Fast and furious Bersih 2.0 unveiled

By Patrick Lee, Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: As speculations intensify that the general election is around the corner, the upgraded version of the Coalition for Fair and Free Elections (Bersih) seems to have a lot on its plate.

“There is not a lot of time left,” said Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan during the coalition’s launch here last night.

Unlike the first version which saw the membership of opposition parties, Ambiga said Bersih 2.0 consisted of 62 civil society movements.

Speaking at the launch, PAS MP Dzulkefly Ahmad said when Bersih was first launched, it was designed for the opposition to win the general election.

However, he said, this was not the case anymore.

“I want us to have a mature democracy because that will be the best gift for the people. In the next round, it is not about Pakatan Rakyat taking Putrajaya but about democracy,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ambiga revealed that Bersih 2.0 held a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with the Election Commission (EC) on Nov 9.

“All the commissioners and the secretariat were present. To be fair to them, it was a very good meeting,” added the former Bar Council chairperson.

She said while EC had been receptive to matters such as extending campaigning periods, the commission was less keen on others such as automatic voter registration and reducing the voting age to 18.

Ambiga said the eligible voter age in many countries in the region including Bangladesh, Cambodia and Hong Kong was 18. In Indonesia, she added, this was reduced to 17. Malaysia’s current voter age is 21.

She also said EC was looking into postal votes and considering “other technologies” in place of indelible ink.

Although unsure about these “other technologies”, Ambiga however maintained that ink was a cost-effective way to fight phantom voters.

Late registration was also discussed at the meeting, with Bersih 2.0 showing a list of Sarawakians who were not included in the electoral roll despite having registered for more than a year.

Although viewing the meeting as a step in the right direction, Ambiga said that Bersih 2.0 was still going to check on the EC in the near future, including another visit in January.

“Whether it translates into anything concrete, we will have to wait and see,” she said, promising that Bersih 2.0 would “knock on EC’s doors” on a regular basis.

Local council and senate elections

Ambiga also announced that Bersih was planning to embark on a voting education programme designed to show voters their rights in the near future.

“We’re not waiting for elections to come before we do it. We intend to start as soon as possible,” she said, revealing that a pilot project would take off in Selangor.

She added that Bersih 2.0 would also look into the delineation process (the drawing of election boundaries), which she said would take place in March next year.

Ambiga questioned why certain constituencies had significantly less voters than others, such as Putrajaya (6,608 voters) over Kapar (112,224 voters).