EC and NADMA Must Publicise the SOP on Voting Amidst Floods (UndiBanjir)

BERSIH calls upon the Election Commission (EC) and the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) to publish their Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on Voting amidst Floods (UndiBanjir).

The EC’s special meeting tomorrow (20 October) to decide on nomination and poling days must also cover the contingency plan to prevent unintended vote suppression caused by floods.

The EC must ensure its representatives must sit on the national, state and district-level Disaster Management Committees, that decisions on saving lives and preserving democracy are coordinated to minimize the trade-off between the two.

Bersih calls upon all institutions and quarters – political and unelected – to respect the role of EC as an independent institution and give it full room to make professional decisions in electoral process.

It is regrettable that the Parliament has been dissolved amidst the flood season against expert advices. The EC must not be pushed to complete election at the risk of harming lives or suppressing votes.

The flash floods that hit Kota Kinabalu, Penampang, Tuaran (9 October) and Pulau Langkawi (16 October) debunk the political myth that UndiBanjir can definitely be avoided if election is held in early November.

The EC, NADMA and the three-tiered Disaster Management Committees must be prepared for situations like the flash flood in P104 Pulau Langkawi may happen on or just before the polling day.

The flash floods that hit Kota Kinabalu, Penampang, Tuaran (9 October) and Pulau Langkawi (16 October) debunk the political myth that UndiBanjir can definitely be avoided if election is held in early November.

The EC, NADMA and the three-tiered Disaster Management Committees must be prepared for situations like the flash flood in P104 Pulau Langkawi may happen on or just before the polling day.

From the news reports, at least 30 settlements or places were flooded, across 14 of 27 polling districts, potentially affecting 38,118 voters, or 57 % of P104 Pulau Langkawi’s 66,808 electorate. (See Appendix)

Of the 14 schools or halls in the affected polling districts used as polling centers in GE14, 1 was flooded and 1 is listed on the high alert flood-prone areas.

Had the polling date been 17 October (the next day after the floods), what would the measures be taken – extension of polling hours? ferrying voters with boats in less affected areas to polling centers? Mobile ballot boxes in flood relief centers for evacuated flood victims? Postponement of elections?

The SOP produced by the EC in consultation with NADMA must contain the following:

  1. What remedy measures to take – extension of poling hours? transportation assistance like boats? Mobile voting at flood relief centers? Postponement of election at affected constituencies? Postponement of GE15?
  2. What redlines crossed to escalate remedy – What percentage of voters affected (or low turnout) to justify extension of polling hours? What percentage of voters / how many polling districts affected to postpone election at the constituencies? What percentage of constituencies affected to postpone GE15 nationwide?
  3. Who to be involved in such decision-making – EC/EC State Directors/Returning Officers? National/State/District Disaster Management Committees? Candidates? Contesting Parties?

Any decision to delay polling – even just at a few affected constituencies, let alone the entire GE15 – would be greatly controversial, as it would affect voters’ choices in postponed elections or cause the balance of power hanging in the air.

However, not doing so may cause either avoidable loss of lives (especially election workers and police personnel) or suppression of votes (where flood victims are denied their right to determine the country’s and their state’s future.

Should Ill-preparation of voting amidst floods cause avoidable life and property loss and denial of voting right, this would not just expose the senior officers of the EC and NADMA to suits of negligence. Worse, this may sink the country into political instability, worse than that the GE15 is supposedly to end, as government formation might be held back and political parties would be blaming each other when the drowning nation needs the leadership the most.

BERSIH hence calls for the EC and NADMA to produce a transparent and comprehensive SOP on how to handle election amidst floods, with an inclusive decision-making process to build cross-party consensus when difficult decisions need to be made to save lives and preserve democracy.

Released by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH

Read the full statement here including an appendix on "How the October Flood Impacts Electorate in P004 Langkawi": "EC and NADMA Must Publicise the SOP on Voting Amidst Floods (UndiBanjir)"

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