We still need to improve our elections

(The Star) – WHETHER in general elections or by-elections, a certain minimum standard of decorum by all concerned is obligatory. Only then can the democratic process be seen to be respected and respectable.

It was therefore welcome news that police yesterday were satisfied with the campaign process in Kedah’s Bukit Selambau constituency. Although 14 incidents had been reported in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, these were all minor and no arrests were made.

A degree of exuberance is naturally to be expected during election campaigns, and police on duty should allow for that without overreaction.

However, inappropriate conduct from any side can too often trigger hostile repercussions with unpredictable consequences.

Malaysian society is generally mature enough not to resort to mayhem in expressing political differences, unlike some other places perhaps still unused to civilised elections.

Even so, it would be a mistake to be lulled into complacency and imagine that nothing untoward can ever happen here.

In the meantime, our electoral process can certainly do with several improvements. Among these is the content of electoral rolls, which are supposed to feature only eligible voters.

Yet in Sarawak’s Batang Ai constituency, election watchdog Mafrel (Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections) reportedly found three dead people listed in the rolls. At least one discrepancy arose from the failure of the Elections Commission (EC) to get updated on changes in the National Registration Depart­ment’s records.

This is not the first time that deceased persons have “walked” among the living in electoral rolls, nor will it be the last. Why is the EC seemingly so inefficient or inept?

Then there are occasions when living, livid eligible voters cannot find their names on the rolls.

Since this has happened before in various constituencies, why is the cause not identified for the error to be rectified?

Leaving the names of eligible voters out would seem to be more serious than leaving ineligible ones in, because citizens as voters have been disenfranchised. Must it take civil action in the form of lawsuits against the EC to deter such irregularities?

If so, then it could well come to that one day. By then, no errant official would be entitled to complain.