Vote and make a difference, urges Maria Chin

maria-chin-voters-malaysia-1KUALA LUMPUR: Voters must come out in full force to cast their ballots in the 14th general election (GE14) as they could make a difference in the outcome of the polls, Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said.

She said in 2008, a high voter turnout for GE12 resulted in the Barisan Nasional (BN) losing five states, including the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, to the opposition and its two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

The electoral watchdog chairman said in GE13 in 2013, BN lost the popular votes for the first time, also failing to get back the two-thirds majority.

In that polls, BN only obtained 48% of the popular votes although the ruling coalition secured about 60% of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Voters must come out in full force to at least send a strong opposition to the Dewan Rakyat,” she told the Malaysian Bar’s symposium on “Constitutional Law: Rule of Law in Jeopardy?” here today.

Maria said a high turnout would also send a strong message that MPs and assemblymen must be accountable to the people who elected them.

“Do not stay away from polling stations on election day. Every vote counts and could make a difference,” she said, adding that Bersih still expected a national average turnout of 85% due to the widely-expected intense contest among political parties.

She said the Election Commission’s (EC) electoral roll was suspect, claiming it had phantom voters.

Maria said it was also a cause for concern that the EC had designated the staff of nine departments as postal voters under the Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations.

These departments are those from the prisons, fire and rescue, maritime enforcement, civil defence, police volunteer reserve, immigration, national registration, health workers and those under the National Disaster Management Agency.

She said in GE13, the opposition could have won 30 more parliamentary seats in marginal constituencies if not for the presence of postal voters.

“We want the citizens to cast their votes on polling day and not postal votes, unless due to exceptional circumstances,” she said.

Meanwhile, lawyer Syahredzan Johan said there were 16 legal challenges when the EC proposed its delineation exercise last year but only the Selangor government’s complaint was heard on merit.

Last month, the High Court dismissed the state’s judicial review application, largely on grounds that it was bound by a Court of Appeal ruling.

“In the case of M Kulasegaran & Others v EC, the court had pronounced that it was premature for voters to challenge any proposal as it was merely a recommendation to the Dewan Rakyat,” he said.

As a result, Syahredzan said aggrieved parties had limited scope to challenge a delineation exercise proposal.

“It therefore appears that the remedy is in the Dewan Rakyat but what happens if the elected representatives do not question the recommendations?”

Senior lawyer G Vidyasagar, from Hyderabad, India, who explained the duties and functions of the EC in his country, said the body had the confidence of the people and the opposition.

“Election results are hardly challenged and there is also a smooth transfer of power when government changes,” he said.

Vidyasagar said the Indian Supreme Court had complemented the EC in ensuring federal, state and local government elections were free and fair.

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