Home Coalitions Clean and Fair Elections Appointment of new Electoral Commission chairman marks hopeful beginning for electoral reform

Appointment of new Electoral Commission chairman marks hopeful beginning for electoral reform

Art Harun - Graphic: syariman/Malaysiakini

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The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) applauds the appointment of Azhar Azizan @ Harun as the new chairman of the Electoral Commission.

We strongly believe his appointment enjoys public confidence in line with Article 114 of the Federal Constitution, and he will be able to initiate much-needed reforms in the electoral system.

Azhar Azizan is a senior lawyer who has a lot of experience and expertise in dealing with election cases. He fulfils the criteria outlined by Bersih 2.0 on integrity, impartiality and independence with proven knowledge, experience and expertise on electoral system.

We welcome the openness of the new government in listening to the voices and recommendations of civil society in the appointment of the new Electoral chairman.

This lays a good foundation for the collaboration between the new government and civil society on the reform of the electoral system.

While the appointment process of Azhar Azizan has not complied with the manifesto of Pakatan Harapan to go through Parliament or the selection processes as proposed by Bersih 2.0, we also acknowledge that such processes to ensure the permanent independence of the Electoral Commission would require a constitutional amendment.

Such constitutional amendments would need the support of two thirds of parliamentarians and would take considerable time. Electoral reform cannot wait in view of three by-elections that have come and gone and another pending in Port Dickson.

Bersih 2.0 therefore calls on the other six commissioners to be replaced immediately for their failure to uphold and defend the principles of clean, free and fair elections in the 2018 general election. Once the six current commissioners are replaced, a new appointment process for commissioners should be put in place to ensure transparency and accountability.

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This should include the establishment of an electoral commission nomination committee, consisting of representatives from the three branches of government, statutory bodies and civil society representatives to receive and screen applicants to ensure the best candidates are appointed to the job, as outlined in Bersih 2.0’s memorandum to the Institutional Reform Committee. (http://www.bersih.org/wp-content/bothuploads/2018/05/Action-Plan-100-Days.pdf)

Bersih 2.0 urges the new government to table constitutional amendments to the appointment process of commissioners in the next parliamentary sitting and calls on all members of Parliament from both the ruling and opposition parties to support such constitutional amendments.

It is also crucial for the Pakatan Harapan government to establish a parliamentary select committee on elections and political parties immediately, which should work with the Electoral Commission and the new Electoral Reform Committee to forge cross-party consensus on the new regime for appointments.

Bersih 2.0 stands ready to extend our cooperation, assistance and support to the new Electoral Commission chairman.

Bersih 2.0 steering committee

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