Guidelines needed to address ‘grey areas’ in campaigning: Bersih 2.0 tells EC

PETALING JAYA: Electoral reforms group Bersih 2.0 has urged the Election Commission (EC) and all political parties to come together and draw up guidelines to address many “grey areas” in the election process.

The electoral reforms group said this when responding to EC chairman Azhar Harun, who said government activities cannot be considered illegal unless these are specifically meant to fish for votes.

While it is true that in a by-election, state assemblies and Parliament are not dissolved and the government of the day is still functioning, the election law is still clear on certain offences like bribery, giving treats, asserting undue influence and excessive spending, it said in a statement today.

When a government minister visits a constituency where a by-election is due, they should be mindful of these election laws, it added.

“It is important that ministers, during their ‘working visits’, do not attach any conditions to their handouts or to their promises of development.

“Statements like ‘if you vote for my candidate or party, I will give you RM2 million’ or ‘I will build you a new school if my candidate wins’ would be considered as bribery using government resources,” Bersih 2.0 said.

It added that the ministers should not be accompanied by prospective or confirmed candidates as it could amount to campaigning using a government position.

“If they don their party uniforms and the candidate accompanies them, then they would be campaigning in their capacity as a party leader,” it said.

“The group reiterated that there was an urgent need for a parliamentary select committee on elections and political parties “to deal with precisely such matters in order to bring legal clarity as well as to introduce new legal amendments where it is needed”.

Earlier in the day, Azhar said everyone should realise that the Semenyih state by-election is being held with the government already in place. The Selangor state assembly has also not been dissolved, he added.

“When the government is still in place, there will be government activities.

“If these activities are being used to fish for votes, then it becomes an issue,” he said when asked to comment on the presence of many Cabinet members in Semenyih, just a day before the date of nomination for the March 2 by-election.