Overseas Malaysians file suit against Election Commission


A group of Malaysian citizens overseas has filed a lawsuit against the Election Commission (EC) asking the High Court to compel the EC to register them as absent voters. The group of six Malaysians, who all work in the UK, applied to be registered as absent voters in order to be able to vote in the coming general election, but were instead registered by the EC as ordinary voters, who must return to Malaysia to vote in person.

At present, the EC only allows government servants, members of any armed forces and full-time students to register as absent voters, so as to be entitled to vote by post at the next election. The bulk of Malaysian citizens living overseas, who are working in the private sector, and those who are retired or unemployed, are required to return to Malaysia to vote in person.

In addition, although the existing regulations allow all Malaysian students over the age of 21 to register as absent voters, Malaysian students overseas who have attempted to register have had to overcome many obstacles put in their way, with some embassies and consulates refusing to register students who were not sponsored by the government, and others refusing to register students who had previously registered as ordinary voters at home. Although the EC has clarified that all students are eligible to register as absent voters, as recently as this month, the Malaysian consulate in New York was still telling students that only government scholars could register as absent voters.

Dr Teo Hoon Seong, one of the litigants, said:

“I believe that the right to vote is the fundamental cornerstone of democracy. It is the absolute duty of government to ensure that each and every citizen is treated equally within the law in a manner which allows them to exercise this right.

The lawsuit, which was filed at the KL High Court on Tuesday and served on the Attorney-General and the EC on Friday afternoon, is based on Articles 8, 10 and 119 of the Federal Constitution, and is supported by the MyOverseasVote campaign for voting rights for an estimated 700,000 to 1 million Malaysian citizens who live and work overseas, and follows in the wake of the Global Bersih 2.0 movement, where Malaysians around the world turned out on 9 July 2011 to support clean and fair elections in Malaysia and to demand voting rights for Malaysians overseas.