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Respect Electoral Commission’s independence

The Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan coalition must tackle some hard questions

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The by-election for the Port Dickson parliamentary seat is scheduled for 13 October. Seven candidates are vying for the seat but, without doubt, the most watched and most well-known candidate is the president-elect of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Anwar Ibrahim.

This by-election was made possible because the sitting MP from PKR, Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, resigned to pave the way for Anwar to contest the seat and become an MP. This would enable Anwar to take over from Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the eighth prime minister, when the time is right. The most frequently quoted timeframe is for Mahathir to stay on as Prime Minister for only two years after which he will hand over the reins to Anwar.

Under these special circumstances, Anwar should take extra precautions to comply with all existing electoral rules and regulations and go the extra mile to set an example by conducting a fair election campaign as befitting the status of a prime minister-in-waiting.

Towards this end, Aliran is disappointed and dismayed to read a report quoting Anwar as telling the Electoral Commission and polls watchdog Bersih, “Don’t go overboard…” (Free Malaysia Today, 8 October 2108).

In that report, Anwar claimed that his campaign so far has played by the rules and complied with the law. “We respect Bersih and the Election Commission… Because of that they should not abuse their power. Don’t be too much,” he was quoted as saying.

Despite being in line to succeed Mahathir as prime minister, Anwar should be reminded that he is not beyond reproach. In fact, he should be a standard-bearer, not standard-breaker.

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Anwar and his campaign team should seriously reflect on and evaluate all their campaign activities that they have carried out so far and consider if they have contravened any campaign rules and regulations set out by the Electoral Commission.

Anwar simply brushes off getting into a defence minister’s official car as an act of convenience and expediency. He argued that he needed to discuss a matter with Mohamad Sabu. He should have been more circumspect.

If Anwar was given an opportunity to address army or navy personnel stationed in the Port Dickson constituency, the same access should be provided to all the other by-election candidates.

After 9 May and the wonderful achievement of regime change, the rakyat expect the new government to display a higher standard of conduct, including in the conduct of free and fair elections.

Anwar and his election campaign team are in a position to ensure they stand true to these principles. Civil society expects nothing less.

Aliran executive committee
9 October 2018

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