The nominations on Mar 29th were typical : candidates/party supporters massed in allocated areas for hours before they left after the candidates are confirmed. During the process they suffer the heat from the sun, from the crowd, from thirst, from the lack of pedestrians amenities and even from the threatening barking from police dogs! Are all these necesary for a healthy functioning of democracy or the specific job of election? Could we learn a thing or 2 from other countries where there are longer periods for nomination and objections?
Malaysia is quite unique in having extremely short period for nomination and objections-just 1 hour each. Let’s look at the pitfalls from such short times allowed:
Nominations: if a candidate fail to come to the nomination centre within the nomination period eg due to traffic jams, he/she will lose his/her candidacy! This could be too trivial a reason for candidates to lose their right to voting-which include the right to be voted!
More importantly the short time for nomination means that the major party candidates would meet in high tension atmosphere at the nomination centre. Then you need the big police presence-and yes, even the dogs! If there is an extended time for nomination eg 1-2 weeks, then the candidates can choose their own time to submit their forms.
At the base of it: does mobilising supporters at the nomination centres carry any meaning as far as helping the voters to vote on better informed basis? Some parties have to come out with huge expense to pay party supporters, or any one for that matter, actually, to wear its party colours and to make up the number of `support’. Not many people may get cheated: a lot of so called supporters are outsiders eg the highways out of Bkt Gantang was jammed up to 5pm after the nomination period-clearly proving that the `supporters’ were from outstation!
Then there are the usual buses to show that some of the big number of supporters are clearly from somewhere else! Not enough of it minors are also paid to make up the number-which should not be encouraged at all!
The huge expense involved should be better spent in other campaign activities especially those that allow voters to inquire from the candidates what the candidate can offer to the voters by way of policies to improve the voter’s live!
Then there is an important issue of working time. If the nomination time is extended eg to 1-2 weeks then there will be less problems in terms of being inconvenienced by working time for both the candidates and the supporters!
In the Bkt Selamabu case the nomination and polling days fall on working days-why must this be the case? Is the Election Commission doing this for its own convenience than for the convenience of 35 000 voters of Bkt Selamabu? For the other 2 areas the polling day which falls on on a working day could dampen voters participation -as proven in the Kuala Terenggnu case where less voters turned up for voting on a working day.
If there is a longer period for nomination then the candidates of the major parties can come at different times -thus avoiding the confrontation and also the huge expenses involved in mobilising the police. We can avoid some many negative things in 1 go-so why not extend the nomination period-as done by other countries?
Then the objection period which is also 1 hour only.
Realistically the 1 hour make a mockery of the objection period:
1. Can all the interested voters check the personal particulars of the voters within the 1 hour?
2. After knowing who the candidates are can the voters investigate the candidates’ eligibility within 1 hour?
Actually there are 4 conditions for objections:1. Criminal record involving imprisonment & fines over a certain amount; 2. bankruptcy; 3. still holding a civil servant job; 4. Did not submit campaign expenses from previous election;
Frankly the Election Commission should help the voters to check out the personal details of all the candidates so that the voters are assured that none of the candidates had violated the rules of eligibility. Voters do have a right to be informed. Without a sufficient period for objection how could anyone know if the candidates had violated the rules? If there is not intention to allow the objections in the first place as evidenced b the unrealistically short time for objections, then just might as well open the gate for everyone-bankrupts, criminals to contest! Is this the democracy that the EC intend for the people? I s this the democracy mandated by the people?
In poor Bangladesh the police and bankers, lawyers can come forward to a candidates objection meeting to testify if any candidates are violating the eligibility tests; Candidates have 3 days to appeal any decision of the RO-also on the basis of legal evidence. So: why can’t Malaysia adopt this better practice?
From the previous discussion it is obvious that Malaysian voters can benefit greatly by extending the nomination and objection period to 1 week each. Lots of savings on the voters, the parties, the police and the EC itself. So: why not extend the time allocation for more voters’ friendly lengths?