Government projects during by-elections

THERE are concerns about the practice of announcing projects for a constituency when a by-election is imminent for the said constituency or during a by-election.

In this respect, it must be stressed that the Election Commission (EC) is not a proper authority to determine whether such acts contravene election laws or otherwise.

Whatever the EC says on this issue will merely be an opinion that is inadmissible as evidence should the matter be brought to the courts.

I wish to however point out that such acts may be challenged in election petitions later.

In the event the Election Court determines that such acts constitute corrupt practice or general bribery that affects the result of the by-election, the Election Court has the power to declare the by-election void and order a new by-election.

Illustrative of the principle of law involved in this issue is the decision of the Election Court in Re Pengkalan Kota By-Election; Teoh Teik Huat v Lim Kean Siew & Anor [1981] 1 MLJ 265 where the Court held that a promise of the then-finance minister (on the assumption that he did make the promise) that he would personally give more money to the constituency should the government wins the by-election in that constituency “is not an uncommon or unknown phenomenon, did not perforce pose or constitute a promise … with any corrupt intention of any designated sum of money or valuable consideration to or for any one or more particular elector or voter for corrupt inducement…” (as said by Justice Eusoffe Abdoolcader).

The learned Judge had however strongly and pointedly warned that what His Lordship had said above “must not be taken to bestow an unbridled license on would-be political brawn crackers to transcend the twilight zone between campaign pledges and promises and electoral misfeasance, as the next step beyond might well make all the difference.”

Being so, whether such acts contravene the law or otherwise would depend on the facts of each case and also on whether all the elements of general bribery and/or corrupt practice are proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Azhar Azizan Harun

Election Commission chairman