PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional (BN) has topped a list of 23 election offences documented by Bersih 2.0 throughout the recent Cameron Highlands by-election campaign, followed by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and PAS.
The BN campaign was guilty of 14 offences, PH five and PAS two. The two independent candidates did not commit any offence, Bersih said.
The electoral reforms group said the “most worrying” of the offences were racial and religious incitement and use of identity politics, mostly by BN.
These included speeches by Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, PAS Youth chief Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi as well his father, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
PAS had backed BN during the election.
Bersih said the BN campaign had tried to stir up racial sentiments by raising the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim following clashes outside a Hindu temple in Selangor last November.
“Bersih strongly condemns such campaign tactics and calls on the police to investigate these incidents without delay and hold the perpetrators accountable for what they said in order to preserve intercommunal harmony among Malaysians,” it said today.
Bersih said PH, meanwhile, had abused government assets in its campaign, citing the use of a four-wheel drive vehicle belonging to the Pahang Forestry Department.
“There were also numerous ministerial working visits two weeks before the campaign period started on nomination day,” Bersih chairman Thomas Fann said in a press conference.
BN retained the Cameron Highlands seat with its candidate, Ramli Mohd Nor beating PH candidate M Manogaran by 12,038 votes to 8,800. Independent candidates Sallehudin Ab Talib and Wong Seng Yee received 314 votes and 276 votes respectively.
Fann said the by-election, the fifth since the May 9 polls last year, had seen the most election offences so far.
The 23 election offences consisted of treating (four cases), abuse of state resources (three cases), bribery and undue influence (two cases), inciting ill feelings on race and religion (four cases), campaigning on polling day (nine cases) and one other case.
Fann said the high number of election offences recorded could be due to greater awareness by all parties involved, adding that “both PH and BN held each other accountable”.
Bersih recommended in its observatory report that the EC be given more power to enforce election laws including the authority to fine candidates or those who commit offences such as BN’s distribution of free ice-cream at Pos Terisu and food in Kampung Belau, and Manogaran’s appearance at a polling centre wearing a shirt with his party’s logo.