What kind of inspiration that the Arab Spring can bring to Malaysia-specifically for the 13th General Elections? A comparison of Malaysia’s election system with that of Egypt, one of the country that embodies the Arab Spring, could clarify the issue beyond doubt! For a start Malaysia and Egypt start with similar footing-both being ex-British colonies and achieved independence about half a century ago. Both model their government after the British’s Westminister system of Cabinet government. Both also distorted the system to suit the power of the ruling class. However there are differences between the 2, especially after Egypt’s Jan 25th Revolution!
Even before the Revolution in Egypt the country already have some better features in their election administration. While the Election Commission in Egypt is not independent-just like in Malaysia, the personnel of the EC there comprise judges and qualified judicial officials. These Election Commission supervisors are drafted by law-so their appointment is not tainted by political bias. The public generally give their trust to these judges who had a record of standing up to Ministry of Interior who lord over the Election Commission. In contrast we have retiring civil servants running elections where they don’t have any experience or qualifications, causing, to a large extent, the incompetence in administering the elections.
In Egypt to ensure that the police and the military are neutral to serve the country they are not allowed to vote-in contrast to Malaysian police and military who are given 1-sided campaign to vote overwhelmingly for only the ruling parties/candidates. Indonesia post-Reformasi also adopted similar stand as Egypt.
After the Revolution the government announced that all parties would share equal air time on state run media eg radios, TV and satellite TVs, in contrast to previous practice where the media is bias in favour of the ruling party-as happen in Malaysia.
Then the Egyptian adopted indelible ink to prevent multiple voting-quite unlike the EC’s reluctance here. Voting is compulsory in Egypt though the penalty on non-voting had never been carried out. After the Revolution they increased the penalty many folds.
Best of all: the court of Egypt decided after the Revolution that all Egyptian voters working outside the country will for the first time in history, allowed to vote! Only in this aspect that Malaysia has caught up with international practice.
Then the cumbersome voter registration has been discarded after the Jan 25th Revolution in Egypt. Now the citizens’ ID database will be used where voters vote according to the address on their ID. No one had raised any issue of this causing havoc for those who don’t stay in address on their ID. The EC in Malaysia use the alleged havoc for these voters as their excuse to not give up voter registration-thus denying close to 4mil voters from enjoying their constitutional rights!
Then Malaysians voters and parties will be green with envy to see that Egyptians enjoy election period of over 4 months-in comparison to the 3 weeks or so that we have! Their official campaign period can stretch into a 2nd round if the votes in an election do not produce winners with 50%+1 vote. The Egyptian has over 1 week to nominate their candidates-Malaysia only allowed a mere 1 hour! Rejected candidates in Egypt can still appeal-yet we don’t have similar mechanism.
The above does not mean to say that the Egyptian elections is always better than the one in Malaysia. There are also areas where they are in the same league as we are eg they don’t allow accreditation of international and domestic observers-just like it is done here.They don’t audit election expenses-just as we do here also. The list can go on. But the above comparisons do show clearly that by making some good choices the Egyptian put themselves higher than Malaysia in their effort to make their elections freer and fairer, especially after their jan 25th Revolution this year!