Ambiga’s checklist for ‘free and fair election’

Lawyer activist Ambiga Sreenevasan says political parties, including those from the opposition, must stop giving out handouts during elections. Next to her at the forum is PKR’s communications chief Fahmi Fadzil.

KUALA LUMPUR: Political parties mustn’t induce voters by giving handouts, noting that both the government and opposition parties are guilty of doing this, says former Bersih 2.0 chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan.

Speaking at a forum on the 14th general election (GE14), Ambiga listed inducements as one of the threats to free and fair elections.

Ambiga said that in the Sungai Besar by-election, the Election Commission (EC) had openly said there was nothing wrong with parties giving out handouts.

“By the way, the opposition does it, too. It is something that needs to be discouraged. It has to stop,” she said at the forum titled “Will GE14 be free and fair?”.

Ambiga also highlighted the use of indelible ink, urging the EC to produce its report on the indelible ink which was used in the last general election.

“Indelible ink is supposed to contain at least 10-18% silver nitrate so that it can last for two weeks, but we’ve read that the indelible ink used in GE13 only contained between 1-4% silver nitrate.”

In GE13, the use of indelible ink was introduced as a way to ensure a fairer election.

In India, the indelible ink used in their elections can last two weeks, but in the 2013 polls, many voters quickly found that the indelible ink washed off easily.

“The EC said it had set up a team to investigate the matter, but we haven’t seen its report on this.

“We must demand what ink they are going to use this time and have a demonstration of it.”

Ambiga also spoke on the need to clean up the electoral roll with the help of the United Nations.

“In GE13, people turned up at polling stations to find their names missing and also found out that someone had already voted under their name.”

She also highlighted some dubious voter details on the electoral roll, including one house address in Wangsa Melawati that had 14 voters and instances where people living in the same home were assigned to vote in different constituencies.

“The electoral roll is fundamental to the voting process. If it is flawed, there is a problem.

“In Bangladesh, they had this problem. They called on the UN to clean up the electoral roll, put photos of voters in the electoral roll and were able to have clean elections.”

Other election “fouls” she highlighted included the use of government machinery, campaigning outside the campaigning period, threats against voters, the lack of independent international observers, the refusal to register Pakatan Harapan and the EC’s controversial redelineation exercise.

Ambiga said voters needed to be vigilant about voting details and voting practices to prevent cheating in the elections.

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