Seat buying not EC’s concern, says former chairman

PORT DICKSON: Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman says there are no laws in the country that prevent seat buying or the “engineered” vacating of seats.

He was responding to questions on the Port Dickson by-election, which has been criticised by some as “unnecessary” and “a waste of resources”.

“I don’t think that is the concern of the Election Commission (EC),” he told reporters in a press conference at the Seri Malaysia Hotel here today.

“The EC handles the execution of an election, not what causes the election.”

He said normally by-elections occur due to the death of an elected representative.

“But that should be taken care of by other laws, not election laws,” he added.

He also said the EC should not interfere in seat buying as this concerned the management of party power and “other laws”.

On lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, Rashid, who is the former EC chairman, said it should not be a problem.

“Most countries have that,” he said. “We are giving our youth a chance to take part (in elections). I think they are ready at that age, with the assistance of proper education in school.

“We should have confidence in our people,” he added.

He also criticised the presence of supporters at nomination centres on nomination day, saying it was “not a festival”.

“Why do you need so much noise? Other countries don’t have such practices. Only us.”

Rashid also spoke on what he said was a lack of transparency in where ballot boxes are kept, saying by right the location should be made known and representatives sent to monitor the boxes.

“I raised this matter before during my time. This will be one of the things we look into among the 15 items,” he said, referring to the ERC’s 15 items on its agenda which include the registration of political parties, election funding mechanisms and the revamp of the EC.

He also said the ERC would look into the redelineation exercises and determine whether gerrymandering had taken place as widely alleged.

He added however that the committee could not re-do it as the law requires a period of eight years between exercises with the exception of certain circumstances such as the state government amending its constitution to add more seats.

He said the committee had been given two years to come up with recommendations to reform the EC.

“We hope to have these ready before the next general election, maybe earlier than the two-year timeframe,” he said, adding that he was committed to restoring the public’s confidence in the EC.