Bersih calls on PM to carry out immediate reforms on new EC chairman appointment

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Bersih also released recommendations to amend the Election Offences Act 1954.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) has reiterated its call for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to immediately implement reforms involving appointing Election Commission (EC) members.

Bersih said the reform is essential as the term of the EC chairman will end by May, and the new chairman could likely take on responsibilities including studying and implementing delineation of electoral areas.

“EC members need to be appointed through a transparent, open, accountable and inclusive mechanism to gain the trust of all stakeholders in the independence of the EC which has the constitutional responsibility to carry out elections and re-delineation.

“Bersih suggested that the appointment mechanism for EC Members should go through the Standing Committee on Election Affairs (Standing Committee) so that the process can be scrutinised in an inclusive and democratic manner by the government and Opposition Members of Parliament.

“We also remind that the election manifestos of both Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional have promised that the appointment of key positions such as EC chairman will go through the Parliamentary Committee,” Bersih said in a statement today.

In addition, Bersih also urges the Federal Government to immediately amend the Election Offenses Act 1954 which was last amended in 2003 without any significant amendments.

Through engagement with political parties in the country and civil society organisations conducted from 2019 to 2021, Bersih has identified 19 sections in the Act that needed amendments such as the section on corruption, election spending limits and increasing fines for each offence, in addition to the need to include new provisions to modernise the Act such as the ban on the use of government resources for election campaigns, the need to audit election spending by contesting candidates as well as empower the EC to issue compounds to parties who commit election offences.

“The Prime Minister and the government do not have much time as the position of EC chairman will be vacated next month and a more transparent appointment mechanism needs to be made immediately.

In addition, amendments to the AKPR also need to be implemented so that the conduct of elections can be carried out better before the series of state elections begin, starting with the Sabah state election in 2025,” it said.

Meanwhile, in line with their #Reformasi100percent campaign, Bersih has released recommendations to amend the Election Offences Act 1954.

The report, authored by Asraf Sharafi, New Sin Yew, and Benjamin Wei, proposes amending 19 out of 40 sections, introducing four new sections and sub-sections, and creating four new descriptions for the law.

During a briefing about the report, Asraf explained that it was based on engagement conducted between 2019 and 2021 with various agencies, including the election commissioner, Electoral Reform Committee, and political parties, to modernise the law.

They identified areas for improvement in the Act, including the use of complex language, lack of definitions, impractical candidate allocations, lack of control over government funds usage during elections, and inadequate law enforcement.

Asraf highlighted that the law was last revised in 2003 and emphasised the need for updates to address weaknesses.

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He further pointed out that the Election Commission (EC) has limited power under the Act, as they can only lodge reports with the police or the MACC.

Additionally, Asraf said there are proposals for more precise definitions of election phases and increasing fines for offences from RM5,000 to RM10,000, the latter of which was supported by political parties.

Similarly, Bersih also proposed that the EC should be empowered to issue compound notices of up to RM10,000.

Meanwhile, Projek Sama convener Ngeow Chow Ying highlighted Bersih’s recommendation to double campaigning allocations for parliamentary and state constituency candidates, from RM200,000 to RM400,000 and RM100,000 to RM200,000, respectively.

Besides the increase, Ngeow said existing loopholes such as parties spending on candidates and sponsored billboards should also be addressed.

“We call for transparency for the candidate’s account, which can be audited. Most parties agree to the suggestion based on the engagement,” she said.

While Bersih also suggested that the campaign period for elections be extended from 14 days to 21, Ngeow said politicians indicated in feedback that it may then cost more money.