to act against Zulkifli’s nomination despite the fact that EC had the documents confirming Zulkifli’s failure to submit his statement of expenditure.