Don’t hide behind flimsy excuses, Bersih tells EC

BersihPETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 says the Election Commission’s (EC) reasons for not implementing automatic voter registration are “flimsy” and “embarrassing” and only prove the commission’s incompetence.

The coalition also criticised the current system, which has led to almost four million eligible voters still not registered as voters.

It said the commission’s “appalling effort” in voter registration left much room for improvement.

Bersih’s statement today followed news of the EC’s decision not to implement automatic voter registration.

EC chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah was reported to have said yesterday that the commission did not want to be blamed for any problems arising from changes related to voter registration.

“There may be some things which we do not deem serious, but is taken seriously by certain parties. Especially when we make changes. If we are not prepared, but we proceed to do the changes, then many issues will arise,” he had said.

Bersih said the excuse that “many issues would arise” was “flimsy” and “truly embarrassing” since tackling such matters was part of the commission’s job scope.

“If the EC is held back by a fear of repercussions, then nothing will change.

“Hashim’s statement is the latest in a slew of laughable excuses from the EC to not implement automatic voter registration.”

Other excuses included a lower voter turnout, a less updated system adversely affecting the voter objection process, and the issue of voters not living at the addresses stated in their identity cards, Bersih said.

The coalition, which has been pushing for automatic registration since its formation, said the EC’s lack of action had left NGOs like Bersih and political parties to do its job of setting up voter registration booths.

The coalition has said that an automatic voter registration system would eradicate the need for voter registration drives in the first place.

It said such a system could be linked with the National Registration Department and would eliminate the lack of addresses, duplicate entries, the appearance of deceased persons as well as other dubious entries from the electoral roll.

“Automatic voter registration is a cleaning process to correct a flawed electoral roll and incompetence.

“If Hashim wants to be taken seriously, then he should explain to the public the difficulties in carrying out automatic voter registration instead of hiding behind ambiguous answers to shun EC’s duties and responsibilities.

“The EC’s schizophrenic attitude when it comes to voter registration, combined with its bulldozing through of the current unconstitutional redelineation exercise, can only be read either as complete incompetence or a deliberate denial of voters’ rights.

“Instead of paying lip service and trying to maintain a façade of free and fair elections, the EC had better get its act together if it wants to inspire some confidence in the public.”