KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) said reforms to postal voting for overseas voters should be carried out without delay, as the 15th general election (GE15) is expected to be a closely fought contest.
The watchdog added that this would avoid the formation of a government with a slim majority, which in turn could lead to disruptions in policy making and the passing of Bills, and even a confidence vote in Parliament.
Bersih chairman Thomas Fann said the nearly two million Malaysians abroad will play a key role in the upcoming elections which could happen at any time.
“The expansion of absentee voting to Malaysians overseas is considered done but what’s important now is since they have the right to vote, potentially two million of them, the (Election Commission) must reform the postal voting process to allow them to apply to be postal voters.
“We call for the application to open immediately since elections can be imminent. No reason for the EC not to open them now,” said Fann during the launch of Bersih’s annual report today.
“If we give them enough time to apply and enough publicity from the EC, media and civil society, we could see several hundred thousand applying to be postal voters and that is where the EC needs to reform this process so it can process all these applications efficiently and effectively.
“Otherwise, if they maintain the current process of manually printing out ballots and envelopes after Nomination Day, they can do no more than 10,000 applications, which would render this right given to overseas voters totally meaningless.”
Bersih also highlighted today seven achievements on electoral and institutional reforms in 2021.
Key among them was its efforts with six other civil society organisations calling for the lifting of the state of emergency declaration established during Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s tenure as prime minister in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group filed an originating summons at the High Court on February 2, 2021 to seek declarations on the role of Parliament and the judiciary during the state of emergency. It was eventually lifted on July 21, 2021.
Bersih had also campaigned for the reopening of Parliament. Muhyiddin’s government lifted the suspension and resumed a special sitting from July 26 until August 2, 2021.
Bersih also had a hand in the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s government and the Opposition to avoid further political disruptions and bring some stability to the economy and country’s administration.
“Bersih has criticised unequal allocation of CDF (Equitable Constituency Development Fund) to elected representatives as it may be used as incentive for party hopping. In March 2021, Bersih and the Institute for Democratic and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) published a research paper on the policy of CDF in Malaysia with reform recommendations.
“When Ismail Sabri signed the MoU with Pakatan Harapan, one of the terms of theagreement was that PH MPs would receive equal CDF as government MPs. We called for it to be given to non-PH MPs but to no avail.
“Nonetheless, our campaign and critique has mainstreamed the concept of equitable CDF,” said Fann.
The last two key reforms that Bersih managed to implement were Undi18 and automatic voter registration as well as the anti-party hopping and recall law which were included in the MoU.