|Voter registration: Scandalous EC has failed|
|Liew Chin Tong | Nov 18, 08 4:20pm( http://www.malaysiakini.com )|
|The legitimacy of a democracy hinges on the active participation of the people. The Election Commission has failed in its obligation to ensure maximum participation of Malaysians in the electoral process as one-third of those eligible to vote are not registered as voters.
Election Commission Deputy Chairperson Wan Ahmad Wan Omar recently told the press that 16.9 million Malaysians are eligible to vote but only 10.9 million are registered as voters.
In other words, if Wan Ahmad’s figures are to be believed, six million Malaysians have not been involved in the electoral process.
It is the obligation of the Election Commission to ensure maximum participation of the people in the electoral process, and the commission is given huge amount of funds for that purpose.
Last year, at least RM30 million was allocated for voter registration. Therefore, it is scandalous that the EC has failed miserably in this respect.
But ultimately, the government and the Election Commission must heed the call to implement automatic voter registration.
Technically, since July 16, 2002, the database between National Registration Department and the Election Commission have been ‘shared’ and thus it is entirely feasible to implement the automatic registration of eligible voters.
Further, there is a need to lower the voting age to 17 or 18 years in line with international and regional norms.
Almost all electoral democracies in Southeast Asia have set their voting age at 17 or 18.
After all, if a 17 or 18-year-old Malaysian is deemed fit to drive and undergo National Service, he or she should be deemed mature enough to exercise the obligation of every citizen, that is, to select the government of his/her choice in an election.
The writer is the DAP member of parliament for Bukit Bendera, Penang.
Archive for November, 2008
There are many factors to consider in choosing an Election Commission /SPR chairperson: at the least we look forward to the integrity and capability of the candidate. Then we look at the requirements of the job ie to stand impartially among the candidates/parties.To ascertain this usually there should at least be a hearing of the candidate at the Parliament where the candidate is querried by the law makers to ascertain the factors mentioned above. However this is not done in the appointment of the new EC Chairperson, thus giving doubt as to whether the appointment was done by merit or by political consideration.
Tuesday November 11 2008 (M’sian Insider)
Anwar happy with new Election Commission head
By Debra Chong
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 – Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has welcomed the appointment of Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof, the Secretary-General of the Home Ministry, as the new chairman of the Election Commission (EC) replacing Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman.
Anwar commended Abdul Aziz for his professional integrity and competence, saying: “He is quite highly regarded, that I know for certain,.”
However, he held a very cautious view as to Abdul Aziz’s ability to effect change to the public perception of the EC. He noted that the EC has been known to be “badly tainted”, referring no doubt to the increasing allegations against the election body under the helm of Abdul Rashid.
“We have to wait for his personal views that he, as chairman, will make and not as a secretary-general of a ministry,” Anwar said.
“He is entrusted with a major task of ensuring that a democratic institution in the country is respected.”
Anwar, the de facto PKR chief, had just concluded a Pakatan Rakyat secretariat meeting in Parliament today which he described as routine.
He said that among the things discussed were the need for an immediate meeting of all PR MPs and a special seminar to discuss current issues, which had been postponed in the past few weeks following the by-election in Permatang Pauh and the recent Hari Raya festivities.
Asked to confirm rumours that PR was moving for a parliamentary caucus on the judiciary, Anwar replied that there had been suggestions, but that as the Leader of the Opposition, he would need to consult and notify the minister in charge of parliamentary affairs, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, before he could make the subsequent proposal.
Anwar said he would do so as soon as possible but did not commit to a specific date.
Immediate response by DAP MP for Bukit Bendera Liew Chin Tong, who is also member of the Steering Committee of BERSIH, on the appointment of the Chairman of the Election Commission on 11th November 2008
EC Chairman’s Appointment – disappointment over no consultation, cautious hope for an impartial EC
According to Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan said in a statement on Tuesday that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had consented to the appointment of Home Ministry Secretary-General Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof as the new Chairman of the Election Commission under Clause (1) Article 114 of the Federal Constitution, effective 31st December 2008. His appointment is until he reaches the age of 66 as provided for under Clause (3) Article 114 of the Constitution.
Abdul Aziz will be replacing current EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman whose service will end as he will be 66 on 30th December 2008.
First, I express my disappointment over the failure on the part of the Government to consult the Opposition on the appointment.
In most other democracies, while it is often the prerogative of the government-of-the-day to appoint the Chairman of Election Commission, the Opposition is usually consulted as impartiality and bipartisan acceptance are most needed in the management of election.
With more than a third of parliamentarians from the Opposition, the need for the Government to consult is more than ever.
Second, I am also disappointed that another retired civil servant is appointed to such an important position whose role is to be an effective guardian of Malaysian democracy.
In most other Westminster democracies, the Chairman and Commissioners of the Election Commission are often made up of former judges of impeccable integrity.
In the Malaysian Constitution, the status of the Chairman of the Election Commission is equivalent to that of a federal court judge whose sacking is a painstaking process only possible to be carried out in a tribunal. As such, the candidate for position of the Chairman of the Election Commission should be at least of the quality of a federal court judge.
I am not suggesting that the appointed candidate is not of such quality but the nation, in particular the Parliament, must be persuaded to believe that he is of such calibre.
Third, I urge the appointed new Chairman of EC Tan Sri Abdul Aziz to start a fresh chapter in the management of election in Malaysia as soon as he begins his tenure.
Tan Sri Abdul Aziz must state his stance on the five basic demands of BERSIH (Coalition for Clean and Fair Election), that is 1) the use of indelible ink; 2) the abolition of postal votes; 3) the total overhaul of the tainted electoral roll; 4) a level playing field in media; and 5) a commitment to allow at least 21 days of campaign.
He should also look into two other important issues, namely, the possibility of introducing automatic voter registration and the lowering of voting age from 21 year-old to 17 or 18 year-old.
My colleagues and I in BERSIH would like to seek an appointment with Tan Sri Abdul Aziz as soon as he takes over to exchange views, as well as to ensure that the new Chairman’s tenure would not be a repeat of the eight disastrous years of election management under the outgoing Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman whose litany of failures and scandals include the poor handling of the 2004 election, and the last-minute termination of use of indelible ink in the 2008 election.
The last eight years of election management has made Malaysia an international laughing stock. It is time for the restoration of democracy and procedural justice in the management of election.
Liew Chin Tong