Preliminary Report on Bukit Selambau by-election observation mission:
Elections flawed despite Federal Opposition party win
33 Election Commission accredited Mafrel observers and another 20 external cum mobile Mafrel observers participated in the just concluded by-election in N25 Bukit Selambau, Kedah. The mission found that the election, despite being won by the party which is in Opposition in the Federal Parliament but in power in the Kedah State Government, was still found wanting by international standards of free and fair elections. Much need to be done urgently to improve the standards of elections in Malaysia especially in the area of compiling a more credible electoral roll, freedom of campaigning, and streamlining election timeline, enforcing the legal campaign expenses regulations, and rethink the security arrangement. Despite all that Mafrel found the result of the largely peaceful and orderly election to be acceptable as reflecting the will of the people, because, if not for the disadvantages imposed on the winning party the win could have been by a bigger majority.
Defective Electoral Roll
The observation mission found through its ground checks that the electoral roll used for this by-election to be highly deficient. 20.4% of its 35000 voters are untraceable because they don’t have any house number, being mostly residents in privately owned estate property. In addition, alarmingly another 10% of the voters staying in modern housing estates, who have their house number displayed in the Election Commission prepared Electoral Roll, do not have any street name or street number included in the same roll! The presence of such high proportion of untraceable voters will continue to feed the public suspicion of votes frauds including those involving `phantom voters’. The non-display of voters’ residential street name –which had been verified by Mafrel’s ground check to be printed in all the residents’ Mycard/Identification Card, give rise to the query why the Election Commission would withhold such vital information that render a huge section of voters untraceable? Such a situation call into question the Election Commission’s competency and transparency, besides undercutting the integrity of the elections administered by it.
Mafrel call upon the Election Commission to either revamp the electoral roll or adopt the roll produced more professionally by the National Registration Board. In so doing it can also help to cut costs from the inefficient voters registration exercise by the the Election Commission.
Timeline of election can be better managed
Next Mafrel is concerned about the timeline of the by-election, where both the nomination and polling days fell on working days-thus contributing to the dampening voters’ turn out, despite a record 15 candidates registering as candidates. According to the Election Commission announcement voter turn out this time dropped to 70.28%, comparing to 1 year ago at 73.7% during the 12th General Elections. Mafrel question the Election Commission’s rationale to hold the elections simultaneously since it stretched the resources of all stake holders-including that of the observers, besides inconveniencing the Bukit Selambau voters who need to take leave from work to cast their vote. In a context where the Election Commission cannot enforce the legal limit of campaign spending by the candidates, nor stop Federal allocations being made to advantage one candidate Mafrel would like to call upon the Election Commission to address the legitimate grouses from the other candidates who are concerned about the fairness of the election adminsitrator’s choice of time table.
Misuse of government resources and allocations for campaigning
Mafrel is also very concerned about the continued failure by the Election Commission to enforce the legal spending limits by the candidates and to stop candidate from benefiting from Federal allocations timed at the by-election. The triple elections also saw the coining of the term `instant noodle projects’ by the newly installed Prime Minister-but the offence still continue unabated despite his vow to stop them. Such failures will strengthen public’s views of unfair advantages being conferred to the candidate from the ruling party at the Federal level. Mafrel has not noticed any action by the other election administrator –the MACC(Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission), taking action to stop abuse of power involved in the making of public allocations during this by-election for party campaign purposes!
Police presence overdone
The heavy police presence at most street corners in the Bukit Selambau constituency –with many of them heavily armed, has become a cause of concern to Mafrel observers. Despite the heavy police presence there were tension in a number of polling centers on polling day and police’s service was utilized at the nomination day. Such police presence should be drastically reduced by allowing longer time for nomination and scrutiny of candidates-both of which is given only 1 hours’ time currently. By extending the nomination process the parties will not be made to indulge in mobilizing their supporters as a way to show the support to their opponents, and in the process cause tension between the supporters of the major candidates and necessitate heavy and costly police presence.
Polling Day Campaigning Moratorium violated by both sides
Similarly the PDRM, being another election administrator that handle security, should enforce the campaign moratorium set by the Election Commission at mid-night before the polling day. Unabashed campaigning by all candidates and parties on polling day shows that Malaysian elections stand alone in this world as one which does not respect the voters in making their own choice without coming under any pressures on polling day.
Despite the weaknesses of the by-election at Bukit Selambau Mafrel consider that the election has at least achieved its mission to produce a people’s representative at the Kedah State Assembly. Mafrel look forward that its recommendations which will be included in the Bukit Selambau election observation report, will be given serious considerations as a way forward to improve the election system and democracy for the country.
1. Mafrel call upon the Election Commission to either revamp the electoral roll or adopt the roll produced more professionally by the National Registration Board. In so doing it can also help to cut costs from the inefficient voters registration exercise by the the Election Commission.
2.Election Commission is also asked to organize polling day on holidays to facilitate more people to vote;
3. Instant projects and allocations by governments made to advantage certain candidates, should be stopped as this represent abuse of power by the office-holder;
4. police presence should be drastically slashed by extending nomination process to 1 week;
5. Enforce polling day campaign moratorium which has been violated regualrly;
Mafrel would like to thank all volunteers observers and helpers for making an exemplary effort to keep the Bukit Selambau by-election under close scrutiny despite the challenging time we are in. The improvement of the country’s election system do depend significantly on the effort by the concerned and active citizens. More observers are welcome to join in.
Report by :
Bukit Selambau Election Observation Team:
Jamaluddin Abdullah, Mohd Fesal Bin Abu Bakar, Nor Aini, Ong Boon Keong
Apr 19th 2009