Malaysian poll body seeks election law review

By Razak Ahmad | Source: The Star
The Malaysian Election Commission (EC) will soon begin a review of election laws and voter registration procedures to deal with complaints such as unusually large number of voters registered at the same address.

Among the matters being considered by the commission was to seek the power to “remove” voters who do not live at the address and update the registration in accordance with the address listed in their MyKad.

“We will examine in detail all aspects related to the present laws governing voter registration to look at all the loopholes which can give room for fraud by any political party when they register voters,” EC deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said yesterday.

There are two laws, the Elections Act 1958 and the Election Offences Act 1954, governing elections, in addition to three other statutes Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981, Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 and Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003.

Representatives of political parties appointed by the EC as assistant voter registrars are allowed to sign up new voters but both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat have traded accusations of “shifting” voters by getting supporters to change their address and be registered in constituencies where their side could win.

Wan Ahmad said one of the problems the EC faced in dealing with such cases was its inability to strike out the name of any voter from an address even when the commission was sure that the voter had never lived there or was no longer staying at the place.

He said that under existing laws, only the voters had the authority to change their voting address.

“As such, we want the power to strike out their names, find out from the National Registration Department where their actual addresses really are before we inform the voters and place them in their proper constituencies. This will not jeopardise their right to vote,” he said.

Wan Ahmad agreed that this would not be enough to fully resolve the problems facing the present voter registration system.

“But this is part of a raft of measures that the EC will mull in its review, to identify and fix the loopholes that currently exist in voter registration procedures and laws.

“We are doing this review because so many people are questioning the electoral roll. We will tighten the laws and procedures to prevent any opportunity for fraud in voter registration,” said Wan Ahmad.

He said if it was deemed necessary, the EC would also recommend to the government new measures, amendments to laws or even to abolish the laws altogether so that they could be replaced with new legislation.

The last major review of electoral laws and procedures in 2001 led to changes such as the year-round voter registration.

Wan Ahmad said the EC set up an internal committee in the wake of the Parliamentary Select Committee’s electoral reform recommendations in April last year.

He said the panel had completed a detailed probe to identify the weaknesses in the current voter registration system and electoral roll.

The EC’s top management would study the committee’s findings before drawing up its proposals to improve the system.

However, Wan Ahmad said no time frame had been set for the review to be completed.