Bersih: Candidates openly committing election offences

Bersih executive director Yap Swee Seng says the Election Commission team is doing little to monitor campaigning by candidates, who use race and religion to canvass for votes.

PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 has urged all political parties and by-election candidates to refrain from using “dirty” election campaign tactics.

Bersih executive director Yap Swee Seng said this referred to election campaigning violations that Bersih had observed during the recently concluded Sungai Kandis by-election.

“We would like to call on the candidates contesting in both the Seri Setia and Balakong by-elections to refrain from using the same dirty campaign tactics that they used in Sungai Kandis.

“We don’t want to see the same abuse of government assets and programmes, ‘treating’ to influence votes and also handing out of goodies in exchange for support.

“These are election offences, but old habits die hard. It is something that political parties and candidates need to look into,” he said.

In Bersih’s Sungai Kandis by-election observation report, the electoral reform body found that both Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Lokman Noor Adam and PKR representative Zawawi Ahmad Mughni had committed these offences.

“We found that Zawawi’s campaign organised activities such as offering free motorcycle engine oil to bikers and free medical check-ups and medicines to residents. These are election offences.

“Zawawi also abused government assets in at least four cases, where he was found to have campaigned for support in two public schools and at three government events.

“On another occasion, several ministers were found to have used their official cars to go to the nomination centre,” said Yap.

Lokman was found to have committed election offences by providing food and drinks to influence votes on two occasions, namely holding a kenduri, organised by Pahang Umno, on July 31, and a ceramah called “Pentas Bicara Rakyat” on Aug 1, where food was served to those attending.

“More alarmingly, race and religion were again used to canvas for support in at least four events in Lokman’s electoral campaign.”

Yap claimed speakers at a ceramah, such as Shukri Samsudin and Khairul Muzammil, made inflammatory statements that DAP was against Malays.

He said Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman also used religion to claim a certain group was out to grab political power.

“The EC must take action. This is the only way to stop dirty campaign tactics. People want free and fair elections. They want their vote to be counted in a fair way and choices to be respected.

“All these manipulations and fraudulent tactics should be banned. They have already been banned in law, but political parties must take note of this and make sure this does not happen again,” said Yap.

He said the EC should not confine its role to just nomination day and polling day. In between, it did very little to monitor the campaign activities of all the candidates.

“This is really lacking. They have an enforcement team to go around, but they are only looking at campaign materials like banners.

“They should look into other offences such as causing undue influence, abuse of government assets, and campaigning in schools and places of worship. All such activities should not be allowed,” he said.

Bersih had 38 observers in the Sungai Kandis by-election, from July 21 to Aug 4.