There are 7 Election Commissioners appointed by the King with advice from the PM, and located under the PM department. They are by `conventions’ appointed from among the senior retiring civil servants, with little or no experience in election administration, and worst, brought up in a political culture which hardly respect the separation of power in the government. The charges of partiality against the EC has been made regularly-so a suggestion has been made by the Bar Council that civil society leaders be allowed to sit as Election Commissioners. This suggestion was immediately attacked by the Bernama which takes the view that the election administration currently is already perfect!
Well it is worth looking at what other democracies do about the appointment of Election Commissioners to find out how we compare with the best practices globally! For a start the EC of most democracies are appointed by the parliament with bi-partisan inputs. Malaysian’s EC is appointed solely on the recommendation of the ruling party.
Most countries avoid appointing civil servants to be Election Commissioners because of their close relationship with the ruling politicians. To keep the farthest from the ruling power senior judicial officers have been appointed to head the EC from top to bottom ie to be the Election Commissioners as well as local Returning Officers. In addition law academics and civil society leaders who have a reputation of being neutral and impartial are also included eg in Indonesia.
So it is not original to appoint civil society leaders into the EC!
How do civil society compare with civil servants in terms of political neutrality? It is clear that there are many types of civil society groups with varying degrees of support to the various parties. However it is clear also that certain civil society make non-partisanship their hallmark of professionalism eg election observers, Bar associations, academician associations etc. There are also groups with a reputation as being above the fray. Compare these group with the civil servants who are largely pressured to support the ruling party-and insisted by the ruling parties, they are definitely more reliable to deliver impartial elections! It is not a secret that civil servants are promoted on their partissanship/apple-polishing effort towards the politicains. Enough said.
The only trouble with the ruling parties now is: they propagate a political ideology that only they can and entitled to run the country. No one else. From this undemocratic ideology they justify any means to keep themselves in power. That’s why the appointment of partisan civil servants as Election Commissioners can be justified by them. And there is no prize why the same group will attack any idea to make the EC more neutral and competent by introducing other talents.