PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 took the Election Commission (EC) to task today over its criteria in deciding who to invite as election observers to monitor the upcoming 14th general election (GE14).
Responding to EC chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah, who said earlier this week that the commission would only invite groups that had previously invited it to observe their elections, Bersih said it was “appalled”.
“The EC failed to understand that neutrality of observation is defined not based on personal whims and fancy, but as being able to carry out the observation independently, with integrity, professionalism and fairness.
“It must also be carried out with the passion to want to transform the electoral processes and system for the better so that the suffrage of voters is represented and protected in the long run,” it said in a statement issued by the Bersih steering committee.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Hashim had been asked whether the EC would invite international election observer groups to monitor GE14.
Some of the groups suggested included the European Parliament, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel).
According to Malaysiakini, however, Hashim said only groups from countries whose elections the EC had observed would be considered.
“Even if we want to invite, (we will invite) those who have invited us. Those who have never invited us, what do we want to invite them for?” he was quoted as saying.
He also dismissed questions on whether inviting groups from other countries the EC had observed would constitute a conflict of interest, the portal said.
Despite his claim that he himself had carried out international observations, Bersih said Hashim “certainly did not bring back lessons learnt on why election observation is important”.
“The public must know that efforts are being made to ensure their votes are protected.
“There is no point in picking and choosing who the EC wants to be observers, based on flimsy rationale, and to view other well-meaning international observer organisations as being part of some sort of planned conspiracy.”
Bersih also hit out at the EC over the matter of voter registration and the appointment of assistant registrar officers (AROs).
Claiming that the EC had “severely disrupted the process of registration and disenfranchised 3.8 million potential Malaysian voters”, it said thanks to the commission’s “ineptitude”, these individuals would not be able to vote in GE14.
“By taking away the appointment of AROs from political parties, limiting selected NGOs to be appointed as AROs and refusing to consider automatic registration, one can only conclude that the EC has intentions to slow down the process,” it said.