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The refusal to fix polling date for the Machap by-election on a weekend only reaffirms the innate biasedness of the Elections Commission (EC) to benefit BN at the expense of the DAP
by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The refusal of the EC to fix a polling date on a weekend and instead choose 12 April Thursday only reaffirms the innate biasedness of the EC to benefit BN at the expense of opposition parties. There is no legal basis why polling day can not be held on a weekend, when schools can be closed and voters from outstation can return to vote with minimal disruption to their daily lives.
By putting polling date on a Thursday, this will affect the schooling of students and disrupt the daily lives of residents. Further the 9-day campaigning period is too short for a rural constituency that covers jungles and water catchment areas. More unusual is Rashid's claim of a legal basis for choosing a weekday as a polling day, when there is clearly none.
When Rashid was asked why polling was fixed on a weekday, he said the Commission wanted to complete the by-election before April 16, which would be exactly three years since the Malacca state assembly was convened in 2004. He said that, "Election law only allows for by-elections to be held within the first three years of a new state assembly meeting. Polls cannot be held if there are two years left before the deadline for the next general election. And the 9-day campaign period is sufficient as we want to complete the by-election quickly to avoid any politics on the ground."
DAP challenges Rashid to state which law requires the by-election and polling to be completed within three years of a new state assembly meeting. DAP does not know whether Rashid is confused or pretending to be confused about the legal provisions. There is nothing stated in the Federal Constitution, State Constitution or relevant election laws that any by-election must be completed and polling day held within the first three years of a new state assembly meeting. Article 54(1) of the Federal Constitution only provides that a by-election must be held within 60 days of such vacancy.
If Tan Sri Rashid can not show legal proof of his assertion why polling day is on a weekday and only giving a 9-day campaign period and, then he should resign. Clearly the EC would be biased against opposition parties, not transparent and unaccountable so long as Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman remains the EC Chairman.
Rashid's challenge to the opposition to take legal action against the EC is unreasonable when several legal cases filed in courts have failed as a result of legal technical hurdles that have prevented any deliberation by the courts on the question of whether the EC is independent, free, neutral and fair in conducting elections. There is no legal playing field when elections laws are not enforced by Rashid against BN candidates spending RM 110 million on posters alone in the 2004 general elections, far exceeding the spending limit of RM 88.3 million allowed in the 2004 general elections.
By failing to act, the EC is also guilty of abetting electoral fraud or corrupt practices during elections. Under section 19 of the Election Offences Act 1954, a candidate for every Parliamentary and state constituency can not spend more than RM 200,000 and RM 100,000 respectively. This means that a political party like BN, that contests all the 219 Parliamentary and 445 state constituencies on offer in the 2004 general elections, can not exceed spending RM 88.3 million.
A dirty by-election campaign condoned by EC?
Instead of asking opposition parties to take legal action, Rashid should take opposition parties to court for seeking his resignation because he is a liar and failed to fulfill his duties fairly and impartially. For instance the joint action committee on electoral reform, BERSIH, has asked that the following three specific reforms concerning the electoral roll and polling as the first steps towards a free and fair election:
If even these three simple requests can not be fulfilled, then Rashid should resign has no moral authority, public credibility and personal integrity to discharge his duties to ensure a free, fair, neutral and clean elections. DAP will be going into the by-election with severe handicaps against the might of the BN government machinery, especially in a rural constituency that is a natural BN fortress.
DAP has no confidence that the EC will uphold the election law to prevent the misuse of government machinery and money politics in this by-election. To face an EC which is already biased from the beginning and has a historical tradition of condoning dishonest tactics from BN indicates that this may be one of the dirtiest by-election campaign in Malaysian electoral history.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP