Media Statement by Liew Chin Tong in Parliament on Wednesday, 18th February 2009:
Poll dates: EC admits it's a bias decision
Finally, the Election Commission admits that the poll dates for the two upcoming by-elections was made after taking into consideration the dates of UMNO General Assembly.
In replying critics on the accusation that April 7 date for the Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang by-elections favoured the Barisan Nasional (BN) as it comes just after Umno holds its polls (end March), Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof denied this was so and that the EC decided on the dates after considering many factors.
These factors included budgets, preparation of election personnel, whether the date clashed with any major events like the Umno general assembly and even the weather, he said.
"The EC is fair to all, if the opposition parties have a major event, this too would be considered when dates for by-elections are set," he added.
This is an admission by EC Chairman that the UMNO general assembly was one of the factors considered when EC decided on the by-election dates.
This is for the first time EC descended to such a level to "tailor-make" by-election dates to suit UMNO's needs.
The EC has never considered party general assembly or even parliamentary sessions as a factor in deciding on by-election dates. The Kuala Berang by-election in Terengganu in August 2004 was held during PAS' Muktamar while the Ketari by-election and the Pematang Pauh by-election was held during parliamentary sittings.
The Bukit Gantang by-election is necessitated by the death of its Member of Parliament Roslan Shaharum, 50, of PAS on Feb 9 after a heart attack, while that of Bukit Selambau because its assemblyman V Arumugam of Parti KeAdilan Rakyat (PKR) quit on Feb 8.
Nomination for both by-elections in is on March 29.
As the UMNO General Assembly is scheduled to be held from 24th to 28th March 2009, this decision is clearly a political decision to allow UMNO leaders to focus on the party election and not to be distracted by the two by-elections like they were in the Pematang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu by-elections.
More importantly, the EC is delaying the election to the latest possible dates allowed under the law to save UMNO any embarrassment from electoral loses likely to demoralise the party's members before its most crucial general assembly in decades.
* Liew Chin Tong, DAP International Secretary & MP for Bukit Bendera