Bersih: New EC head must not be linked to political party

(From left) Acting Bersih chairman Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari, executive director Yap Swee Seng and secretariat manager Mandeep Singh.

PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 today called for the person appointed as the new Election Commission (EC) chairman to be strictly independent of any political affiliation.

Bersih acting chairman Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari said outgoing EC chairman Hashim Abdullah had close relations to the former Umno-Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.

Hashim had served as personal aide to Umno information chief Annuar Musa for nine years from 1990 until 1999. He was first appointed as deputy chairman of the EC in 2014 and promoted to chairman in January 2016.

Article 114 (2) of the Federal Constitution outlines public confidence as a requirement for the appointment of the election commissioners.

“To ensure that public confidence is upheld, three criteria Bersih would like the government to follow are a proven track record in personal integrity, proven track record in impartiality and of being independent from government and party politics, and proven knowledge, experience, expertise on election laws and the electoral system.

“We are, of course, proposing for several processes to take place that take the public’s opinions into account, but this can only happen with an amendment to the Federal Constitution.

“That will take time. But because we need an EC to handle election-related matters, and the upcoming Sarawak state election.

“In the interim, should they choose to appoint an EC chairman following the old system, they can, but we are urging the government to at least abide by our criteria,” Shahrul said at a press conference.

Asked if Bersih had any candidate in mind, Shahrul said at this juncture, the electoral watchdog would prefer not to divulge its proposed candidate in order to prevent any interference in the decision-making process.

“There are many suitable candidates out there – for example, our former Bersih chairmen could make a good candidate. Good judges or former judges also make good candidates.

“We will submit our proposed candidates, and are offering our assistance to the government if they need any advice on vetting processes.

“All we are asking is that the decision be made with transparency, not like what was done previously,” he said.

Executive director Yap Swee Seng added that Bersih did not want “another round of dictatorship” in the decision-making process.

“If the government is allowed to dictate who it wants to be EC chairman, then it will be no different from the previous government where the prime minister took charge of all decisions that were EC-related.

“The public should be able to nominate names that they feel they want to put their trust in. We are urging the government to listen to the public’s voice in this matter,” he said.

Bersih secretariat manager Mandeep Singh said: “The government should take this opportunity to move away from appointing an EC based on individual characteristics and instead get commissioners based on the three criteria or their capability.

“If they can’t find a candidate, they can leave it to Bersih to assist, to clean up and to help in electoral reform work.”