Without electoral reforms we cannot call ours a democratic country, let alone the world’s best democracy, observes Tota.
If anyone thinks that general elections in Malaysia are free and fair, he or she must either be blind or totally daft.
We only go through the motions of participating in general elections without satisfying the prerequisites, which are the hallmarks of a truly democratic and progressive country. The shortcomings in the Malaysian electoral system are indeed shameful.
Below is my wish list for electoral reforms:
- Amend the Constitution to make the Election Commission a totally independent body with powers to act against all forms of corruption and malpractice.
- Implement the 2:1 rural/urban weightage in the delineation of constituencies as was provided for in the Reid Commission’s recommendations.
- Stop all gerrymandering which has allowed the Barisan Nasional so often to get about 50 per cent of the popular vote but take 80 per cent of the seats in the state assemblies and Parliament.
- Introduce proportional representation.
- Introduce local council elections to create a participatory democracy.
- Make 18 the voting age.
- Control strictly the amount candidates spend on their election campaign.
- Provide development funds to all 222 parliamentary constituencies. Stop the barbaric practice of giving RM1m to only the Barisan-held constituencies.
- Stop all corrupt practices before and during the election campaign period. Once Parliament is dissolved, prevent the caretaker-government from providing so-called development funding for constituencies – paving roads, giving school uniforms and bicycles to schoolchildren, giving rice and clothes to the poor, buffet dinners during rallies and bribing voters with cash.
- Clean up the electoral roll of phantom voters, illegal immigrants as voters, the registration of dozens and even hundreds of voters under a single address. There should be no manipulation of the electoral roll to give the ruling party a very unfair advantage.
- Ensure voters are allotted to voting centres nearest to their homes. Under no circumstances should voters be moved out of their constituencies without their permission.
- Fix polling day always on a Sunday to ensure that voters are free to vote.
- 13. Ensure that the campaign period for the general election is at least 30 days so that voters have a chance to understand the issues involved.
- 14. Provide equal time and space in the electronic and print media to both the ruling party and the Opposition.
- 15. Insist that the Election Commission ensures that civil service and government facilities – government vehicles, boats, planes, helicopters etc. – are not used by BN ministers, assembly members and supporters during the campaign period.
- Use indelible ink to prevent multiple voting by a single voter.
- Insist that the Election Commission ensures that the police are neutral and professional in the discharge of their duties. Police vehicles should not be parked nearer than one kilometre from the polling station to enable voters free access to voting centres without fear.
- Stop counting ballots at voting centres. This enables the ruling party to know which areas are pro- or anti-government. This helps the ruling party in gerrymandering.
- Give equal protection to all candidates participating in the elections.
- Deal severely with anyone intimidating the public and voters by creating fear of racial trouble like May 13, 1969. Remember, a stupid ex-PM held a public order exercise in KL the day before election and telecast it ‘live’ to create fear. Also, act against the Defence Minister who is prone to meet the chief of the army, navy and air force before polling day – as he did before the Bersih 2.0 Walk for Democracy.
- Make postal ballots available to all citizens residing overseas as well as to only personnel on security duty in the jungle or border areas.
- Allow observers, both local and international, to commence work once Parliament is dissolved and to end their duties after polling day.
- Do not permit the malpractice of padding opposition-held constituencies with soldiers, police personnel, members of Rela, Perkida, Wataniah, etc on the pretext of maintaining security.
- Implement automatic registration of voters.
- End dirty politics during the general elections.
Without these electoral reforms we cannot call ours a democratic country, let alone the world’s best democracy.
Tota is the pseudonym of an occasional contributor to Thinking Allowed Online.