While there are flaws and irregularities in the conduct of the recently concluded 13th general election, we should accept it – even if it is only partially free and not fair – as the starting point for reforms.
“I am too afraid to say if the flaws affected the results,” said Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan.
“But I personally believe that we should accept the result, it is credible as of now… partially free and not fair. If we don’t, where do we go from here?”
Speaking to reporters in Putrajaya today, Wan Saiful (left) advised everyone to accept the GE13 results which were as close to credible as it was going to get, but then put their energy and effort not in anger, but towards reforming the system.
One question we should ask while taking a long hard look at ourselves in the mirror said Wan Saiful,was not to question how a person can vote twice, but why would someone do that.
“Why are we cheating? There must be bigger problems in our society if we do that,” he reasoned.
Wan Saiful spoke at a joint Ideas and Centre for Public and Policy Studies (CPPS) press conference to submit their findings as GE13 observers to the media.
Their unified view is that GE13 was partially free but not fair, though the leaders from both NGOs are of different minds as to the effect of flaws in the electoral process and their impact.
CPPS Chairperson Tan Sri (Dr) Ramon Navaratnam, for one has a slightly different take on latest polls. “We cannot find any proof of fraud… I believe that the results of GE13 is credible,” he stated.
While he acknowledged that there are flaws as Wan Saiful pointed out, the systemic failure of the indelible ink for one, Ramon believed the flaws be too insignificant to adversely effect the accuracy of the GE13 results, except in “one seat or two”.
“It accurately reflected the will of the people, that BN be re-elected but with a reduced majority,” argued Ramon. He also warned the public from laying too much of the blame on the Election Commission (EC) for perceived irregularities, adding that many of the problems were in fact explainable had the commission more people doing public relations.
Ramon (right) argued that with phantom voters for example, the main culprit is the National Registration Department who issued blue MyKad to non-qualified foreigners for whatever reason.
“The EC had no choice by law, but to accept those with blue ICs,” he said.
It is the NRD which must first be reformed contests Ramon. What is also more important he said, is to not only to correct the flaws, but also to handle the issue of unequal weight caused by the unequal population of constituencies.
Ramon added that all the issues, like flaws in EC practices, unequal constituencies and electoral roll integrity must not be tackled individually but attacked on all fronts simultaneously.
An image being shared amongst Malaysian Facebookers outlining the various acts of electoral fraud.
Poll observers: GE13 unfair, partially free
IDEAS and CPPS find that the general election was unfair and partially free not because of polling day itself, but the weeks leading up to it.
Two accredited election observers concluded today that GE13 was conducted in a “partially free but not fair” manner, based on the weeks leading up to May 5.
“Our observation indicated that the EC functioned generally well during the period between the dissolution of parliament and polling day…the larger problem was the events leading up to the election period,” said the observers in their report titled “Was GE13 Free and Fair”
The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) and Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) said that media bias, abuse of government facilities, lack of integrity in the electoral roll, Registrar of Society’s (ROS) perceived bias, uneven delineation, lack of transparency in political financing, and ethnic issues exploited for partisan purposes resulted in an “unfair election”.
Meanwhile, the elections were “partially free” because while people had the right to vote, the above factors made the freedom of choice “incomplete”.
But Wan Saiful Wan Jan, CEO of IDEAS, and Ramon Navaratnam who is chairperson of CPPS, said they personally believed the election results remained “credible” despite its unfairness.
“There could have been some little discrepancies which might have affected results, but overall it captured the spirit of Malaysians who returned the government with a narrower margin,” said Ramon.
On Sunday, BN won 133 parliamentary seats, compared to 140 in the previous election, and gained only 47% of the popular vote.
“The election result is credible…. If we say no, it’s not credible, then where do we go from here? I think it’s the best results we can get,” said Wan Saiful.
“I accept the results because I do not see how else we can move forward. I’m more interested in strengthening the institution, rather than criticising it.”
Their stand comes hot in the heels of election watchdog BERSIH 2.0’s declaration that it would withhold recognition of the government until a fact-finding mission was complete.
Improving integrity of electoral roll
Earlier, in a statement, Wan Saiful said IDEAS found that EC successfully ensured that the overall process between nomination day and election day proceeded smoothly without any major glitches.
“Complaints have been filed about the possibility of phantom voters and the failure of the indelible ink to work as it should. Both are important issues that must be addressed.
“However, we position these two issues in the context of the wider lack of trust in the integrity of the electoral roll, instead of simply a weakness of the EC,” he said.
Wan Saiful said to address the root cause of the problem, serious attention must be given to improving the integrity of the electoral roll. This, he added, involved improving the integrity of the National Registration Department’s database, which may not be within the EC’s purview.
He also noted that:
1. The media was heavily biased in favour of Barisan Nasional. State-funded media platforms have been abused to project partisan views to the public.
2. There were doubts about the EC’s impartiality and competency despite their many efforts to improve the electoral system. They were seen as being part of an already biased civil service. The fact that EC members repeatedly issued statements that could be construed as partisan did not help. Their defensiveness when criticised further angered the public.
3. Trust in the integrity of the electoral roll is low. This resulted in the public being very cautious when there were reports of foreigners being flown in, when they saw foreign-looking individuals, or when the indelible ink was seen as ineffective.
4. The Registrar of Societies did not treat all political parties equally, delaying the registration process of non-BN parties.
5. Constituency sizes are too unequal, allowing parties that win many smaller seats to win parliament, despite not commanding popular support.
6. Financing of political parties is not transparent, resulting in a big lack of clarity about the financial standing of the competing parties.
7. During the campaigning period, government and armed forces facilities were repeatedly used for campaigning purposes during the official campaign period.
8. Racial issues were dangerously exploited for political gains. There were many instances of BN fishing for votes by sowing mistrust between the Chinese and Malay communities.
Recommendations for the EC
In the report, the election observers had outlined a number of recommendations for the EC, but Wan Saiful said it was up to the EC to implement the suggestions.
“The idea is we now submit to the EC and we are informing the public of the findings, so we hope this raises public awareness. IDEAS intends to look further into the issues we raised, with the help of ASLI and CPPPS. But we have not planned any specific action,” he said.
The recommendations concern the appointment of election observers, improving the EC, improving the electoral roll, improving political party registration pricess, normalisation of constituency sizes and political financing.