Home Civil Society Voices Reform the process of appointing Election Commission chair and members

Reform the process of appointing Election Commission chair and members

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Tindak Malaysia, an electoral reform NGO and an endorsing member of the Bersih coalition, calls for a revamp in the appointments process of the Election Commission’s chairperson and commissioners.

As elections are essential foundation of any given representative democracy, a robust, dynamic, and independent Election Commission is critical for the governance of Malaysia.

Thursday, 9 May, was the last day for Election Commission chairman Ghani Salleh. With the recent appointment of Sapdin Ibrahim to fill the last vacant position of election commissioner (the Federal Constitution requires five commissioners), the major question is who will be the Ghani’s successor as chairperson.

The recent appointments of Dr Lee Bee Phang last year and Sapdin this year cast important questions on the current government’s stance on electoral and institutional reforms.

Tindak Malaysia was informed that the recent appointment of Sapdin did not go through any consultation within the parliamentary Special Select Committee on Human Rights, Elections and Institutional Reform.

In the Constitution, the Election Commission chairman, deputy chairman and five commissioners are appointed by the Agong after consultation with the  Conference of Rulers. The Constitution emphasises that the composition of election commissioners must enjoy public confidence.

It is possible for the government of the day to discuss potential candidates for Election Commission chairman through the parliamentary special select committee and present the name(s) to the Agong.

The recent appointments of election commissioners should spur calls for constitutional amendments to ensure that the composition of the Election Commission truly inspires public confidence.

We, Tindak Malaysia, call upon the Malaysian government to amend Article 114 to include following the procedures:

  • The composition of the Election Commission (chairperson, deputy chairperson and commissioners) should also receive concurrence from the opposition leader
  • Election commissioners shall be drawn from diverse sectors and professions and should have demonstrated knowledge or interest in electoral matters. At least one member each shall come from Sabah and Sarawak
  • Instead of using the current wording – “enjoys public confidence”, the emphasis on securing an independent Election Commission shall be included
  • The Agong shall arrange for public hearings before a judge of the Federal Court nominated by the Chief Justice of Malaysia on the suitability of the proposed members to be appointed and the findings shall be presented for consideration by the Agong
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Tindak Malaysia has submitted our comprehensive proposal for revamping the appointments process for members of the Election Commission through the institutional reforms committee (2018), the electoral reform committee (2019), the Election Commission (2023) and the parliamentary Special Select Committee on Human Rights, Election and Institutional Reform (2023).

With the upcoming potential exercises for redrawing constituency boundaries, an expanded postal voting base and the needed competence of polling staff, a truly independent Election Commission helmed by a robust and dynamic chairman is a must.

It is imperative that the incumbent government inspires public confidence about the willingness to implement electoral reforms.

In the longer term, constitutional amendments will be needed to secure the independence of the Election Commission.

As elections give legitimacy to the federal and state governments, we call upon the current government to demonstrate its reform commitment by consulting the existing parliamentary special select committee and to prepare for wider constitutional amendments on elections.

Time is short and should not be squandered for this golden opportunity.

Danesh Prakash Chacko is director of Tindak Malaysia.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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