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EC can do more to register eligible voters

March 2, 2017

The EC must go all out to cooperate with the Rakyat to register the four million eligible voters, as soon as possible.

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By Ramon Navaratnam

With the 14th general election (GE14) approaching, we should ask ourselves whether the Election Commission (EC) is doing enough to serve the Rakyat.

That’s the important question – can the EC do much more for us, the Rakyat and the voters?

GE14 could be held around the end of September after Hari Raya Aidilfitri when the whole nation would still be in a festive mood.

This would mean that if eligible voters want to vote in GE14, they have only this month of March to register, as voters must be registered for at least six months before the elections to vote.

Hence, there should be a sense of urgency to organise an all-out national campaign to register voters this month.

If, however, GE14 is held after September, then we will have a little more time to register voters.

The registration of voters is a real challenge for the EC and, indeed, for all Malaysians because there are about four million Malaysians who still have not registered as voters.

Most of the eligible but unregistered voters are Malaysians in the 21-30 age group.

It’s a shame that our youth have been so tardy to register as voters. It’s a disappointment to us that they have shown so little responsibility to do their duty as young citizens and, worse still, as future leaders.

It’s depressing to note that our youth are quick to blame the many wrongs in our society, but don’t even want to register as voters to put things right.

Adults should encourage the youth to register, but, often, many adults don’t.

There is a sense of malaise that seems to have grown and gripped the country. There is a sense of hopelessness that is debilitating. This pessimism can undermine our socio-economic progress and national unity.

Perhaps the unregistered youth feel that the EC has undertaken too much gerrymandering and indulged heavily in the malapportionment of votes in many constituencies all over the country, and, particularly, in urban areas.

These reasons, nevertheless, are no excuse for not registering to vote.

The youth have a duty and an obligation, like the adults, to bring about greater fairness and justice in our electoral system. We can’t afford to be indifferent to any abuse in our system, for the people will suffer in the end.

We have to soldier on for a better Malaysia, and it is the youth themselves who should take the lead and carry the banner forward. The adults have done our fair share and must hand over the torch to the youth.

Yes indeed. The EC can do much more to help register the four million eligible and unregistered voters. But the EC may have failed us so far.

Why has the EC severely cut down on the appointment of assistant registrars of voters?

Why does the EC not step up voter registration campaigns at town hall meetings, malls and community centres, as well as post offices?

Why can’t the EC work closely with the hundreds of dedicated non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and thousands of volunteers to register the four million eligible voters?

The NGOs seek cooperation with the EC. I, myself, tried to reach out to the EC, but the response has been cold.

The EC must strengthen the electoral process and the voter registration system and with that, win more confidence from the people.

If the EC is weak or passive, it could well give the impression that the EC wants to play only a marginal role in promoting healthy and active democratic elections and to abstain from building a viable and sustainable democracy.

A general election determines the future success or failure of our beloved country. I am sure I speak for most Malaysians who desperately yearn for free, fair and honest elections.

This means that the EC must go all out to cooperate with the Rakyat to register the four million eligible voters, as soon as possible.

This must happen before the time constraints deprive eligible voters of their birth right and deny us of full democratic electoral participation and choice of elected representatives.

Otherwise, the four million unregistered voters may think that the EC is not interested in them and want to exclude them from voting.

I, therefore, believe that the government has a grave and sacred duty to urge the EC and its officials, to do their job well — and to be truly worthy of the public trust of all responsible Malaysians.

Ramon Navaratnam is the chairman, Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies

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