New Election Commission Chairperson: After hat-trick of broken promise by Unity Government, what is left for electoral reform?

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) expresses our deepest disappointment in the Unity Government and Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim for violating their election promise for the third time in appointing an election commissioner without undergoing Parliamentary committees.

This is done despite the chair of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Elections, Institutional Reform and Human Rights, YB William Leong, issued a statement on May 17, 2024 stating that his PSSC has agreed, and is ready, to review the appointment of the new Election Commission (EC) chairperson. The announcement went against the parliamentary committee’s wishes that the appointment should be done openly in consultation with the Parliament, and has undermined Parliament.

Worryingly, this appointment appears to have also breached Federal Constitution Article 114(1), which states that the Election Commissioner shall be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after consultation with the Conference of Rulers. As far as we know, there has been no Conference of Rulers meeting recently. Here is a question we put to the Prime Minister, “Did this appointment bypass the Conference of Rulers?”

BERSIH wants to remind both Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN), that they have promised in their manifestos (Buku Harapan and PADU) that all key appointments would be reviewed through the Special Parliamentary Committee, including Election Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Governor of Bank Negara.

We regret the lack of transparency in this appointment process. Nonetheless, we wish the new chairman Ramlan Harun the best in executing his duties to lead the commission. We hope that he has the will to implement electoral reforms, and will maintain an open door policy engaging with stakeholders from civil society. The new EC chairperson should also be bold and proactive to drive the electoral reform agenda including making the conduct of elections fairer especially given the rampant abuse of government resources during campaign period.

BERSIH will handover a memorandum containing the demands of urgent and necessary electoral reforms to the new EC leadership at Menara SPR (EC Headquarters) in Putrajaya in the near future after Sungai Bakap by-election. We trust the new EC chairperson will engage us in a professional manner as this will be a litmus test whether the new EC leadership is keen on the reform agenda or not.

This announcement by the Madani Government comes one day after two other regressive developments: firstly, the Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, Tan Sri Johari Abdul, stated that the bill for Parliamentary Services Act (PSA) will once again be postponed to the next parliamentary session; and secondly, the use of Sedition Act to interrogate activist Mukmin Nantang from Borneo Komrad regarding the Bajau Laut eviction.

With these developments, Putrajaya vindicated our assessment earlier this month when we gave them an “F” for electoral reforms. Meanwhile for Anwar, he has been preparing for the country’s top job since becoming Deputy Prime Minister in 1993. One must really ask, is this all the reform he can deliver after 31 years of preparation?

Released by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH

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