There should be total revamp of the election system and the Election Commission

The 13th General Election has highlighted that the country has a very ineffective and inefficient election system which is incapable of conducting a clean, free, fair or democratic elections in the country, resulting for the first time in the nation’s 56-year history in a Prime Minister and a government whose legitimacy is under widespread doubt.

The time has come for a total revamp of the election system and the Election Commission, whose three functions should be carried out by three separate bodies.

Under the Constitution, the Election Commission has three functions, viz:

(i) To conduct elections to Parliament and the State Assemblies;

(ii) To register voters and prepare and revise electoral rolls;

(iii) To delimit constituencies.

In other democratic countries, these three functions are carried out by separate bodies and this is something we can emulate if it will lead to a cleaner, more just and fairer electoral system.

I have always contended in Parliament in the past four decades that the Election Commission has a constitutional duty to conduct a clean, free and fair elections and not just to mechanically conduct an election process.

The recently-held 13GE witnessed the most massive use of money politics to buy and influence voters, but the indifference, apathy and inability of the Election Commission to curb such electoral abuses and corrupt practices is a sad reflection of the Election Commission’s failure and inability to conduct clean, free and fair elections.

Thousands of electoral offences, including abuses and corrupt practices from money politics, are committed in every general elections, but nobody has been charged for such electoral offences.

Similarly, the absence of media freedom, particularly the misuse and abuse of the government ownership and control of radio and television channels, highlights another major flaw of the Election Commission in it failure to carry out clean, free and fair elections.

We want a totally revamped Election Commission which must have full powers and responsibilities to conduct a clean, free and fair elections, including taking action to curb electoral abuses like money politics and unfair media coverage during the election period.

May be it is time that Malaysia has an Election Commission whose sole duty is to conduct clean, free and fair elections, while the task of registering voters and preparing the electoral roll as well as the delimitation of constituencies are given to other bodies.

In other countries, the registration of voters is a very simple process – but in Malaysia, it is a very complicated and elaborate affair. Why should this be so?

In New Zealand, voters could register on the eve of polling day to enable them to cast their vote the next day; but in Malaysia, the Election Commission takes three to six months before a new voter could register on the electoral roll, which is further tainted by bogus or phantom voters.

With information technology, it is time that Malaysia introduces automatic registration of voters when they come of age.

Other countries have also different commissions for the delimitation of constituencies. This will help Election Commission to maintain its independent, impartial and professional character as Commissioners would not be involved in political machinations like gerrymandering of constituencies to benefit the ruling parties.

The revamp of the electoral system and the Election Commission should be top priority in the first meeting of the 13th Parliament starting on June 24.

In fact, it should be one of the major terms of reference of a Royal Commission of Inquiry which should be set up to inquire into the 13th General Election, how the 13GE had failed to measure up to the standards of clean, free and clean elections criteria and what immediate measure should be be taken to restore public confidence in the electoral system and the Election Commission.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah