Bersih “Not Hopeful” PN Will Adopt Electoral Reforms

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A “repackaged” Barisan Nasional administration in the guise of Perikatan Nasional is unlikely to look into proposals on electoral reforms promised by the previous government, said Bersih 2.0.

The electoral watchdog’s chairman, Thomas Fann, told The Malaysian Insight that the radical proposals mooted by the Pakatan Harapan-established Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) will likely gather dust in the corridors of Putrajaya.

“We are not hopeful because the composition of the new government is made up of a repackaged BN structure.

“Under BN, all these proposals were ignored and dismissed.”

The ERC was formed after the 2018 general election, and Bersih is part of the committee.

The panel, set up to review Malaysia’s electoral laws and system, is headed by former Election Commission chairman Ab Rashid Ab Rahman.

“The proposals by the ERC were reflected in the interim report submitted by Rashid to Dr Mahathir Mohamad in January,” said Fann.

“Our proposals include changing the electoral system from first past the post (FPTP) to proportional representation for federal seats. For state assemblies, the present system of FPTP will be used.

“We are not hopeful that PN under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will adopt these proposals.”

He said the proposals need much discussion and debate before they can be adopted.

“So far, we have not heard anything from the new government, and I don’t think they will look into these major changes.” 

Najjua Zuklefli/TMI

He said another proposal is that the EC should be divided into three management bodies, where the commission will function only as an oversight body that manages elections.

“The EC will look into the electoral roll and the enforcement of election laws, but they won’t run the elections.

“The elections will be run by another body called Election Malaysia. The other body will be the Boundary Commission, tasked with looking into the delineation of electoral boundaries.”

He said PN must make clear its stand on electoral reforms, to ensure a level playing field for all political parties.

“They are a backdoor government with no policy or mandate. So, we don’t know their stand.”

Enforcement power for EC

Fann said Bersih is pushing for more power to be given to the EC.

“The current laws don’t empower the EC to act against offenders. Even if they see parties or candidates breaking election laws, there is nothing they can do other than lodge a police report.

“So, one of the reforms we have been pushing with the ERC is for the Election Offences Act 1954 to be amended to give powers to the EC.”

The amendment will grant the commission the power to issue compound fines of up to RM10,000 for polls offences, he said.

“The compound has to be severe to deter them. However, if anyone is slapped with the fine, they have recourse to bring the matter to court and challenge it.

“This is not under the current laws, and it must be considered.”

He said an amendment is also needed to deal with the abuse of state resources or use of government machinery during elections.

“It is not just the use of equipment, but using taxpayers’ money to campaign or buy votes.

“These are important proposals to strengthen the electoral system and institution under any government and should be prioritised.”

He added that the ERC is scheduled to meet on March 25.

“We are not sure if that will be our last meeting.

“Questions will be raised at the meeting on the direction of the ERC under the PN government.” – TMI