Election observation must be carried out independently, with integrity

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Image: Bersih.org

Bersih 2.0 is appalled by the criteria set up by the Electoral Commission in deciding who to invite as election observers.

One expects that the commission chairperson, Mohd Hashim Abdullah, will raise the bar for election observation, given his claim that he himself has carried out international observations. He certainly did not bring back lessons learned on why election observation is important.

Bersih 2.0 views election observation as a valuable tool for improving the quality of elections. Observers help build public faith in the honesty of electoral processes and can help to improve and correct flawed practices.

In the last general election, the People’s Tribunal concluded that “there was high turn-out in the elections, but that may not continue if people feel their votes count for little”.

The public must know that efforts are being made to ensure their votes are protected. There is no point in picking and choosing who the commission wants to be observers, based on flimsy rationale, and to view other well-meaning international observer organisations as being part of some sort of planned conspiracy.

The Electoral Commission failed to understand that neutrality of observation is defined, not based on personal whims and fancies, but as being able to carry out the observation independently, with integrity, professionalism and fairness. It must also be carried out with the passion to want to transform the electoral processes and system for the better so that the suffrage of voters is represented and protected in the long run.

Lastly, on the issue of registration and appointment of assistant registrar officers, the Electoral Commission has severely disrupted the process of registration and disenfranchised 3.8m potential Malaysian voters. By taking away the appointment of assistant registrar officers from political parties, limiting selected NGOs to be appointed as such officers and refusing to consider automatic registration, one can only conclude that the commission has intentions to slow down the process.

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In the coming general election and thanks to the commission’s ineptitude, these 3.8m potential voters will not be part of the nation’s most important decision-making process as they will not be able to vote!

Bersih 2.0 steering committee

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