Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Election Commission is not only trying to steal GE14 by gerrymandering constituencies to UMNO’s advantage, it is systematically impeding the registration of new voters

We have statistically and empirically proven that there is only one “winner” in the newly proposed re-delineation of parliamentary and state constituencies by the Election Commission (EC).  Wherever possible, marginal UMNO seats are strengthened while marginal opposition-held constituencies are weakened by shifting in core BN supporters from neighbouring constituencies.

However, the EC who is also the only institution which can register new voters in the country is also proactively stalling and impeding the registration of new voters.

As at April this year, there are 17.6 million qualified voters in Malaysia.  However, only 13.4 million of them are register while 4.2 million remained disenfranchised.  This means that nearly 1 in 4 voters are not able to exercise their rights enshrined in the constitution if an election is called today.

Instead of making concrete and concerted efforts in collaboration with all parties to increase the number of voters registered, the EC is doing its utmost to slow down new registrations.

Firstly, the EC has stopped the appointment of Assistant Registration Officers (AROs) from political parties to assist with the registration exercise since 2013.  In 2011 and 2012 before the last general election, there were 5720 and 4777 appointed AROs.  Today, the numbers are negligible and they have not been replaced with any other institutions to perform the same task.

The impact and difference is telling.  In 2011 alone, 1,023,170 Malaysians were registered as new voters.  However, the 3 years from 2013 to 2015 only saw a total of 617,254 voters registered, or an average of 205,751 voters per annum.  At this rate, the number of unregistered voters will only increase exponentially as there are more than 500,000 new qualified voters every year (and increasing!).

As political parties are unable to have AROs to register voters, we have been told by the EC that they will be able to assign their officers to assist us with our voter registration campaigns.

However, such assistance comes with many conditions attached – such as no scheduled campaigns in the evenings and no “pasar malams” or open-air markets.

Despite the restrictions, the DAP cooperated and focused our joint campaigns with EC in the air-conditioned comforts of shopping malls.  However, to our disappointment and despite repeated formal and informal reminders to bring sufficient forms, the EC officials – under instruction, bring only limited number of forms.  As a result, our voter registration booths at the malls had to close early and hundreds of qualified voters were left disappointed.

Now, the EC has officially informed us to cancel all our planned voter registration campaigns after 3rd October purportedly because they now have to focus on handling the objections to the proposed re-delineation exercise.

Even when we then ask the unregistered voters to head to the nearest post office, we have often heard the inexcusable complaints of the lack of forms.

At best, the actions of the EC show that they are incompetent and abdicating their responsibilities to ensure qualified voters are able to exercise their constitutionally enshrined right to vote.  At worst, they are clearly sabotaging the electoral process by denying these voters their basic rights.

This is because, younger and newer voters as a whole have no loyalty to UMNO and BN.  A substantial majority of them have proven in past elections to be inclined to vote for the opposition.

We call upon the Election Commission to be serious about the registration of new voters since they have persistently refused the proposal for the automatic registration of voters.  If it is unable to carry out its responsibilities on its own, then it should start using its powers to appoint thousands of AROs across the country.

The EC would do well to remember its own “mission” stated on their malware-infested website, that is “mendukung sistem demokrasi berparlimen dan menjamin hak rakyat untuk memilih wakil mereka” and “mengurus, mengawal selia dan mengendalikan pilihanraya secara bebas dan adil”. Hence it should stop acting like UMNO’s henchmen to rig the electoral outcome.
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