Bersih: No hope for electoral reform

Anisah Shukry | December 17, 2012
The electoral watchdog says that Malaysians should not expect true electoral reform by the 13th general election, but adds it will combat that with its own campaigns.

KUALA LUMPUR: Electoral watchdog Bersih said today that the Election Commission (EC) will not reform the electoral roll by the next general election.
“Can we Malaysians expect true reform before the general election? The answer is no,” Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga told reporters at a press conference here.
“We concluded this given the conduct of the EC to date,” she added.
However, she told reporters that there were no immediate plans for the coalition for free and fair elections to hold street protests in order to voice its unhappiness.
“There are no plans to go to the street as the elections are already so near,” she said, adding that Bersih was meeting up regularly to discuss this matter.
Instead of rallies, she said, Bersih would be focusing on two campaigns to help overcome the dirty electoral roll: the Jom 100 campaign and the Jom Pantau campaign.
“We will need more volunteers for the Jom Pantau campaign to help observe the elections. We need to make sure elections peaceful, clean and fair — that’s what we want.
“We are launching it in January and will provide more details then,” added Ambiga.
Bersih launched the Jom 100 campaign in January this year to increase voter turnout for the coming election, which must be held by April 28 next year.
According to Ambiga, a 100% turnout would strengthen democracy and mitigate electoral fraud as well as gerrymandering.
“We want to push the voter turnout to 85%, maybe 90%,” she said today.
Fellow co-chairperson A Samad Said, who was also present at the press conference, implored the public to cast their votes come election day.
“Let me state that every citizen who is able to vote should continue to make an effort to come out and vote,” said the national laureate.
“This is one method to stop electoral fraud from occurring,” he added.
‘Reject politicians who support violence’

Ambiga also urged the public not to vote for candidates who supported political violence, and to also reject those who kept quiet when confronted by it.
“Why are they not taking a stand against political violence? Political violence is a symptom of a bigger disease – a flawed election.
“Political violence goes hand in hand with a corrupt political system that is symbolised by an election that is not clean,” she said.
Malaysian politics is rife with incidents of violence, blackmail and death threats, with the latest being an attack on a PKR rally in Gombak early this month that reportedly left a few opposition volunteers injured.
The PKR bus used by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and party leaders for their pre-election campaign had also been splashed with red paint and pelted with rocks numerous times.
‘No sincere commitment’

Meanwhile, the EC’s alleged reluctance to invite international observers to monitor the polls; the lack of free and fair media; and the issue of overseas voting all came under Ambiga’s scrutiny today.
“If our system is as clean as claimed, our EC should confidently invite observers from around the world to observe these elections,” the former Bar Council president pointed out.
“Instead, they made such a huge fuss, calling it interference. That is nonsense; Malaysia is an observer for other countries’ elections, so how can they even say that?” she said.
EC chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had recently said the EC was working with the Foreign Affairs Ministry to invite countries which had invited Malaysia as observers in their respective nation’s electiona.
“Regionally, all Asean members will be invited, except for Brunei, which does not have elections, and Singapore, which rejected our accreditation application to become observer in its recent election,” he was quoted as saying.
But Ambiga stressed today that observers should not be limited to Asean members – a stance that has been echoed by numerous opposition MPs before this.
“Then there is free and fair access to media. What is the great step they have taken – and I use ‘great’ in a sarcastic manner – in this?” she said.
“They are only allowing a pre-recording of all political parties’ manifestos. Of all the reforms we have sought, this must surely be the easiest to fulfil, yet they can’t do it,” she added.
She also said the EC had disregarded the importance of ensuring that overseas voters would be counted in the next general election, adding that it had failed to meet its deadline for announcing the relevant procedures.
“All this shows that there is no commitment to real reform, that the 13th general election will be one of the dirtiest elections ever and that we should not anticipate any change in the near future.
“Bersih 2.0 therefore unequivocally believes that the task of ensuring free and fair elections falls to us citizens,” she added.

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