Do it properly this time! Let parliamentary committee vet appointment of new Election Commission chair, 56 NGOs urge Anwar

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim

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We, the undersigned civil society organisations, think tanks, student groups, and individuals, express our utmost concern about the upcoming appointment of a new Election Commission chairperson.

The current chairperson, Ghani Salleh, retired on 9 May, leaving the most important position in the commission vacant. Coincidentally, that was also the sixth anniversary of the 2018 general election and the historic democratic transition in Malaysia – and yet, electoral reform remains outstanding to this day.

The Election Commission plays the critical role of regulating the conduct of elections, reviewing and revising the electoral roll, and delineating or redrawing constituencies.

The appointments of two election commissioners under the current government – Sapdin Ibrahim and Dr Lee Bee Phang – were done without going through Parliament, and this goes against both the Pakatan Harapan and the Barisan Nasional’s election manifestos.

This cannot be repeated for the appointment of the Election Commission chairperson because the stakes are much higher.

Not only does the Election Commission chairperson have wide powers and discretion to lead the commission, which could either facilitate disrupt, or halt any plans for electoral reforms, but the chairperson will also take on the unprecedented responsibility of addressing the redrawing of electoral boundaries after the implementation of Undi 18 [the lowering of the age for voting eligibility] and separately, automatic voter registration.

Both Undi18 and automatic registration added 6.2 million new voters to the electoral roll in the 2022 general election (and this is expected to be rise by the next general election), thus exacerbating malapportionment in Malaysia. This has serious consequences, including:

  • The inequality of voting power: For example, one vote in the Bangi constituency has only a fifth of the of one vote in Sabak Bernam. This violates the Federal Constitution’s 13th Schedule
  • The unequal distribution of funds to MPs: There is a sheer disparity among elected representatives’ responsibilities and the unequal distribution of funds. For example, if each MP receives RM100,000 to serve their constituency, each voter in Tebrau receives only 0.45 sen compared to RM2 each in Labis
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We now have data to demonstrate that automatic voter registration and Undi18 resulted in worsened malapportionment (see table below). This necessitates the redrawing of electoral boundaries (delineation), which can take place now in Sarawak, in 2025 in Sabah and in 2026 in the peninsula.

Note: *The ratio between the largest constituency and the smallest constituency
Source: Prof Wong Chin Huat and Ooi Kok Hin

The people will look to the new Election Commission chairperson to spearhead this process and address a host of issues that, if left unresolved, could cause disillusionment or cynicism in voters, thus eroding participation in the electoral process.

Therefore, we urge the “unity government” to take the following steps immediately:

  • Announce that the new Election Commission chairperson will be nominated and vetted by a parliamentary standing committee on electoral affairs. This standing committee should include bipartisan MPs and establish a clear process and criteria for appointing the new Election Commission chairperson. Only after Parliament has approved the candidacy, can the candidate be presented to the king for official appointment
  • Ensure that the candidate adheres to criteria such as fairness and integrity and has an independent and proactive mindset to propose and implement reforms. This would entail them not having membership in any political party or having held key positions in a political party. Further, they should not have a criminal record or have committed any serious election offences. The ultimate criteria must be that the individual appointed should be competent, experienced and have the relevant knowledge in matters related to elections, its laws, operations and administration
  • Convene a special parliamentary sitting, if necessary, to start the process for this major appointment
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An impartial and transparent process in appointing the Election Commission chairperson is in the nation’s best interests, including the government. Allowing the opposition MPs to have a say in such a major public office appointment will reduce the perception of partisan meddling in the upcoming delineation exercise. To avoid turning the redrawing exercise into a potentially polemical “three Rs” (race, religion and royalty) issue (which could snowball into an ICERD 2.0 [the protest against Malaysia’s aborted ratification of an international convention against racial discrimination], the first step is to allow a bipartisan process for the nomination and appointment of the new Election Commission chairperson.

The ball is now in your court to announce and execute these electoral reforms, considering that the next Election Commission chairperson will shape the vote value for the next decade. We await your response.

