BERSIH Meets Deputy Prime Minister II, Emphasizes Fair Delineation and Advance Voting in Memorandum for Electoral and Institutional Reform

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) met with the Deputy Prime Minister II, Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, in Parliament today (9 July 2024). BERSIH took this opportunity to submit a memorandum detailing the proposed reform agenda, particularly on the issues of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) allocation for Members of Parliament, the need to establish advance voting mechanisms for Sarawak and Sabah voters working or studying in Peninsular Malaysia (and vice versa), the need for fair constituency delineation, reforms in the appointment of Election Commission members, and reforms to the Election Offenses Act.

BERSIH appreciates the openness of Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof and the government in receiving visits and suggestions from civil society organizations to voice the people's call for implementing the Reform agenda.

BERSIH is advocating for the reform agenda demanded by various civil society collectives, many of which are from the manifestos promised by the parties in the Unity Government coalition. These include the fair and equitable distribution of the CDF, the appointment of key national institutions through a Parliamentary Committee, and the separation of the Attorney General and Public Prosecutor roles.

The discussion with the Deputy Prime Minister II focused more on the issue of voting access, which burdens many Sabah and Sarawak voters working or studying in Peninsular Malaysia (and vice versa). BERSIH proposed extending advance voting to these two categories of voters to ease the burden on Sabah and Sarawak voters, especially with regards to the high cost of airfare, in order to exercise their right to vote.

BERSIH proposes a mechanism where Sabah and Sarawak voters working or studying in Peninsular Malaysia (and vice versa) do not have to return to their respective constituencies on polling day. Instead, they can vote at a mega polling center established in each state in Peninsular Malaysia (or in Sabah and Sarawak for Peninsular voters there). They can vote like advanced voters three days before the polling day, and their votes should be counted on the polling day at the early polling centers, without requiring their votes to be posted to Sabah, Sarawak, or Peninsular Malaysia.

Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof responded positively, stating that this demand aligns with the considerations of parties in Sarawak as this method greatly facilitates voters. We welcome this positive response and urge the Election Commission (EC) to take seriously the demands of the people, civil society, and policymakers to immediately consider implementing advance voting before the Sabah and Sarawak State Elections in 2025 and 2026. This policy is expected to impact more than a million Malaysian workers and students who have to travel between Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak solely to fulfill their voting responsibilities.

Regarding the CDF distribution, the Deputy Prime Minister II informed that the Federal Government is preparing a draft agreement to be presented to the opposition for negotiations. We urge that this draft be finalized in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 2.0 between the Federal Government and the Opposition in the short term, encompassing the implementation of the reform agenda, including the legal enactment of the CDF in the long term. This CDF law is necessary so that the allocation of funds no longer depends on the discretion of the Prime Minister and the Executive.

Additionally, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasized that the cabinet has agreed in principle to the separation of the powers of the Attorney General and the Public Prosecutor, the re-enactment of the Parliamentary Services Act, and amendments to the Election Offenses Act. BERSIH stated our stance that a clear timeline should be established so that these reforms can be implemented before the end of the 15th Parliament's mandate.

BERSIH appreciates the Deputy Prime Minister II's openness to meeting with civil society organizations. As the country is in a period of democratic transition, this open attitude is important to treat all stakeholders, including the opposition and civil society, fairly and professionally to create a mature and advanced democracy.

Released by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH

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