Thursday, May 29, 2008

EC must be independent

Independent EC not new voter roll that is needed

After much uproar and protests over the voters’ list over the years, the Election Commission (EC) Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman has finally proposed to go for a fresh voter roll that will involve the re-registration of the 10.9 million Malaysians who are already registered as voters. This although commendable, is a massive operation that would require a considerable amount of money and resources. After all that what is the guarantee that the new voters’ list will be trouble-free?

The electoral roll has been a major source of unhappiness of the opposition all these years. If EC is sincere in wanting to overcome its flaws it must seriously look into these grouses and make genuine attempts to overcome them. Some of these include the problems related to multiple voting, phantom and postal voters, which have cast serious doubts on the integrity and impartiality of the EC of late.

It is just not merely the electoral list per say but the functioning of the commission as a whole that needs to be looked into. There is a general perception that the EC is not truly independent as it should be. This has been the main grouse of the various election watch groups that have been formed recently to scrutinize our general elections. Whether it is true or otherwise, the EC must try to change that perception among the people. It must not only be non-partisan but seen to be so and its decisions must not be influenced by any political party.

It should ensure all parties, ruling and opposition; adhere to the rules of the election process without exception. If this independence cannot be assured whatever new electoral roll that it may create will only be in vain. The sudden and unexplained last minute cancellation of the use of indelible ink in the recent elections goes to show this lack of independence of the EC which has tarnished its image to a great extent.

It is timely for the EC to seriously consider automatic registration of voters once they attain the eligible age as ascertained by their Mykads. With the sophisticated computerization today this registration process should pose no major problem. In fact such a procedure would be more convenient for the voters and less costly for taxpayers. It will not only get rid of the problems of biasness in the voters’ list but it will also ensure all eligible citizens, regardless of social status, ethnicity and political ideology, are given a fair opportunity to vote in an election. Registration to vote should not be an option but whether to vote and who to vote should be.

A fresh voter list may be a good idea but it will be costly, messy and above all will not eliminate all the same problems of the current list if the EC itself does not rise above politics. In this regards there is a need for only people of high credibility and commitment to be appointed as members and chairman of the EC.

The EC must sit down with all parties concerned to come up with the best ways possible to ensure a truly independent, transparent and non-partisan body that will put the interest of the rakyat above any individual or party in carrying out the duties entrusted without any fear or favor.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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