The makings of electoral reformPosted: December 5, 2011
When Bersih 2.0 first made their 8 demands for electoral reform, they were met with quite a bit of cynicism and scorn from the authorities, despite the strong show of support from the internet-savvy population. After the Bersih 2.0 rally, however, it was obvious that the Barisan Nasional government had to rethink their position and strategy. Despite the heavy lockdown of the city centre, tens of thousands of citizens showed up to show their support for a cleaner and fairer election process.
This meant that the BN could no longer ignore calls for electoral reforms. Hence, a Parliament Select Committee (PSC) was set up.
Last week, the PSC presented an interim report with 10 recommendations on how to bring about electoral reforms. Their recommendations were, in no particular order:
- Allow use of indelible ink to prevent repeat voting
- Early voting for armed forces and police
- Allow Malaysians residing overseas to cast votes
- Allow East Malaysians to vote in Peninsula, and vice versa
- Change in voting area to be done via Statutory Declaration and submitted to the EC
- Clean-up of electoral roll (including removing deceased, persons with identical MyKad numbers etc.)
- Lengthen the period to check on additional voters
- Revised voting process (including no serial numbers on ballot papers etc.)
- Less restrictions on nomination process
- Strengthen and ensure the independence of the Election Commission (EC)
What’s interesting to note is that from the 10 recommendations above, 4-5 of them echo Bersih 2.0’s 8 Demands (as underlined):
- Clean the electoral roll
- Reform postal ballot
- Use of indelible ink
- Minimum 21 days campaign period
- Free and fair access to media
- Strengthen public institutions
- Stop corruption
- Stop dirty politics
What this goes to show us, and the government, is that these are not issues and problems that the Bersih 2.0 steering committee plucked from nowhere. This is not about picking a fight just for the fun of it. These issues are real, and have to be addressed in order for us to have free and fair elections.
The first, most obvious issue, which really should be a non-issue, is that the EC has to seriously look into the electoral roll, and give it a good cleaning up. Multiple voters with same MyKad numbers and names of the deceased still on the electoral roll only proves that the EC has not been doing a good job in keeping the roll up to date. Perhaps in addition to just cleaning it up, the EC should be made to come up with a comprehensive process in which the roll is constantly kept updated, and mistakes like these are kept to barest minimum.
Another point worth making is the enabling of overseas Malaysians to cast their votes. Having myself just returned from New Zealand last year, this is one of the most important recommendations in the PSC’s list of 10. Not having the necessary set up to allow Malaysians residing overseas to vote is akin to robbing them of their right. It’s not about whether they are savvy about the political climate in Malaysia today – in fact, Malaysians overseas can easily access web portals to keep themselves abreast with local news – it’s about Malaysians being part of Malaysia’s democracy process, regardless of where they are.
Of course, there is much more that can be said about the improvements that should be done to the current election process – it looks like the EC will have a busy time ahead. For the time being, the 10 recommendations from the PSC’s interim report is going in the right direction. The PSC will be holding hearing sessions throughout Malaysia, with the last one on the 12th and 13th of January, 2012. Let’s see what their final report will give us.