Engage was involved in the P078 Cameron Highlands parliamentary by-election that took place on 26 January 2019.
Seven ‘pemerhati SPR’ (Electoral Commission observers) from Engage were on duty on that day at eight polling stations in the Jelai state assembly constituency area.
Below is a summary of our findings and suggestions:
Campaigning activities by various parties before polling day
Pakatan Harapan (PH) ministers visited the Cameron Highlands constituency during campaign period and the Pakatan Harapan candidate attended most of the ministries’ activities, which is inappropriate.
We understand that those ministerial visits may have been be planned before the by-election was announced. Nevertheless we strongly recommend that a candidate should not be attending the ministry events.
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Racist and religious speeches and remarks made by Pas leaders should not be condoned in Malaysia. We urged first-hand witnesses who attended the events to make police reports, so that action can be taken by the authorities.
Activities on polling day
Supporters from both political parties were gathering outside polling centres, outside of the 50m boundary. The supporters were trying to whisper to voters to persuade the voters to vote for their candidates despite being warned by the enforcement team and Electoral Commission officers.
This caused inconvenience and discomfort to voters who came to the polling centre to cast their votes. This action is also against Section 26 of the Election Offences Act.
We encourage voters who were disturbed by the supporters to come forward to make police reports, so that action can be taken by the authorities.
Due to a warning statement issued by the Electoral Commission, there were fewer booths compared to previous by-elections. According to Section 26(A) of the Election Offences Act, only the Electoral Commission is allowed to set up booths to assist voters in ascertaining their electoral numbers in the electoral roll.
Thus, we suggest imposing fines on parties that set up booths near polling centres on polling day.
Voters’ knowledge of electoral process
Based on our observation, Orang Asli voters’ knowledge of electoral process was low. They did not know what to do at the polling station and required assistance from Electoral Commission officers. We suggest that the Electoral Commission conduct voter education programmes in rural areas more frequently on normal days and not only when it close to polling day.
Some of the Orang Asli voters were even unaware that 26 January was polling day for the by-election. They thought that everyone was queueing up at school to submit applications for Bantuan Sara Hidup.
We suggest the Electoral Commission conduct awareness programmes in rural areas using traditional marketing method such as posters and flyers to inform voters about the upcoming election, the procedure to cast vote, voters’ rights, etc.
Enforcement teams (Pasukan Penguatkuasa Kempen Pilihan Raya)
The number of enforcement teams increased compared to previous by-elections. Previously, there was only one team for each state assembly constituency area. For the Cameron Highlands parliamentary by-election, there were two teams for each state assembly constituency area.
We would like to thank the enforcement team for their efficiency in solving problems. They reacted very quickly when the Engage observer team reported issues at the Lanai, Kuala Medang dan Betau national schools.
We strongly believe that the most effective and efficient way to enforce clean and fair elections is to get the public to help monitor all the activities from nomination day till polling day.
For the convenience of the public to report any wrongdoings by the candidates or political parties, we suggest having a hotline number and email for the public to lodge reports upon which the enforcement teams will be able to take the necessary action.