The news is out that 1 of the 8 Bersih demands ie the use of indelible ink, has cleared Cabinet approval, while the biometric system, tainted by its flawed performance at the Immigration Department when it was used for foreign workers, has to wait more appraisal without a time limit. So it is a success for civil society-but the other demands still need long wait before they, if any, would be implemented. The success with the indelible ink shows that: YES-people can change government policy; But the pace is too slow if the target is to get it done ahead of the 13th GE. The PSC already refuse to deliver its recommendations ahead of the 13th GE-showing that the government is happy to exploit it for publicity but refuse to let fair elections stand in its way of continuing their half-century old power. What this means: more need to be done!
Cabinet dithers on EC’s biometric system for voters
“The prime minister has spoken to the EC about this. The indelible ink is okay but the Cabinet wants more time to review the biometric system,” a government source told The Malaysian Insider.“The funds have been set aside. They just have to prove it works and won’t raise issues later when implemented,” he said.
He said there was no time frame for the biometric system to be reviewed although there is mounting speculation that the next general election will be held within a year.
The ruling Barisan Nasional’s (BN) mandate expires in 2013 and the EC has already begun preparing for the next polls. It has ordered ballot boxes and has sought to get polling stations and personnel ready for elections after Parliament is dissolved. However, the four Pakatan Rakyat (PR) states have indicated they might not follow BN’s lead to dissolve the state assemblies at the same time.
It is also learnt that there are at least three companies bidding to supply the biometric system to the EC, including those who are already working with the Immigration Department on its controversial foreign workers and visitor system that has led to delays in various entry points in the country.
Despite the EC earlier refusing to listen to the eight key demands by the Bersih coalition of 62 groups on electoral reforms, Najib has surprised his critics by announcing a bipartisan parliamentary select committee will review the election system to ensure transparency and avoid talk of cheating in the next election.
The EC announced two weeks ago that it was hoping to use both the biometric system and indelible ink for the elections, laying to rest the ongoing squabble over the superiority of either mechanism.
But EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof said on August 25 that the commission was still studying the legal implications of both systems and whether they could be used on a “voluntary” or “mandatory” basis.
Bersih 2.0 and opposition lawmakers have been rallying for the use of the indelible ink instead of the biometric system, saying the former alternative was cheaper and less open to manipulation or electoral fraud.
According to previous reports, Malaysia purchased some 47,000 bottles of indelible ink from India in 2008 for about RM2 million but decided against using it days before the general election in March.
At the time, former EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman had pointed out that the law does not permit the commission to bar anyone from casting their ballots even if their fingers have already been marked with the ink or if they refuse to have their fingers marked after voting.
Under the biometric system, voter details for each polling station would be recorded into one computer. A voter would then have to produce a MyKad before casting the ballot and record his or her thumbprint to match the details recorded in the card’s chip.
The parliamentary select committee is expected to discuss the various electoral reforms but the Najib administration is committed to implement administrative changes that do not require amendments to the law.