EC chief denies not standing by his officers in Kimanis case

Election Commission chairman Azhar Harun.

KOTA KINABALU: Election Commission (EC) chairman Azhar Harun today rejected suggestions that he did not back his officers in not appealing the Election Court’s decision to declare the Kimanis parliamentary seat’s election results null and void.

Azhar said despite the decision, the court had not implicated EC of doing anything wrong.

“The decision of the Election Court did not identify anybody at all. The court just said due to discrepancies of the numbers in Form 13 and Form 14, it concluded additional ballot papers were added,” he said.

He said the court did not identify which party added the ballot papers.

“It doesn’t say my staff, it doesn’t say whoever. It just made a conclusion,” he told reporters at an event here.

On Aug 16, the Election Court cancelled the victory of former foreign minister Anifah Aman, who contested under the Barisan Nasional ticket in Kimanis in the May 2018 polls.

Anifah had won the seat by a razor-thin majority of 156 votes after securing 11,942 votes against Warisan’s Karim Bujang who obtained 11,786 votes while Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah’s Jaafar Ismail garnered 1,300 votes. Karim filed an election petition last year.

One of Anifah’s lawyers, Tengku Fuad Ahmad was disappointed with EC’s response not to appeal the decision.

“It is extraordinary that EC is not standing by its own officers. They should appeal because based on the Election Court’s findings, the returning officer and other election officers are now exposed to potential criminal liability under the Election Offences Act,” Fuad had said.

Azhar pointed out he was still defending a former returning officer in the Rantau state.

“For Rantau, it was a very unpopular decision by us to appeal. We were condemned for appealing,” he added.

The Election Court had in November nullified the result in Rantau, where former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar Mohamad Hasan had won. He won the seat again following a re-election.

In nullifying the Kimanis result, judge Lee Heng Cheong said inspection of ballot boxes found elements of manipulation, including additional ballots, which violated election laws.

The judge had ruled that there were serious violations in the election process with 341 votes improperly cast.

Meanwhile, Azhar said EC will take part in the appeal proceedings following the submission by Anifah’s legal team on Aug 27 to challenge the Election Court’s decision.

“The law is when they appeal, and even if I don’t appeal, they will make me a respondent so I’m still a party. I will appear and we will take part,” Azhar said.

He said the case has to be resolved within six months from the date of the appeal, adding a by-election will be called if the court upheld the decision by the Election Court.