Election watchdog Bersih’s admittance that the Election Commission has done nothing to clean up the electoral roll is not surprising going by how the commission’s unperturbed response to claims of a corrupted electoral system.
The fact that the 13th general election is due anytime and Bersih’s lament that the EC never got down to reforming the electoral roll confirms the rakyat’s fear that once again the ruling government under Barisan Nasional is banking on abusing the electoral roll in the hope of winning big in the coming GE to redeem its humiliating loss in the previous national election.
In that respect, it is also not shocking that ‘the powers that be’ have been dictating terms to the EC especially in dismissing all calls for the electoral roll to be free and fair from abuse.
Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga’s claim that the EC made no attempt to rehabilitate the electoral roll by the next general election.
Bersih had demanded that the EC clean up the electoral roll, reform postal voting, use indelible ink, introduce a minimum 21-day campaign period, allow all parties free access to the media and put an end to electoral fraud.
Going by the EC’s reputation, there is no doubt that the demands by Bersih fell on deaf ears and would never see the light of the day.
The 2007 and 2011 Bersih rallies which garnered massive turnouts have failed to ‘enlighten’ the EC to the fact that the rakyat is fed-up with the never-ending abuse of the electoral reform and want it all to stop.
Instead, EC deputy chairperson Wan Ahmad Wan Omar had accused Bersih of working with the opposition Pakatan Rakyat pact to “overthrow the government” and claimed that the demands made by Bersih had been met.
The EC also alleged that Bersih was made a scapegoat by the opposition for political gains.
Hoodwinking the rakyat
The demands made by Bersih were also slammed by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as not making sense and challenged Pakatan to take BN on in the polls instead.
On Aug 15, 2011, six days after the Bersih 2.0 rally, the premier declared the establishment of a parliamentary select committee to examine the electoral system. He said the committee would comprise members of parliament from both the government and opposition coalition who would discuss electoral reform issues “so that a mutual agreement can be reached.”
Looks like there never was any real intention by the BN government to reform the electoral roll for it had much to ‘lose’ should positive changes take place.
What justification does the BN government have in dragging its feet in reforming the polls and putting a stop to abuses like vote-buying and preventing fair access to media?
It seems unlikely that BN which has been the ‘beneficiary’ of a fraud electoral system for years has any desire to see changes that would deprive it of such avails.
Put an end to election fraud
An incompetent EC is not Bersih’s only problem. The electoral reform watchdog is also angry over the commission’s reluctance in inviting international observers to monitor the polls.
Hitting the nail on the head, Ambiga questioned EC’s confidence in inviting observers from around the world to observe elections in Malaysia. On the contrary, the EC kicked up a fuss and called the foreign observation an interference.
Ambiga, a former Malaysian Bar president, said inviting observers from Asean counrtries was not good enough; EC chairperson Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said it was working with the Foreign Affairs Ministry to invite countries which had invited Malaysia as observer in their respective nation’s elections.
Bersih is also not pleased that the EC is doing nothing about the issue of free and fair access to media.
Ambiga said the commission had also disregarded the importance of ensuring that overseas voters be counted in the coming general election, adding that it had failed to meet its deadline for announcing the relevant procedures.
Bersih’s conclusion that the BN government refuses to commit to reforming the electoral system is proof enough that the coming 13th GE will be the dirtiest ever.
On its part, Bersih is embarking on two campaigns to tackle the issue of dirty electoral roll via its Jom 100 and the Jom Pantau campaigns respectively.
The Jom 100 campaign was launched in January this year to raise voter turnout for the coming election which must be held by April 28 next year; Bersih believes a 100% turnout would strengthen democracy and lessen electoral fraud and gerrymandering.
That said, if the rakyat want positive changes, the task of getting rid of electoral fraud falls on them.-fmt