EU mulls observer group as EC ‘not credible’, say diplomats


By Jahabar Siddiq, Editor, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 — Despite Putrajaya’s strident defence of the Election Commission (EC), European Union (EU) diplomats are looking into proposals to send observer groups for the next general election as they found the commission “not credible” after a recent briefing here. 

Several diplomats told The Malaysian Insider that EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof’s briefing weeks before the Bersih rally on July 9 did not convince them of the commission’s neutrality as he kept referring to being part of the government. 

“They are not credible. Abdul Aziz kept repeating ‘us’ and ‘we in the government’ during the briefing,” a European diplomat told The Malaysian Insider. 

Abdul Aziz was the secretary-general of the Home Ministry before his appointment as the EC chairman on December 31, 2008, after his extension contract ended. 

A diplomat from another European nation confirmed the briefing and their conclusions. 

“It is sensitive but we are thinking of recommending observer groups to watch the next general election,” he said, recalling that the Commonwealth Observer Mission had observed the 1990 general elections. 

The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government has kept out international election watch groups since then and had refused to make public the report from the Commonwealth Observer Mission. Several local election watch groups have sprouted but receive minimal cooperation from the EC. 

An EU diplomat said they had also met with Bersih 2.0 leaders to get a briefing on their eight-point demands calling for free and fair elections that culminated with a rally on July 9 that was dispersed by riot police despite locking down the capital city. 

“We had a briefing from Bersih 2.0 chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan about their cause,” he said, declining to give specific details of the meeting. 

Bersih 2.0 estimated up to 50,000 people turned up at the rally after the Najib administration reneged on a promise for a stadium but city police say only 6,000 people made it through the barricades. Nearly 1,700 were arrested while scores were injured and one man died of a heart attack in the rally. 

The government had also outlawed Bersih 2.0, a coalition of 62 organisations, saying that it had not registered the movement. The movement’s illegal status was also cited as a reason for not getting a stadium booking or a police permit for a gathering. 

Despite that, Bersih 2.0 has called its supporters and the public to wear something yellow every Saturday until the government looks into and implements its eight demands. The EC had said it was willing to discuss the points if Bersih dropped its plans for a rally.