Tuesday, February 24, 2009

April 7 By-Elections 1: Change Now or Abdul Aziz Should Resign!

merdekablog.com | 23 February,2009

According to mission of the Election Commission (EC) of Malaysia, the EC strives to ensure that the citizens of Malaysia are given the opportunity to participate in the election of their representatives in the formation of the Government and to safeguard this right through free and fair elections.

However, what we have seen so far is a totally different scenario as to how the team chaired by Tan Sri Abdul Aziz bin Mohd Yusof has failed to effectively execute its mission.

Let me elaborate why.

Firstly, Abdul Aziz said the Commission decided to hold the by-elections for the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat and Bukit Selambau state seat simultaneously to keep the campaign period shorter. He said the dates were chosen taking into account the comfort and convenience of all involved, as a shorter campaign period would be less hectic for party leaders and help towards maintaining public order and security.

If the EC was indeed looking for a less hectic campaign period for the party leaders, shouldn’t the by-elections be held as soon as probably 30 days after the state and parliament seats become vacant? Isn’t that the longer the by-elections are on hold, the longer the states’ political stability is jeopardized, hence the more discomfort and inconvenience such political instability brings to the daily functions of the citizens, and even to the economics of the states?

Also, Abdul Aziz is yet to explain to the public how the EC drew the conclusion of placing the polling day on Tuesday as a comfort and convenient solution for the voters involved, especially for those who work out-of-states.

How in the world would taking a trip, say 3-4 hours from KL to Perak or Kedah, considering the voters could successfully obtain a leave in this economy crisis, be of any comfort and convenience to them, whom Abdul Aziz addressed in the EC website as the number one clients of the EC? Consequently it’s not unreasonable for the wide speculation that the decision of the EC was merely for the comfort and convenience of BN. Or was there a hidden message that such decision was made for the comfort and convenience of the EC also, due to the rising pressure from the “invisible control board” behind the Commission?

During the interview, Abdul Aziz said the Commission pushed the nomination date to almost the end of March as it thought this would allow the current political situation in Perak to cool off.

Why do we need to wait for the Perak politics to cool off prior to the by-elections? The purpose of the by-elections is to elect the representatives supported by majority of the citizens. To ensure the right candidates to be elected, shouldn’t the voters be allowed to cast their votes as early as the arisen of the dissatisfaction?

I am sure Abdul Aziz was well aware that setting April 7 as the polling date would definitely be controversial especially due to the dissatisfaction of the opposition parties and the voters who live far away from the polling stations. However the insistency of doing so by Abdul Aziz has made him the culprit of the deterioration of EC’s image. It should not be surprised of hearing someone calling the EC as a cow following the orders of BN or actually UMNO.

First off, the date of January’s KT by-election being one week apart from Chinese New Year had triggered the criticism from the public on the EC’s inconsideration of the voters who most likely won’t return KT on the polling day due to the coming public holidays. Sadly, once again we experienced the failure of the EC to consider the hardship of the voters for the incoming by-elections. It is absolutely an unfair treatment to the opposition parties whom deemed to have major supporters from the city areas. How would Abdul Aziz align the two date choices with the EC’s mission statement of giving the voters the opportunities to participate in a free and fair election?

In appointing the members of the EC, it’s specified that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong “shall have regard to the importance of securing an Election Commission which enjoys public confidence”. It cannot be more apparent that the EC has lost its public confidence as an independent authority to safeguard a parliamentary democracy.

Another function of the EC is to undertake the registration of electors and the revision of the electoral roll throughout the year. However, Abdul Aziz said the Commission had decided that the master electoral roll for 2007, combined with the list of new voters registered until the first quarter of 2008, would be used for both constituencies.

How could he assume the electoral roll as of the first quarter of 2008 being the latest electoral roll that can fairly represent the electors of the electorates? Could there not be anyone who is qualified to vote from that quarter onwards? How about those who passed away after their registration in Feb 2008? The action of keeping that no-so-updated electoral roll is deemed as a seizure of the qualified voters’ civic right of electing their representatives of choice. Also, that list eventually is again another way for phantom voters to turn out on the polling day to vote for the death ones.

To restore the reputation of the EC and to ensure fair, free, and clean by-elections in April, I urge the opposition leaders to appeal to Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or at least to debate in the upcoming parliament meetings, on the following agenda:

  1. To allow postal votes for all voters who find difficulty of returning to their hometowns to vote on April 7;
  2. To challenge the refusal of the EC to vacant the state seats of Changkat Jering, Behrang, and Jelapang for the by-elections;
  3. To update the electoral roll to provide the opportunities to the qualified ones to participate in the by-elections;
  4. To expand the postal votes to the qualified Malaysian voters who work overseas however not fall into the categories of armed forces, Police Field Force, election officials on duty, government officers serving overseas, students studying overseas, and spouses.
  5. To order Abdul Aziz to step down from his position should he fail to explain how the decision regarding both nomination and polling days was taken with consideration of the interest of ALL parties involved.

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