The EC has dropped a bombshell for Hulu Selangor by-election by stopping accreditation to an election observer, Mafrel. But what is there in such a accreditation? On the face of it it allows the observer group entry into the polling centre for observation. And that is about it that it entitle the observer group to do. Mafrel has become the only observer groups in Malaysia-it has been given this status since 2007(Machap by-election). Now -not many people knows this:what does it takes away as conditions?
Actually there are 20 restrictions imposed on accredited election observer by EC. Among them: observer cannot even enter the polling station/class room where polling takes place. They can only peep from the window-if the window is open! So they can only position themselves within the 50m limit around the polling stations and the polling station itself! The names and photos of the observers, if they follow the restriction, will be posted at each polling centre to enable police to stop observers from trying to gain entry into the polling stations….!!!(Actually they never did this)
Observers are also not allowed to observe the vote counting-the all important and crucial stage of polling day observation. Observers are not allowed to take photo except with permission from the polling station chief (KTM)!
The worse thing: accredited observer group is not allowed to make press statements during election period-but allowed to make reports for improving election conduct to EC.
Only 2 observers are allowed per polling centre-which sometimes host 10 polling stations! They are not allowed to move to other polling centres, and they are not allowed to change shift either!
For nomination day they need to write to the returning officer 10 days ahead to gain entry to the ground of the nomination centre-but again, not allowed to enter the hall for nomination!
If you catch the drift here the EC simply want to gag the accredited observer by giving the accreditation! That explain why other election observer groups in Malaysia eg NIEI, MALVU, MEW, SAFREL, KOMAS, are not keen on applying for the accreditation yet.
The conditions imposed by EC /SPR on accredited election observers are contrary to the welcome by election administrators in the region to their observers, both local and international. In many countries eg Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia there are laws guaranteeing the role for election observers!
So: why is the EC/SPR of Malaysia so fearful of observers if it is confident of its performance? Afterall EC/SPR has been invited and has indeed gone on election observation trips to many countries eg Kazakhstan?
For the record: Malaysia has not allowed any international election observer since early 1980’s-where the Commonwealth election observer failed our elections as `free but not fair’. But since 1999 Reformasi many local observer groups have sprung up to scrutinise the notoriously bias elections in Malaysia. And as a sign of times almost all other countries in ASIA, from East Timur to Mongolia, has started their local election observer groups. Whether the EC/SPR like it or not: election observers has become an unstoppable international trend.