EC: More Perak postal votes as soldiers’, cops’ wives sign up

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — The rise in postal voters in Perak is due to increased awareness of the voting right, including sign ups from those married to uniformed personnel, says the Election Commission (EC) as it sought dispel doubt over the figures.

EC deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar told The Malaysian Insider that more people — including those married to armed forces and police personnel — now knew they qualified to be registered as absent voters, which give them the right to cast their ballots through the post.

“I presume that if there is an increase in the number of postal voters as alleged, the wives of armed forces personnel and police personnel decided to register with their husbands. That is one possibility,” he said yesterday.

Wan Ahmad was responding to claims that the rise in postal votes signalled the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was moving to strengthen its position in marginal seats there for the coming national polls, expected to be called this year ahead of its 2013 deadline.

He said national figures for registered postal voters from the armed forces were about 134,000, and for the police force, about 80,000 at the last count. The nation’s security forces are largely seen as reliable vote banks for the BN.

He added that he was not sure of the exact figures for Perak and needed to speak with the state director before he could comment further on the rise.

The BN had lost the silver state in the 2008 polls but regained it 11 months later after three state lawmakers from the fledgling Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact switched loyalties.

PKR raised the alarm yesterday after noting the number of postal voters had shot up by 5,669 and 1,102 in the state constituencies of Pangkor and Kamunting respectively.

Perak PKR assemblyman Chan Ming Kai noted that although Pangkor — which was won by Perak Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir — had grown by over 5,000 votes, the Lumut parliamentary constituency, in which it sits, was won by the MCA’s Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha by a margin of only 298 votes out of the 55,930 votes cast.

Kamunting, meanwhile, was won by Umno’s Mohamad Zahir Abdul Khalid with a 555-vote margin over his PAS opponent.

The opposition party urged the EC to check that the number of armed forces personnel stationed in the area matched the jump in postal voter registration.

The EC will be holding its monthly meeting today and is expected to release the updated electoral roll based on the registration of the fourth quarter of last year.

Citing election regulations, Wan Ahmad explained that armed forces and police personnel are automatically put on the electoral roll for postal votes; and that their spouses had the right to do so.

He observed there were a many armed forces bases in Perak, and pointed to the large naval base in Lumut as an example.

“They are given a choice. They can choose to register as ordinary voters or be counted as an absent voter and vote through the post, so long as they fulfil the requirements under the law,” he said.

He said it was likely that the spouses of armed forces and police personnel had been persuaded by their husbands or wives to opt for postal voting because of the convenience.

However, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, better known as Bersih 2.0, challenged that view.