The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (Bersih 2.0) stresses that election observation must be inclusive, transparent and free. Most regrettably, the Election Commission (EC)’s plan for electoral observation in the 13th General Elections (GE!3) has been the exact opposite.
Bersih 2.0 calls for electoral observation to be made a legal right open to all so that all interested groups can apply to be accredited based on objective criteria. Election observers must also enjoy substantial freedom to carry out their task.
An amendment to the Election Act 1958 to make election monitoring an integral part of the electoral process would be necessary, since election monitoring by international and national observers is the hallmark of a viable and thriving democracy.
Bersih 2.0 warns that the EC’s recent announcement on the selection of five NGOs as observers for the GE13 may be dismissed by the public as a public relations exercise due to its flaws on both the selection criteria and the restriction in observation.
One of the invited NGOS, the National Institute for Democracy and Electoral Integrity (NIEI), with substantial experience in election observation home and abroad, has declined the invitation.
Bersih 2.0 learned that the EC has laid down as many as 20 restrictions on the observers. The most ridiculous ones include
- prohibition to observe the ballot counting process;
- prohibition to take photos of fraud without approval from the presiding officer;
- prohibition to speak to party agents and polling staff;
- prohibition to speak to media; (e) requirement for observers to stay within the same polling station for the whole day, thus restricting the freedom of movement; and
- prohibition to release information to any other party before reporting to the EC.
With these ridiculous and unjustified restrictions, as well as the EC’s failure to hold open public consultation on its policy on election observation, the sincerity of the EC in allowing independent election observing is called into question. Eventually, the credibility of the EC and the parties involved is at stake.
So far, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) has expressed their disappointment over the arbitrary selection of the observers. One also cannot find legitimate excuses why the Malaysian Election Observers’ Network (Meo-Net) which has exposed vote buying in the Sarawak state elections in 2011 is excluded.
Bersih 2.0 calls upon the EC to go back on the drawing board on its election observation policy by holding transparent and inclusive public consultations, to make independent and credible election observations possible.
The policy must include objective accreditation criteria for both international and national observers to apply.
We reiterate our call to the government and the EC to invite international observers for the GE13. Election observations need not be feared of if there are no fraud and irregularities to hide.
Salam BERSIH 2.0
Steering Committee, Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)
The Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0 comprises:
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Co-Chairperson), Datuk A. Samad Said (Co-Chairperson), Ahmad Shukri Abdul Razab, Andrew Khoo, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Dr Farouk Musa, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh and Zaid Kamaruddin.