Statutory Amendment Proposed to Allow Citizens Overseas to Vote by Postal Ballot
Friday, 08 October 2010
Translated into English by Sim Tze Wei, Oriental Daily
The Malaysian Election Commission is not neglecting the voting rights of a million Malaysians residing overseas, but is actively studying ways to amend the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 to make such persons entitled to postal votes.
The Vice-Chairman of the Election Commission, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, said that the Election Commission is exploring various options. The Commission intends to appoint agents to represent the Election Commission in Malaysian embassies around the world, so that Malaysians can register themselves as postal voters at embassies. At the same time, the Election Commission intends to update the data of Malaysian voters overseas.
He admitted that the current Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 only allows students, civil servants, military personnel and their family members living abroad to vote by postal ballot at Malaysian embassies, but that other Malaysian citizens are excluded from this privilege.
Wan Ahmad added that the existing mechanism is plagued by many problems which prevent postal ballots from arriving at counting centres in time. He believes that the entire mechanism should be improved. “The time from nomination to voting is short. We need to rely on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to post ballot papers to embassies around the world. Ballot papers travelling back and forth are unable to be delivered to the constituency counting centres in time.”
No Timeline for the Amendment
In an interview conducted by The Oriental Daily, he expressed the view that apart from the restriction imposed by the regulations, the EC currently lacks the proper facilities and manpower to allow overseas Malaysians to vote. Furthermore, the Commission is unable to keep track of voter migration.
“Many Malaysians living abroad do not report themselves to the local embassy. Therefore, these voters are automatically classified as ordinary voters during the election.” Wan Ahmad stressed that the Commission has never neglected the rights of overseas Malaysian voters, and urged citizens currently residing overseas to provide their details to the Malaysian embassy. Once the Commission has established a mechanism, overseas Malaysian voters will be able to vote at the embassy.
He said that the proposed amendment does not require to be debated in Parliament. The amendment only needs to be laid before Parliament after being approved by the Attorney General. However, he did not provide a timeline for the said amendment. Plans to Establish a New Classification of “Outstation Voters” Wan Ahmad also revealed that the EC is also considering to classify voters who are unable to return to their constituencies on polling day as “outstation voters”.
“The Commission will set up a special voting channel for outstation voters to cast their ballots at the constituencies nearest to their workplaces.”
In response to a group of Malaysians living in the UK who have launched the “Malaysians Overseas – Right to Vote” campaign, which plans to raise funds to bring the Commission to court for denying them their voting rights, Wan Ahmad said that they had the right to fight for that, as a citizen’s right to vote was guaranteed by the Constitution. But he suspected that some campaigners were not themselves registered voters. Nevertheless, he lauded the new generation of Malaysians for having awareness of their voting rights.