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Rantau by-election: Decrease in hate speech but increase in offers of treats and gifts

File photograph: Malay Mail Online

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The Coalition of Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0), Engage and Tindak Malaysia today release their election observation reports for the Rantau by-election.

Bersih 2.0 has recorded 36 cases of election offences and misconduct during the election campaign period, which include undue influence (two cases), treating and gifting (sevens cases), political violence, intimidation and harassment (one case), promotion of ill will or hostility using race and religion in campaigning (one case) and problems on polling day (25 cases).

Most of the cases were committed by Pakatan Harapan (19 cases) and Barisan Nasional (16 cases). One case was committed by an unknown person.

Bersih 2.0 commended all the candidates for the decrease in hate speech in the Rantau by-election as only one case was found in comparison with four cases in the Cameron Highlands by-election and three cases in the Semenyih by-election.

But Bersih 2.0 noted an increase in treating and gifting, from four cases in the Cameron Highlands by-election and five cases in the Semenyih by-election to seven cases in the Rantau by-election.

Both PH and BN hosted various dinner functions for voters or provided food in their campaigning programmes. PH was also found providing free health screening and ‘bekam’ service in a carnival.

Negeri Sembilan executive council membrer Ismail Ahmad and Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin were reported to have given promises to solve the problems faced by a disabled persons centre and an old folks home in Rantau in their official capacity respectively when they campaigned for the PH candidate there.

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While there is no specific mention of the offences of abuse of state resources in the Election Offences Act, making such promises using the position they are holding is an improper influence to voters.

Bersih 2.0, Engage and Tindak Malaysia have deployed observers to the polling centres on the polling day. We found that the prevalence of election offences committed by both PH and BN supporters have continued.

Supporters from both parties were involved in various campaigning activities on polling day despite the campaign period ending at midnight on 12 April 2019. They erected voter reference booths (‘pondok panas’) and campaigned by chanting slogans and waving flags outside polling centres. These actions violated section 26 of the Election Offences Act, which prohibits campaigning on polling day.

We also noticed widespread deployment of vehicles by PH and BN for conveying voters – which contravenes section 20(3) and (4) of the Election Offences Act.

In the polling centres, we found polling agents taking down the serial number of voters who turn up to vote in their notebook. It is a long-time practice that violates Section 5(2) of the Election Offences Act and undermines the secrecy of votes.

We condemn these open violations of election regulations by PH and BN and call on the police to investigate these incidents promptly. The lack of enforcement and absence of prosecution under existing legislation have resulted in the perpetuation of election offences.

We suggest the election campaign enforcement team work with police on the enforcement against election offences; and the Electoral Commission and the Attorney General’s Chambers study the feasibility of bringing charges to the offenders.

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Last but not least, we commend the Electoral Commission for the improvement of the conduct of the Rantau by-election, such as by assisting the presiding officer on polling day, mailing polling station information cards to all voters before polling day and providing buggies to help voters in accessing polling centres.

The public may view our full reports on www.bersih.org

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