Postal votes to be minimised for coming general elections?(updated)
May 19, 2011 by democracy4now
Think of it: postal votes for police and military personnel become hugely minimised for coming general elections-as these voters will be allowed to vote early rather than vote postally. What difference will it make? What will change: polling by the bulk of the police and military will resemble the ordinary voters’ way-they will now vote without filling in an identity form. This will reduce areas where these votes can be challenged/objected. Party observers will be able to monitor them better than before. If things go well the EC staff will take over the running of postal voting-unlike current arrangement where the police/military run their own polling stations.
What will not change: police and military personnel are still not accessible for Opposition party campaigners-this being the crucial factor that make the postal voters vote for ruling parties by huge majority in most elections!Meanwhile the Malaysians-including many Sarawakians and Sabahans who work overseas, are still denied their postal vote -which become the only practical way for them to exercise their voting rights. Another unchangable: postal votes -even after they are changed into early votes, will still be moved around to affect some targeted seats. Something will change. Something will continue.
|The Nutmeg Verses – By Himanshu Bhatt
|Postal voting surprise
EVEN as red-hot preparations for the highly anticipated general election show no signs of cooling down, a piece of very unexpected news struck the political embers last week. Curiously enough, the sparks seemed to have eluded the attention of most parties and leaders.In a rather surprising move, the Election Commission (EC) announced that it is abolishing postal voting, except for members of the national security forces operating overseas and at the borders.EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof was reported to have told the Malay daily Sinar Harian in an interview published on May 12 that personnel of security forces not stationed in remote places would now be required to cast their votes at polling stations two or three days earlier. They would not be required to fill in any special form as done in postal voting, he reportedly said.While the announcement itself was sufficient to raise eyebrows, what Abdul Aziz added next should have jolted political circles on both sides of the divide. He insisted that the policy would be implemented in the very next general election, which many pundits say may be held as early as this year, even though not due until April 2013.The federal opposition circles have reacted cautiously to the announcement, though some have outwardly welcomed it. There is a bit of scepticism about whether the EC would really implement such a move for an upcoming election because of how sensitive the next voting round will be. For the Opposition is now in a position to arguably mount its strongest ever challenge to wrest control of the federal government, following its success in breaking the Barisan Nasional’s two-thirds parliamentary majority in the last general election of March 2008.If indeed the news is true, the Opposition would certainly feel comforted that the removal of postal voting would allow observers and representatives of contesting parties and individuals to check on results more freely and equitably. There has been a prevalent criticism in the past that the postal voting process is usually not open to observers, unlike normal polling.
The EC however did qualify that there would be a new process in which the polling station would be opened two or three days before election day for security personnel such as those in the police or army to cast their votes during a designated period.
Interestingly, this may just put a stop to fears and allegations that the EC has been attempting to increase the pool of postal voters, which the Opposition has often suspected goes in favour of the ruling BN.
In October last year, PAS raised an alarm that it had evidence of wives of personnel employed in the military having their status automatically converted to “postal voters”, in many cases without their knowledge. Wives who had not yet registered as voters were also automatically registered and listed in the elections registry under the status of postal voters, the party alleged.
So a genuine move to abolish postal voting except for personnel away in remote areas would certainly reduce tensions and apprehensions.
One can be forgiven, however, for wondering why the EC is making such an announcement at this juncture. One reason may well stem from the fact that any upcoming election is expected to be closely monitored by international watchdogs. The federal government must demonstrate to the world that it is transparent and fair in the process from a very early stage.
Another reason may well have been the acclaims heaped on Singapore for the remarkably open and civil manner in which it held its general election late last month, in which the Opposition was given unprecedented and significant access to mainstream media and the balloting processes conducted without any major controversy.
Certainly, a policy to curb postal voting, if sincere and true, will prevent electoral disputes in many places. For the Opposition and observers have in the past alleged that postal votes, usually veering towards ruling parties, have on numerous occasions tilted the scale in cases where the race is narrow.
In the meantime, all eyes will be on the EC to make certain it holds true to its extraordinary announcement and implements the landmark policy in the next election.
Himanshu is theSun’s Penang bureau chief. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org