The Prime Minister Needs to Urgently Reform The Mechanism for Appointing Members of the Election Commission

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) urges the Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, and the Federal Government to promptly implement reforms to the process of appointing members of the Election Commission, especially for the position of Chairperson. Tan Sri Abdul Ghani, the Chairman of the EC, is due to retire in May, and as of now, the EC still has one vacancy for a member, namely the EC member in Sabah.

BERSIH wishes to emphasize that reforming this appointment process is crucial, especially since the next Chairperson of the EC is likely to have the responsibility of reviewing and implementing the redelineation of electoral boundaries. EC members should be appointed through a transparent, open, accountable, and inclusive mechanism to gain the trust of all stakeholders in ensuring the independence and autonomy of the EC, which has a constitutional responsibility to conduct elections and constituency delineation.

This week marks the final week of the current parliamentary session, and BERSIH has yet to see any progress regarding the electoral reform agenda that the government has attempted to put forward, except for the presentation of the Parliamentary Services Act to grant autonomy to the Parliament institution, expected to be tabled next July.

The electoral reform agenda to strengthen the independence of the EC and empower the electoral system in Malaysia has still not been seriously addressed by the Madani Government and until now, government has not announced any plan or intention for electoral reform. BERSIH has previously suggested that the appointment mechanism for EC members should go through the Parliamentary Standing Committee so that the process can be scrutinized in an inclusive and democratic manner by Government and Opposition Members of Parliament. We also remind the government that the election manifestos of both Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional have promised that the appointment of key positions such as the EC chair will go through the Parliamentary Committee.

In addition to reforming the appointment of EC members, BERSIH would also like to question the Government's actions in terms of electoral reform, particularly regarding:

1)The willingness of the Government and EC to implement new methods for Absentee Voters, especially for out-of-state and out-of-region voter, such as those in Sabah and Sarawak who work and study on the Peninsula. This is crucial as the State Elections in Sabah are scheduled next year, and the EC needs to be prepared for these elections and facilitate voters from outside the area to return to vote in Sabah. BERSIH suggests that these voters be allowed to vote early at their respective areas of work/study with the EC setting up a mega polling center in each state on the Peninsula, and the votes are counted at these centers on the counting day.

2)Amendments to the Election Offenses Act to make it more effective, especially in empowering the EC to enforce appropriate laws. The current act is outdated and has not been updated for a long time. Furthermore, there is still no provision to regulate the use of government resources and machinery during elections, as well as the need for auditing election expenses by election candidates and political parties. This act needs to be reformed to remain relevant and make the campaign process cleaner and fairer.

BERSIH urges the Government to remain committed to the reform agenda, especially electoral and institutional reforms, to strengthen democracy in Malaysia.

Released by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH

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