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EC should stop buying time on reform

 | July 12, 2012

Opposition Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) members say that the Election Commission can immediately make changes to allow overseas voters to vote.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Election Commission (EC) is dragging its feet in allowing Malaysians living abroad to register as voters.

Opposition members of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reform say the EC is taking too long in making a decision.

They were responding to the EC’s announcement yesterday that it was studying the need to amend laws to allow Malaysians overseas to be postal voters.

PSC member Anthony Loke said that the EC had taken a long time to look into the matter only to come up with a suggestion that they would have to study the law.

“We have given the EC three months and they have just come up with this decision. They have just come to us (with a statement) that they don’t know if they should amend the law,

“In fact it looks as though they have yet to meet with the Attorney General (AG) to (make the amendments,” he said.

The PSC had made 32 recommendations in April to the EC and gave the commission specific time-limit in which some recommendations should be completed.

They had given the EC three months to come up with concrete suggestions on how to allow overseas voters to vote in the elections.

Currently only civil servants, armymen, their spouses and students studying abroad are allowed to vote.

EC’s inherent power

Loke today said that the EC did not have to depend on the law-makers or draft new laws to allow overseas to vote as power is already given to the EC to make changes to the election regulations.

“Under Section 16 of the Election Act 1958, the EC is given power to make any regulations related to conduct of elections,” he said.

The Rasah MP added that the EC could look into two existing regulations to facilitate overseas voting. The EC just has to expand either the regulations of postal voters or the regulations of electors.

“They just have to add another category, another line or sentence that any Malaysian living abroad can vote,

“If the EC is going to wait to amend the law, it probably will not happen until December,” he said adding that there will be no time to discuss law amendments in the September parliamentary session as it will be dedicated to discussing the budget.

If the law does pass through, it will have to be approved by the senate which only meets in December.

“By the time it reaches the King, it will be January and if elections are called then, overseas voters will not be able to vote. The EC should stop buying time,” he said.

Logistical nightmare

Fellow PSC member Hatta Ramli pointed out that this case was similar to the indelible ink where laws were not amended and changes were only made to the regulations.

The EC said that it will place some restrictions on the overseas voters. This may include requiring them to return to Malaysia at least once in five years after the date that Parliament was last dissolved.

Both Hatta and Loke said that the EC’s condition that overseas Malaysians should be home once in five years was an unnecessary condition.

“It will be a logistical nightmare, when you register as a voter, you will have to present your passport. The EC will then have to double check with Immigration if you have come back…they should not implement any conditions,” said Loke.

Hatta added: “Most Malaysians living abroad are more aware of the issues here than Malaysians themselves…so these conditions are not necessary”.

They also called for a transparent mechanism to implement all the postal votes from overseas Malaysians.

“The overseas Malaysians can register from the day Parliament is dissolved to the nomination day. Candidate will only find out the number of postal voters in their constituency after nomination day.

“We are obviously not comfortable with that. The EC needs to have a proper briefing to make clear their mechanism in implementing this overseas postal voters,” he said.


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