Jointly signed by:

Civil society organisations:

  1. The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih)
  2. Persatuan Pemangkin Daya Masyarakat (Rose)
  3. Lawyer Kamek
  4. Institut Reformasi Politik dan Demokrasi (Reform)
  5. Tindak Malaysia
  6. Rakan Membangun Masyarakat (Pacos)
  7. Persatuan Pengundi Muda (Undi18)
  8. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
  9. Sabah Human Rights Centre
  10. Asean Youth Organization Malaysia (Ayomy)
  11. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  12. Demokrat Kebangsaan
  13. Nation Building School (NBS)
  14. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  15. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  16. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
  17. Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas)
  18. Movement For Change, Sarawak (MoCS)
  19. Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim)
  20. Pusat Komas (Komas)
  21. Engage
  22. Punjabi Youth Movement Malaysia (GBSM)
  23. Bait Al Amanah (House of Trust)
  24. Pertubuhan Gagasan Anak Watan Malaysia (Watan)
  25. Youth section, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH Youth)
  26. Suara Mahasiswa UMS
  27. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
  28. Himpunan Hijau
  29. Aliran
  30. Suara Siswa UiTM
  31. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo)
  32. Rahman Student League
  33. Rahman Solidarity League
  34. Project Stability and Accountability for Malaysia (Projek Sama)
  35. G25 Malaysia
  36. All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
  37. Development of Human Resources of Rural Areas (DHRRA)
  38. Congress IIUM
  39. Universiti Terbuka Anak Muda (Utam)
  40. Pertubuhan Naratif Malaysia (Naratif)
  41. Save The Schools Malaysia
  42. Save Rivers
  43. Ikatan Mahasiswa Demokratik Malaysia (MDM)
  44. Student Progressive Front UUM
  45. Suara Siswa UUM
  46. Society for Equality, Respect and Trust for All Sabah (Serata)
  47. University of Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany)
  48. Transparency International Malaysia
  49. Demokrat Universiti Malaya
  50. Persatuan Pemangkin Kesedaran Sosial (Pemangkin)
  51. Global Bersih
  52. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia)
  53. Liga Rakyat Demokratik
  54. Mahasiswa Progresif Universiti Malaya
  55. Pertubuhan Pertolongan Wanita (WAO)
  56. Persatuan Kebajikan Sokongan Keluarga Selangor and Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers)
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Individuals

  1. Dr Wong Chin Huat, Professor, Sunway University
  2. Sahilah Ain Sathakathulla, cybersecurity expert
  3. Ho Yock Lin, presiden Awam
  4. Cikgu Rahayu, pengasas Buku Jalanan Chow Kit
  5. Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon, former Penang State executive council member and Bersih steering committee member
  6. Retired Brigadier General Dato Arshad Raji
  7. Dr Edmund Terence Gomez, former professor of political economy, University of Malaya
  8. Chan Siew Joe, IBM Z ambassador
  9. Dr Azmil Mohd Tayeb, associate professor, Universiti Sains Malaysia
  10. Savinder Kaur Gill, assistant professor, School of Politics, History and International Relations, University of Nottingham Malaysia
  11. Datuk Dr Johan Samad, former CEO of the Institute for Development Studies Sabah
  12. Dr Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, professor of political science, School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia
  13. Hazman Baharom, Waseda University
  14. Nur Adilla, Waseda University
  15. Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, former chair of the institutional reforms committee and Bersih chairperson
  16. Beverly Joeman, former Bersih vice-chair (Sabah)
  17. Tan Sri Mohd Sherif Kassim, former secretary general of the Ministry of Finance
  18. Shah Fariq Aizal Sha Ghazni, entrepreneur
  19. Brenda Yong Ping Ping, academic
  20. Lim Wei Jiet, lawyer
  21. Maha Balakrishnan, parliamentary expert
  22. Iqbal Fatkhi, editor-in-chief of Cilisos
  23. Dr Lim Chee Han, coordinator, Manifesto Rakyat
  24. Datin Fazar Arif, founder, Pergerakan Orang Wanita Empowerment and Revolution (Power)
The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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Orang Ulu
Orang Ulu
14 May 2024 7.40am

Does a reformist hypocrite ever care?