May 1, 2018
Malaysia’s Election Commission – The Betrayer of Trust
by Dato Amb (rtd) Dennis Ignatius@www.malaysiakini.com
UMNO’s Malaysian Elections Commission
Whatever the outcome of these elections, one thing is certain: GE-14 will prove to be the most unfair, uneven and unequal electoral contest we’ve ever had courtesy of our EC and UMNO. Even if UMNO-BN wins, its legitimacy will be forever tarnished.–Dennis Ignatius
COMMENT | As polling day draws near, the anti-democratic actions of Umno-BN grow like a darkening shadow across the landscape. The bigger the crowds at opposition rallies, particularly in the rural heartland, the more desperate they seem to become. They can see the writing on the wall, they can hear the rising clamour for change and they know the tide is turning against them.
Having lost popular support in the last election, they now intend to thwart the will of the people in this election. All pretence of fair play and even-handedness is gone. They are determined to hold on to power at any cost by using the Election Commission (EC) and other agencies to advance their agenda.
Over and over again, the EC has acted in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner hampering the opposition at every turn, hindering voter participation and manipulating the electoral process to favour UMNO-BN.
By now, we are all familiar with the outrageous manner in which the EC went about redrawing electoral districts to benefit UMNO-BN and the shameful manner in which it was rammed through Parliament in time for GE-14. BN can now win enough seats to form the next government with even less support than it had in GE-13.
Doubts have also been cast on the integrity of the electoral roll itself. As Bersih 2.0 has noted, hundreds of complaints have been received about people being registered without their knowledge, voters being removed from the electoral roll and voters being transferred to distant constituencies.
Contesting against all odds
The system of postal balloting (involving more than 400,000 voters) is also so lacking in transparency and so open to tampering that it has to be considered seriously suspect. In the last election, BN managed to hold on to 30 marginal parliamentary seats thanks largely to postal votes.
In addition, the EC appears to have gone out of its way to hinder and obstruct Malaysians living abroad from exercising their right to vote. The absurd, incomprehensible and irresponsible choice of a midweek polling date, for example, will make it difficult for Malaysians living in Singapore to return home to vote.
The short polling period as well now makes it unlikely that ballots cast by Malaysians living abroad will be returned to Malaysia in time. As Bersih noted recently, the EC has effectively sabotaged its own overseas postal system.
And then there’s their unfathomable rejection of Suhakam (the respected Malaysian human rights commission established by an act of Parliament no less and whose members are appointed by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong) from monitoring the elections. It suggests that the EC’s conduct of the elections cannot withstand the scrutiny of credible and impartial observers.
The decision to exclude Suhakam is all the more suspect given the EC’s choice of observers. Inviting observers from countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Azerbaijan Kyrgyzstan, and Maldives, countries that are either autocratic or with no tradition of democracy, suggests that the EC is aiming for lower standards of accountability, perhaps even a whitewash of electoral irregularities.
The hole in our nation
Nomination day was also marred by the unprofessional conduct of EC officials with candidates like Tian Chua and Dr S Streram being denied the opportunity to register themselves as candidates on spurious grounds. And to witness a candidate being physically prevented from entering the nomination centre was simply astonishing.
The EC and other agencies have also come out with yet more arbitrary rules and regulations – like the one limiting photographs and logos on campaign posters and even a ten-day prior notice rule for certain types of campaign meetings.
Clips of officials going around town snipping out the image of Dr Mahathir from opposition election posters are both shocking and disgusting. Where in the world do such things happen? Even Robert Mugabe didn’t stoop so low. Have they no shame, no integrity left?
And how is it okay to allow the display of photographs of a foreign leader (President Xi Jinping of China) on Malaysian election posters but not that of one of our own former PrimeMministers? I dare say it was the last straw for many Malaysians.
UNMO leaders belittle and are dismissive of Dr Mahathir Mohamad in public but they are clearly fearful of him in private. They think by removing his photographs from public display, they can remove him from our hearts but they are wrong. The yearning for change which Mahathir has now come to embody will not be so easily extinguished.
Let it be a reminder to us every time we pass one of these posters with a gaping hole in it where Mahathir’s photo used to be that there’s a huge hole in our nation that only Mahathir and the opposition can fill.
But this is how far UMNO-BN will go to engineer its own victory at the polls. It pays lip-service to democracy and brags about how popular it is while working with the EC to avoid a fair fight.
And who knows what the EC will do come polling day; we shouldn’t be surprised if the worst is yet to come.
With its biased actions, the EC has irreparably damaged both its reputation and its credibility and has lost the confidence of the public. They have made a mockery of their own promise to the people (as per their anthem) to uphold democracy by ensuring the right of the people to freely elect their representatives.
Whatever the outcome of these elections, one thing is certain: GE-14 will prove to be the most unfair, uneven and unequal electoral contest we’ve ever had courtesy of our EC and Umno. Even if Umno-BN wins, its legitimacy will be forever tarnished.
DENNIS IGNATIUS is a former ambassador. He blogs here.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.