The Umno Youth chief and Bersih co-chairperson lock horns in a 90-minute debate over polls reforms.
Entitled “Electoral Reform: Is Enough Being Done?”, the debate was held in The Club at Bukit Utama at around 9pm, which saw an attendance of more than 1,000.
The two initially spoke on various topics involving the Election Commission (EC), polls practices and other matters. However, the subject of a seemingly tainted electoral roll soon dominated the debate.
It was a discussion that appeared to break down into two sides: one for and the other against the EC.
Ambiga attacked the EC for being aware of the many issues plaguing Malaysia’s voters’ roll but not being able to do anything about it.
Demanding answers, Ambiga said at one point: “Put us in a room with the EC and all the MPs and let us fight it out.”
She frequently cited statistics garnered by UCSI University political analyst Ong Kian Ming in his findings from the Malaysia Electoral Roll Analysis Project (MERAP).
These findings, she said, included the 3.1 million voters whose MyKad addresses showed a different voting constituency than the one they were actually voting in.
Khairy on the other hand defended the EC, and accused Ambiga several times of misrepresentating the facts.
He also asked why Bersih was so eager to strike out the 42,000 voters declared by the EC as dubious, adding that the commission could not simply strike off these names from the roll.
The Rembau MP also attacked Ambiga for her apparent unwillingness to cooperate with the EC.
“You say that you don’t trust the EC, so what point is there in seeing the EC?” he asked.
Ambiga later said that the EC was not cooperative themselves.
“We’re just asking a committment… to delay the general election… clean the electoral roll and fulfill [Bersih's] basic demands. To date we have not received that commitment from anyone,” she said.
Although the two candidates were civil and articulate in presenting their arguments, the same could not be said of their supporters.
The crowd was quite clearly divided into two camps, with one supporting Khairy and the other for Ambiga.
Both sides were noticeably partisan: cheering and applauding only their respective candidates and did not hesitate in throwing jibes at each other.
When questions were opened to the floor, some members of the audience did not hesitate in asking questions wholly unrelated to polls reforms.
One of these included a query as to whether Barisan Nasional would ensure a peaceful transition if the coalition lost the next general election.