Bersih an "illegal" nobody, Election Comm hits out as D-date to polls near
Amid growing signs that Malaysians will go to the ballot boxes by mid-June, Election Commission officials have come out swinging at free and fair polls movement Bersih in a bid to stave off demands to open up its electoral roll to an independent check.
Such a move would surely disadvantage Prime Minister Najib Razak's government, which is widely expected to hold the 13th general election soon. Political watchers expect the PM to blame a lack of time for not doing due diligence on the electoral process as demanded by the public and polls watchdog bodies.
Najib's Umno-BN coalition has ruled Malaysia for 56 years, using its previous two-thirds control of Parliament to gerrymander, as well as constructing an electoral system that complemented its chances at the polls.
"I don't see any other date than June for GE-13. Najib has to rush it through or he will have to clean up the rolls which he cannot afford to. This is why his lackeys are coming out now to shoot down Bersih," PKR MP for Batu Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
Bersih an "illegal" nobody!
Stung by accusations the EC was unprofessional and bowed to the BN government, EC deputy chief Wan Ahmad Wan Omar had returned fire at Bersih 3.0, even calling it "illegal". He slammed Bersih for demanding the resignation of the EC board.
“Who are they to demand that we resign? They are just a minority, while the majority out there still trust the EC,” Wan Ahmad was quoted as asking by Malay paper Sinar Harian.
Indeed, Wan Ahmad's comments may be out of line. The EC No. 2 has already earned himself negative publicity for his aggressive defense of his committee and just as often, the BN government's rationale for various decisions pertaining to polls management.
The EC was set up to be an independent elections organizer and manager, with its board is made up of retired top civil servants. But not only do members owe their jobs to the Najib administration, many are also affiliated to BN in one way or another. It is common knowledge that senior officers in Malaysia's civil service are generally picked from the recommendations of top politicians rather than on merit or qualifications.
"The EC deputy chief's comments are in bad taste and reflect a lack of professionalism. We would remind that Bersih was unfairly and illegally outlawed. After the July 9 rally, it was invited to participate in a parliamentary review of the electoral process," said Tian.
"The EC was among those who tried to shut out Bersih from this review but there was public outcry and the government had no choice but to accept Bersih. That shows how popular Bersih is. It is actually the EC's job to ensure clean and fair elections for Malaysians but because they do not do so, civil society groups like Bersih have to do it for them."
400,000 dubious voters on electoral roll, and EC not doing a thing
Bersih co-chairman A Samad Said had earlier told a press conference the EC board should take take responsibility for the continued abuses of the electoral system. Bersih had detected names of deceased voters in the electoral rolls despite the issuance of death certificates.
Citing the report by the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project or MERAP, Samad said it proved the EC had failed in its constitutional duty to ensure clean and fair elections. MERAP had uncovered double registration of some 15,520 voters in Sabah and 8,585 in Sarawak, and there was also widespread inconsistencies in voter details.
“EC is not guaranteeing one person one vote, instead it has colluded with cheating in the electoral roll,” said Samad.
"We hold the election commissioners responsible for cleaning up the electoral roll of some 400,000 dubious voters discovered by MERAP.
MERAP analyst Ong Kian Ming had said their findings showed some 100,000 "problematic" names, which if combined with other previously highlighted discrepancies, would bring the total number of dubious voters on the electoral roll to almost 400,000.
Whitewash not review
The Election Commission (EC) has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and its chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof has promised to hold a meeting next week to decide on the 22 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Select Committee for electoral reforms.
However, the PSC review itself has been called "whitewash" by Bersih. Only one recommendation of out the 8 proposed by Bersih had been adopted and even then, with conditions.
"Indelible ink, they have adopted. But it will not be used on postal voters, which we do not agree on," Bersih committee member Maria Chin Abdullah had said.
Nothing will stop us
Meanwhile, Bersih 3.0 will press on with their April 28 rally despite growing efforts by the Najib administration to thwart them.
Samad said the movement was now waiting for the "right time" before meeting the relevant authorities on its plan to hold the sit-in protest at the Dataran Merdeka.
The Dataran Merdeka venue has already been rejected by the police, although without valid reason. It is believed that more such 'spanners' will be thrown into the works as the April 28 deadline nears.
"No matter what happens, we will proceed with the rally at Dataran Merdeka. We hope the authorities will respect the wishes of the rakyat," said Samad, who is also the National Laureate.