Ready for all eventualities: Malaysian election commission

By Mazwin Nik Anis, Zuhrin Azam Ahmad and Razak Ahmad | Source: ANN
What happens if a ballot box in an Election Commission (EC) boat gets swept away by strong currents in crocodile-infested waters?

Will campaigning in a constituency continue if one of the candidates dies before polling day?

And who wins if two candidates contesting a seat receive the same number of votes?

These are just some of the out-of-the-ordinary hypothetical scenarios that the EC in Malaysia has prepared for as part of its overall effort to ensure a smooth 13th general election.

EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said ballot boxes transported by river in the interior of Sabah and Sarawak will be fitted with floats to prevent them from getting lost en route to the counting centre.

“This precaution was taken in the Tenang by-election as well as the Sarawak state polls in 2011.

“We have tested the float-fitted ballot boxes by throwing them into swimming pools to ascertain that they do not sink,” he added in an interview.

Boxes fitted with floats will only be used in those parts of the interior of the two states where ballot papers from several remote and small polling streams would have to be taken to a counting centre before they can be tallied.

In all other places, votes would be counted and tallied at polling streams, Abdul Aziz said.

In a situation where a candidate dies during the campaign period, the EC would allow the party concerned to field someone else, he said. This does not apply to Independents.

“We will extend the campaign period for the whole parliamentary area and a new polling date will be fixed. This is to allow the new candidate some time to campaign.”

As for candidates who turn up at nomination centres behaving in a manner suggesting that they may be of unsound mind, Abdul Aziz said the EC will check with the Health Ministry to find out whether they had been declared mentally ill.

“Unless the ministry has officially declared a person to be of unsound mind, we cannot disqualify him no matter how strange he acts at the nomination centre,” he added.

Abdul Aziz said there has never been a case where candidates contesting for a seat received the same number of votes. If this does happen, the candidates can only request for a recount once.

“If the result remains the same, the returning officer is empowered to devise a method in front of the candidates and their agents to decide the winner. For example, he can use a coin toss or a drawing of straws to decide the winner,” he said.

Abdul Aziz assured voters that the commission can handle any extraordinary situation that may arise during the elections.

“We have taken account of all possibilities and included them in our regulations and rules,” he said.