The Electoral Commission has called for NEW and eligible Malaysian overseas to register as postal voters before the dissolution of Parliament. The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) notes, however, that while the right to vote is accessible to many Malaysians overseas, the same right is not extended to the bulk of Malaysians living in Singapore, Southern Thailand, Brunei and Kalimantan even though this group forms a majority of voters living overseas.
Restricted access to the right to vote
The voters excluded from this category will need to purchase a ticket and apply for leave in order to come back and vote in person.
Without a firm date for the elections, many will be unable to purchase their tickets and apply for leave ahead of time, and even then many may not be able to afford to return in time for the elections – especially if they earn a small wage.
Bersih 2.0 supports the call for the Electoral Commission to fix the election date as soon as possible to allow voters to make their informed choices.
Lack of a transparent process
There is an urgent need to address the lack a transparent and accountable process for overseas voting.
There is simply not enough information provided to assist voters overseas. Just last week, the Malaysian embassies overseas were not informed of this development ahead of time to prepare or advise overseas voters. Without the correct information, voters will be confused and are unable to make full use of their rights.
The Electoral Commission must ensure that proper discussions and instructions are carried out by the embassies and consulates, without which voters will operating in a haze of confusion.
Overseas election observation
Bersih 2.0 has also raised the issue of election observers in the overseas voting process several times over the years.
Taking into account the lack of election observers and the questionable integrity of the Electoral Commission, Bersih 2.0 has urged the commission many times to implement procedures for election observers overseas to protect voter secrecy and the security of the voting ballots.
Need for advance overseas voting
Without advance overseas voting in place, electoral observation becomes extremely difficult.
Advance overseas voting is needed to assist in addressing concerns of vote tampering and the security of ballots.
It will also ensure that all the ballots are counted, as postal ballots may be delayed in the mail or the voters may not know the return address of the polling station the ballots are to be sent to. In cases where the ballots received by post are incomplete or ruined, these situations would also be overcome with advance overseas voting.
Additionally, the Electoral Commission must also take into account voters in large countries who may need to travel hundreds of kilometres to access a polling station at an embassy or consulate.
Such embassies may need to make preparations ahead of time to ensure that polling booths are set up in convenient locations. This is a practice that is not revolutionary but has been done effectively by other countries, such as the Philippines.
Shirking of responsibility to ensure that votes are received on time
The Electoral Commission’s ‘hands-off’ attitude to the collection of votes and ensuring they return in a timely manner to the counting stations is deplorable.
The act of passing on the responsibility to Pos Malaysia, when the reach and resources of Wisma Putra – and by extension the foreign embassies – are better equipped at coordinating the smooth and timely collection and return of ballots to Malaysia via diplomatic courier, makes no sense.
This only serves to penalise overseas voters as there is no guarantee that the votes will reach the station by 5pm on polling day. The integrity of the election is at stake as the Electoral Commission is tasked to ensure access, security and delivery of votes, which seems to be of little concern to the commission. The commission is meant to make life easier for voters – not more difficult.
Information needs to be shared to be accessible. The Electoral Commission needs to be sending our clear and precise guidelines on how to vote, what documents are needed and what measures are in place to ensure the safety and timely return of the votes to the respective counting stations in Malaysia.
The commission must clarify the process and perform its function in a comprehensive and responsible manner. If the election commissioners are unable to perform their responsibilities, they should resign in order to protect the integrity of the commission and the election process.
Bersih 2.0 urges eligible Malaysians living overseas to ensure that they are registered as postal voters as soon as possible, as dissolution of Parliament may be announced at any time.
The necessary forms (Form 1b) and the guidelines can be found on the Electoral Commission’s website (www.spr.gov.my), and completed forms must be sent to the EC headquarters by:
- email (firstname.lastname@example.org),
- fax (03-88810424/0399/0394/0386/0369) OR
Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya Malaysia,
No 2 Jalan P2T, Presint 2,
Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan,
[Attn: Unit Pengurusan Undi Pos Luar Negara]).
Malaysian voters who fall under the category of overseas absent voters such as civil servants and students studying overseas will need to ensure that their voter status has been changed from ‘ordinary voter’ to ‘absent voter’, and to ensure that their records contain their latest address at the nearest Malaysian embassy. Please bring along your original identity card and passport for identification.
Bersih 2..0 Steering Committee