Good move but conditions questioned

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 09, 2012 – 14:18

 statement by the Election Commission that Malaysians residing overseas may be allowed to vote in the general election, subject to conditions, received mixed response.

Bersih steering committee Maria Chin Abdullah:

“It is good the Election Commission (EC)  finally put it through to Parliament but it is unconstitutional for EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof to limit the voting rights to Malaysians who have returned in the last five years. The process of voting must also be made clear and transparent. The EC must hold a public consultation or overseas voting will be a mess, especially if it is limited to a few countries only. Currently, some embassies do not have forms, etc, so there needs to be a proper briefing at the embassy level, too. The decision has come very late because the process needs a year to prepare so people understand it. The issue was initially raised last year. These voters are being termed postal voters, thus EC needs to define this category clearly. The decision must not be withdrawn at the last minute like what they did with the indelible ink last GE.”

Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice president and former elections director Fuziah Salleh:

“I see this move as pulling wool over the voters’ eyes. While the move is welcomed, the EC should not deny these Malaysians their rights by placing a condition requiring them to return once in five years. This is unnecessary because the fact these 20,000 Malaysians have registered to vote proves their loyalty to the country. While the decision has come late, because if it is gazetted by December, it only gives voters abroad two months to return to fulfill the requirement. With this hidden clause, the amendment makes no difference to overseas voters. It is merely a move to satisfy those of us who have been calling for this amendment. The EC and BN are afraid that those overseas who have been exposed to a more sophisticated democracy will add to our (PKR) advantage.”

DAP strategist Ong Kian Ming:

“Although, in principle, it is a good move, my concern is that overseas embassies won’t be pro-active enough in registering voters. For example, while overseas Malaysians are currently eligible to vote as postal voters even without such legislation changes, these embassies have yet to set any standards in enabling students to vote. Also, I feel many overseas voters may not be registered in time for the upcoming elections, as there appears to be no political will to enforce the amendments in embassies. The Election Commission needs to clearly communicate the guidelines and publish them online, especially in major embassies in which there are many Malaysians.”

PAS elections director Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli:

“This is a proposal originally tabled during a recent Parliamentary Select Committee meeting, in which I observed little real effort in enabling overseas voting. I am also sceptical as to whether the amendments will be properly implemented, whether it’s for postal voters or at Malaysian embassies overseas. Furthermore, I heard about the recent announcement from Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz about how six of the 32 proposals in the Special Election Committee report could not be implemented. I am unsure as to how effective the amendments will be overall.”

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