End the fishing, dismantle the booths, says EC chairman

Election Commission chairman Azhar Harun during his visit to the SK Nyatoh polling centre in Rantau today.

RANTAU: The Election Commission is finding it a challenge to get those who set up “barung-barung” or “pos pondok” during polls to close shop despite there being no need for such voter assistance booths.

EC chairman Azhar Harun said that instead of helping voters to verify their particulars, these booths are being used to fish for votes instead.

Taking Rantau as an example, Azhar said the EC had set up booths inside each of the 14 polling stations to assist voters to check their particulars.

He said voters could also check their status on the EC website and through the voter cards the commission sent out.

“Things are going smoothly today. It’s just the discipline of the candidates and the political parties that is not satisfactory because the barung are still being built.

“Even though I myself order them to stop, they stop for just 15 minutes and then they erect it again.

“I have to order them twice before they actually stop. But, eventually, they do it again,” he told reporters after visiting the SK Nyatoh polling centre here today.

Azhar reiterated that the parties taking part in the by-election should stop campaigning on polling day.

He said that although they were free to gather outside the 50m radius of the polling centres, they were strictly forbidden to canvas for votes.

Asked what he thought of Pakatan Harapan candidate Dr Streram Sinnasamy’s call this morning for voters to support PH, Azhar said witnesses have to make police reports first.

“If he really campaigned, then it’s an offence because on polling day you cannot campaign,” he said, adding that video proof should also be submitted to the police.

Asked about party members stopping cars or passersby and telling them to vote for the number of their candidates listed on the ballot papers, he said he was not sure if this was all right or not.

“But if we want to make this an issue, please make a report and if it is brought to court, the court will decide and so we will have a guide for the future,” he said.

He said the EC was using a “soft approach” as it was difficult to get party supporters to stop such activities.

“If they still don’t listen, video recordings will be taken and police reports lodged by the EC the next day.

“We don’t want to force them (to stop) because we don’t want any fight to take place. Then, voters won’t come out because they don’t feel safe.”

Azhar also said he was confident of a 70% turnout for today’s by-election if voters continued to go to the polling centres at the current rate.

At noon, 47% of the registered voters had cast their ballots.