Hornbill Unleashed

June 7, 2017

EC may use old electoral boundaries for GE14, says chief

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:01 AM

Election Commission (EC) chief Mohd Hashim Abdullah may be forced to use existing electoral boundaries for the next general election instead of those proposed in a March 8 redelineation exercise.

This is in light of the ongoing court cases that have been brought against its redelineation exercises in both Selangor and Malacca.

In an interview with Oriental Daily, Hashim admitted these court cases had affected the progress of the redelineation exercise proposals by the EC.

As such, he could not confirm if the redelineation exercise would be completed before the next general election, which will be held at the latest by August 2018.

“If this cannot be completed in time, then (we will) have to use the old electoral boundaries in the next poll,” he was quoted as saying today.

He further said the EC could not adopt the new redelineation boundaries in the absence of the redelineation of Selangor and Malacca.

On Sept 15, 2016, the EC issued its proposed redelineation exercise in major dailies. Eighteen out of 22 parliamentary constituencies in Selangor were affected.

In response, the Selangor government filed a judicial review to challenge the EC’s proposed redelineation exercise on Oct 19, 2016. In December 2016, the EC was issued a stay order by the court to cease its redelineation process pending a court hearing.

On March 8, the EC published and gazetted its second redelineation proposal for Peninsular Malaysia, in which numerous constituency names and compositions across the country were changed. Selangor was excluded due to its ongoing court case against the EC.

In Malacca, seven voters filed a similar judicial review against the EC in April this year. On May 12, the court issued a stay order on the EC’s redelineation process pending the court hearing.

Both the Selangor state government and Malacca voters were seeking orders from the court to quash the EC’s redelineation exercise.

Besides the redelineation exercises, Hashim, who was appointed to his current role on Jan 20, 2016, has also been slammed for refusing to issue draft electoral rolls during the designated display period, as well as his failure to address numerous reports of “phantom voters”.

“Protecting” the Election Commission

Hashim had promised to meet electoral watchdog Bersih and other NGOs early last year. Until today, he has not met any of the parties mentioned.

Many have raised concerns about whether the EC can operate independently in a political environment that is perceived to lack transparency, fairness and open-mindedness.

When asked about his predecessor Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, who had slammed him for snubbing the opposition, Hashim said he had done so to “protect” the EC.

According to him, the way he dealt with the opposition and NGOs had not violated fundamental rights and freedom of association in a democratic country.

He admitted the EC would not agree to the requests to meet Bersih and all political parties.

He said that his statements could be misconstrued to attack the EC in view of the two court cases on the redelineation process.

“Every word I say may be used as evidence in court that may affect the court’s ruling. If they had decided to allow the court to handle the matter (of the redelineation exercise), why ask for a meeting?” he said.

If the opposition and Bersih had not referred the matter to the courts, he would have obliged their request to meet, according to Hashim.

“I was busy when they first requested a meeting with me. Then they brought the matter to court. If they hadn’t done that, I would have been happy to meet them,” he said.

He added that he needed to stay alert to protect the interests of the EC, as the country’s electoral system had been permeated by “all sorts of conspiracy theories”.

In defending the EC’s decision to stop issuing draft electoral rolls, he said the law does not compel EC to do so.

Hashim claimed that the former EC chiefs had used their discretion to issue draft electoral roll, which had been a “bonus” to the voters.

“Now, we are just following the law,” he said.

Hashim stressed that EC operates independently despite being placed under the supervision of the Prime Minister’s Department.

“We follow the instructions of the Agong,” he elaborated.

Voter registration alternatives

When asked if implementing the automatic registration of voters upon reaching the age of 21 would be able to improve the situation, Hashim replied that the approach had its flaws.

“If this (automatic registration of voters) is perfect, all the democratic countries would have adopted it,” he said.

“To secure voting rights, age is one of the thresholds. Other types of information needto be taken into account, including citizenship and criminal records,” he said.

Hashim observed that online voter registration was an equally unreliable approach. He said, “There are loopholes in online registration, (so) there will be new controversies claiming that the government takes control of the system.”

As such, Hashim emphasised that both automatic and online voter registration systems would not be implemented in the near future.

Meanwhile, he also denied allegations of the existence of phantom voters, and dismissed allegations that the EC was involved in gerrymandering exercises to help the ruling coalition to stay in power.

Hashim claimed that many people had become overly sensitive with regards to the presence of migrant workers, which had caused misunderstandings, he said.

“The massive (numbers of) migrants said to be ferried by buses…the fact is, this happens in town on a daily basis,” he said, referring to foreign workers commuting to work who had been allegedly mistaken for phantom voters in the previous general election.

He added that during the previous general election, school buses which were taking Malay students back home for festive celebrations had been mistakenly thought to be ferrying phantom voters.

“It was rumoured that 14,000 Bangladesh nationals had entered the country to vote for BN, but the EC has not received any such report,” he said.

“No matter how we redelineate the boundaries, (we) will receive a complaint because a party’s ability to win (elections) will be affected,” he said, adding Umno was also unhappy with the redelineation exercise.

Hashim pointed out that the EC had rejected BN’s protests on the redelineation and accepted 60 percent of the requests made by the opposition.

“The EC is accused of gerrymandering when politicians lose in elections,” he said,”But, did they (the opposition) compliment EC when they won in Selangor and Penang?”

“They blamed us (of gerrymandering) for moving Chinese voters out of one constituency. But that was a Chinese new village. Could I have taken out a few Malays or Indians?” he asked.

Bersih still open to engaging EC

Meanwhile, electoral reforms pressure group Bersih noted that although the EC may use the old electoral boundaries, this too suffered from malapportionment and gerrymandering.

“Genuine and fair political representation in our election system is long overdue and the EC should instead use this opportunity to correct the boundaries, using a clean and accurate electoral roll,” it said in a statement today.

It added that the series of court cases challenging the EC’s redelineation exercise was a manifestation of EC’s misdemeanour.

Bersih also criticised the EC chief for snubbing them on grounds that the coalition was not a registered NGO, pointing to a 2012 court decision that affirmed Bersih was a legal entity consisting of NGOs.

“Bersih is still willing to hold a meeting with the EC. The agenda for the meeting is not just about the delineation processes.

“We are of the view that if EC wants to run a free and fair elections at the GE 14, immediate reforms need to take place,” it said.

Source : Malaysiakini


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