ANFREL Encourages Rethink of Proposed Electoral Law on Malaysians Living Abroad

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) encourages countries to allow citizens living abroad to be able to participate in their home countries’ elections. A citizen’s right to participate in their country’s election is a universal one and shouldn’t be restricted when good methods exist to allow voters abroad to participate.  This is why new regulations on overseas voting proposed by the Election Commission of Malaysia need to be re-evaluated.

The restrictions, expected to be proposed by the EC to the parliamentary select committee on electoral reform, would make those Malaysians living abroad not paying taxes, which is the case for many, to be deemed ineligible voters. This is an arbitrary restriction on voting rights and one that runs counter to the idea of universal suffrage.

For a variety of reasons, Malaysian citizens living abroad may not be required to pay Malaysian taxes, for reasons such as having a low income, being retired, being students not working, or having income derived from foreign sources that they already pay another country’s taxes on. Because all but the last reason also apply to many Malaysians living in Malaysia, there are many citizens at home that are also not required to pay taxes. Determining voting eligibility on this basis is rather arbitrary and should be reconsidered.

ANFREL applauds the Election Commission of Malaysia’s desire to allow overseas voters to vote, something sadly not available to many ex-pats in the region from other countries. That said, the particulars of their effort, as discussed here, leave a great deal of room for improvement. This is a wonderful opportunity for the EC to demonstrate its independence and professionalism by expanding the franchise for Malaysians abroad rather than limiting it based on unsound principles. ANFREL encourages the EC to review its proposal again before moving forward and make sure that it protects the right to vote for as many Malaysians as possible under the law.

For further questions please contact Somsri Hananuntasuk (Executive Director) on +66-81 810 5306 (English/Thai), or Ryan Whelan(Campaign & Advocacy) at +66-85 945 7373 (Thai/English). Email press@anfrel.org or anfrel@anfrel.org.

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