Malaysian Civil Society’s Memorandum on Electoral Reforms in Malaysia 2010

Presented to the Election Commission
Initiated by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (BERSIH 2.0)

We the undersigned civil society groups hold that the only formula for stability, progress and prosperity in Malaysia is a vigorous and healthy multiparty democracy.

Following the 2008 elections, Malaysia is experiencing a changing style of government, from an authoritarian to a more democratic one. While the public have benefitted from the competition between the BN and PR which brought about some administrative reforms and more inclusive policies, it is still worrying that some quarters may resort to desperate means to influence the election, including the abuse of state apparatus or to change the election outcomes through defection and the deliberate denial of fresh elections when the old mandate is in question.

Come the next general elections, should some political parties refuse to accept “democracy as the only game in town” and attempt to compete for power by rigging elections or rejecting election outcomes, Malaysia may sink into political turmoil.

The role of the Election Commission (EC) in ensuring political stability and democratisation is therefore paramount. Article 114(2) of the Federal Constitution stipulates the expectation of the EC to “[enjoy] public confidence”. This means the Election Commission should conduct elections with integrity and impartiality to ensure universal suffrage, a level playing field for all political parties and candidates, informed choices and facilitation of informed choices and inclusive representation. Bersih 2.0 believes that within the existing provisions of the law, the EC can conduct this important democratic exercise according to the international best-practice standards.

The EC can and must protect multiparty democracy by ensuring clean and fair elections, in their administration and enforcement of relevant laws and also through advocacy of necessary changes to the Constitution, laws and by-laws.

Driven by a common desire for a better tomorrow for Malaysia, we urge the EC bring about the following reforms. We hope the EC will engage us and the larger public for consultation and deliberation. We also call upon the Malaysian public to familiarise themselves with their rights as voters and to advance the reform agenda through their own available channels.

Immediate Concerns:

• Investigation of Election Offences. We hold that it is incumbent upon the EC to perform its public duty to cause an investigation of all election offences committed, particularly in the two recent by-elections, pursuant to the Election Offences Act. It would be a dereliction of duty to ignore the numerous reports filed in relation to election offences committed. In order to maintain its independence, the Election Commission should be given the power to prosecute violators of Election Offences Act.

• Obstruction to voters’ registration. We are alarmed to note the complaints of unreasonable restrictions relating to registration, such as limited forms available to Assistant Registrars in voter registration drives despite the fact that some 4 million eligible voters have yet to be registered. Obstruction of universal suffrage is a cardinal offence against democracy. The EC must immediately remove the resistance to the voter registration drive or risk losing public confidence completely, thus making itself unfit constitutionally. The EC must be seen to be complementing the efforts of all parties towards facilitating (and not obstructing) the efficient registration of voters.