Thursday, July 28, 2011

Forget it, BN and EC won't put through any reform, not without Bersih 3.0

Written by Kenny Gan, Malaysia Chronicle

The job of the Election Commission is to conduct elections fairly and act as an impartial referee. It has no business to tilt the playing field in favour of any party. In Malaysia elections have never been free and fair and this has allowed one regime to rule for more than 50 years without any fear of losing power. It has created a pseudo-democracy with endemic corruption from the top down, subjugation of all the institutions of democracy to serve the regime and abuse of democratic rights. The EC is largely responsible for this sordid state of affairs by subverting the right of Malaysians to choose their own government and kick out a corrupt one.

There are many ways which the EC has colluded with BN or not acted against abuses such as gerrymandering, postal votes, phantom votes, inducting illegal aliens as voters, unfair access to media, short campaign period, improper use of government machinery, money politics, dirty politics, disenfranchising overseas Malaysians, etc. It may take years and a change of government to clean all these up but the 13th general election is approaching and there is not much time left.

Nevertheless there are three urgent reforms that the EC can implement immediately and well within their power to do so. They do not require a lot of money, purchase of hardware or long lead time. This will immediately result in a fairer contest and force BN to fight for its life instead of merely fighting for a two-thirds majority in parliament. These are the three urgent reforms we should demand of the EC.

No. 1 – Tighten Up Postal Voting

The opposition has long suspected that postal voting has been widely abused to favour BN and even grant BN victories in marginal seats where BN would have lost otherwise. This is not without justification as many BN seats have been saved by postal votes brought in after a first count shows that BN has lost.

Another criticism is that postal votes are not secret with serial numbers of ballot papers recorded against the voter’s name thus pressuring the voter to vote for BN to avoid being victimized. BN has traditionally won postal votes by 80% to 99%.

What happens between the time the votes are cast and the boxes produced at the counting centre is another cause of concern as there are ample opportunities to tamper with the votes.

There is also a longstanding suspicion that the police and military personnel have two votes each – one postal vote and another normal vote using a civilian ID. The wealth of anecdotal accounts lends credence to this and checks of the electoral rolls have produced suspicious evidence.

In the first place postal voting should be minimized to the absolute necessity. There is no reason for army personnel and their spouses to be granted postal votes as we are not at war and neither are they deployed during elections. The military should be allowed to vote as normal civilians on polling day; perhaps for their convenience polling booths can be set up in army camps.

Postal voting by the police and other essential services should be witnessed by independent parties and the EC should ensure that the votes cannot be traced back to the individual. The votes should be counted immediately and recorded, not kept and produced on polling day to save marginal seats after a losing count.

The EC must also allow independent parties to verify that those entitled to postal votes are not double listed in the rolls with a civilian ID.

No. 2 – Use Indelible Ink

The use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting by one person will effectively wipe out the phantom voter menace even if electoral rolls are not clean. It is cheap, effective, hard to bypass and can be implemented immediately so why the EC refuses to consider indelible ink is strange (or perhaps not so strange).

The reasons given by EC such as “indelible ink is only used in poor countries” or “it is only for countries without a registration database” is specious and worthless. Instead it is pushing for the biometric system which is expensive, requires a lot of hardware, takes a long lead time to implement and is easily abused.

Essentially the biometric system means the fingerprint of a voter is validated by scanning before he is allowed to vote. According to EC’s deputy chairman, no two voters have the same fingerprint so this is a foolproof method to eliminate multiple voting. True, but what is there to stop the same fingerprint from being stored with multiple phantom I.C.s? Even if the fingerprint does not match the database it is only a matter of programming to grant illegal permissions.

The biometric system appears to be a high tech way to pull the wool over the eyes of the public and relieve pressure on the EC while allowing BN to continue cheating. BN is wholeheartedly supporting the biometric system which is fishy in itself. Has a party which used to depend on phantom voters suddenly become angels to support a system which would curb their ability to cheat? If you believe this then you will probably believe me if I tell you Paris Hilton is still a virgin.

The government is now collecting the biometric of 2 million foreign workers. Does this biometric database have other uses besides tracking foreign workers? Will they be issued with Malaysian I.C.s and shafted into EC’s database later?

No. 3 – Allow Overseas Malaysians to Vote

The mechanism for overseas Malaysians to vote at Malaysian embassies exist for students and embassy staff so there is no reason why it cannot be extended to all Malaysians living overseas. Most countries including our neighbours Singapore and Thailand allow their overseas citizens to vote.

Although the law states that all full time overseas Malaysian students can vote this facility is only granted to government sponsored students and illegally denied to private students. The only reason not to extend the facility to all overseas Malaysians is because BN fears them.

Malaysians staying and working overseas are still citizens and they have far more right to take part in selecting their government than the illegal immigrants in Sabah. Many of them are only residing temporarily overseas and even those who have migrated but still retain their citizenship may desire to come back in future especially if political and social conditions improve.

Bersih 3.0

Granted that there are a lot of other reforms to really level the playing field, these three will do for a start. They are easy to implement and well within the jurisdiction of the EC which has often begged that it is toothless to act against many election offences.

BN can have its colossal advantage in media, money and machinery to fight the election but implementing these three reforms will tilt back the playing field somewhat although it will be by no means level. They are nothing more than putting a stop to the underhanded cheating that BN has enjoyed for so long.

Sceptics may ask, “How did the opposition capture 5 states and 82 parliament seats if the playing field is so tilted?” The answer to this is that the opposition achieved their gains due to overwhelming support which swamped BN’s built-in advantages. On a more level playing field, BN’s losses would be much worse and Najib may even be opposition leader.

Expecting the EC to implement these reforms on its own is like putting sour milk into a fridge and hoping it will turn fresh. Civil society need to push tremendous pressure on the EC to do the needful for the rakyat instead of acting as a lackey of BN. The pressure cannot stop at Bersih 2.0, we must threaten a Bersih 3.0 if the EC refuses to act. This time the people’s rally should be held in all major towns including East Malaysia.

Election is the last peaceful resort a society has of correcting a bad government and checking a slide down the drain to tyranny. Take away this right and the country becomes a dictatorship and a police state where any the oligarchy plunder the country at will and peaceful citizens are locked up at the pleasure of the regime. Malaysians must reclaim this right before things deteriorate to a point where we become the Zimbabwe of the East.

- Malaysia Chronicle

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