The Election Commission (EC) could be remodelled after its counterparts in India and New Zealand for greater checks and balances in the way it runs elections, the Society of the Promotion of Human Rights Malaysia (Proham) suggests.
Proham chairman Datuk Kuthubul Zaman highlighted the public’s perception that the EC lacked independence, noting among other things that the voting regulator is parked under the Prime Minister’s Department and have its members appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the prime minister’s advice.
“So I think we need to learn lessons from different democracies,” he said at a roundtable discussion last night.
Kuthubul gave the example of New Zealand’s division of election-related responsibilities, listing various features such as its chief electoral officer is a staff under the minister of justice instead of the prime minister, while electoral enrolment centres tasked with handling voter registration and voter list maintenance.
“The electoral commission of New Zealand is an independent body mandated to register political bodies and their logos, inform public about electoral matters, allocate public funds for campaign broadcasting and receive campaign financing reports,” he said, adding that the representation commission there is an independent statutory body that decides on voting area boundaries.
He also noted that the police there would be responsible for investigating and prosecuting breaches of electoral laws, while a parliamentary committee reviews and recommends changes to electoral laws.
“What it means is that power is divided between different bodies to provide that check and balance. Maybe we should look at the New Zealand model and we should amend ours along similar lines,” he said.
The EC in Malaysia carries out various functions, including maintaining the electoral roll or the list of registered voters, conducting elections and redrawing voting boundaries.
Malaysia can also consider modelling the EC’s manner of conducting its operations using India’s strict rules barring its election commission members from having any ties to politicians, he said.
“In India, the Constitution guarantees non-interference by other limbs of the state. The Indian Commission assumes total control over bureaucracy, cutting its link with political governments completely.
“Members of the commission are also insulated from any political masters. They are prohibited from having any contact with any ministers or any candidates and are suspended should any contact is made. That’s how strict the Indian Election Commission is,” he said.
He was speaking as one of three panellists at the Proham roundtable discussion on the EC’s latest redelineation exercise, which was titled “Enhancing Parliamentary Democracy or Undermining It”.