Turning Election Commission Into Infallible Demigod?
By: Kim Quek - 22.03.2002

Yes, that is exactly what the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) wants to do, through the current legislation to make the electoral roll out of bounds to judicial recourse.

BN has just tabled an election bill in Parliament, whereby 'an electoral roll, once gazetted, is final and shall not be questioned or appealed against or reviewed, quashed or set aside by any court'.

This new bill will have the effect of legalizing all the phantom voters that have existed in the electoral roll in the past, as well as immunising all future phantom voters from legal scrutiny.

This is a nightmarish scenario even in a country where both the election commission and the ruling party have been behaving above board; for to err is human, whether by design or by negligence; and when defects are discovered in the electoral roll inflicting sufferings to one party, that party is doomed to suffer injustice in permanence, if judicial recourse is denied to him.

In Malaysia, the combination of a rogue incumbent hell bent to win elections at any cost and a completely subservient election commission will make the new legislation a lethal weapon that, supplemented to the formidable illegal arsenal existing now, ensures annihilation of the challenger at any national election, thus guaranteeing the incumbent's rule in perpetuity.

Lest the skeptics may not believe, I will enumerate the following betrayal of our democratic Constitution pertaining to elections:

1. Tens of thousands of Philippino and Indonesian immigrants in Sabah have been turned into what is popularly known as phantom voters, during a massive undercover campaign to illegally register these people in the electoral roll, in a deliberate conspiracy to alter the political balance of power in Sabah.  As a result, USNO (later became part of UMNO) has been propelled from a minority party to the dominant political force in the State.  And in spite of revelation of such illegal phantom voter campaign by Justice Muhammad Kamil Awang in his Judgment to annul the Likas election in June 2001, the Sabah electoral roll has not been cleansed of such phantom voters to date.

2. The re-delineation of electoral boundaries that takes place every ten years in accordance with the Constitution has been turned into a regular exercise of gerrymandering by the ruling party to maxmise its chances of winning in elections.

The latest example is the Election Commission's (EC) current revision exercise, in which BN dominated states are given disproportionately large increases in the number of constituencies. For instance, the State of Johor which regularly returns BN in clean sweep is given the most drastic increase of 50%, from 20 to 30 seats, though the general increase in population in the past 10 years is only 27% and other states have higher rates of increase of population than Johor.

3. BN always wants an election to be conducted by stealth, that is, minimum campaign period to a sudden dissolution of assembly.  And the EC has always danced in tandem with BN by declaring the earliest nomination date and the shortest campaign period, constrained only by what is uncomfortable to BN.

This practice has proven to be a crucial factor in determining the outcome of  elections in Malaysia, where the ruling BN has a total monopoly on the mass media, to the complete exclusion of such facilities to the Opposition.

Invariably, the latter fails to convey its message as well as to counter BN's false propaganda within that short period without access to the mass media.

The EC regularly claims that it has fulfilled its constitutional role with fairness and impartiality.  If that is the case, why is EC silent when BN conducts a vicious and false TV campaign to demonise the Opposition as terrorists and oppressors even well before the legally permissible campaign period as in the recent Indera Kayangan by-election?

Why is the EC always silent when the Prime Minister unfailingly uses the bogey of May 13th (1969) racial riots to frighten and browbeat the non-Malays into voting for BN in every national election, which conduct is in breach of the Sedition Act in addition to the Election Act?

Why has the EC never raised its voice over the blatant and widespread vote-buying activities in their multiple forms (including sudden allocations of massive development expenditure by ministers during the election period) practiced by the ruling party in every election?

The above scenario speaks for itself.  Under these circumstances, this new election bill undoubtedly represents one crucial stride towards enhancing the existing totalitarian rule.

- Kim Quek

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