A timely and comprehensive reform to current voting procedures for Malaysians living abroad must happen in this Parliament if the promise of a new, more democratic Malaysia is to be realised, say Global Bersih and Bersih 2.0.
According to recent United Nations (UN) estimates, the number of Malaysians abroad soared to 2.7m in 2017 from fewer than 1.3m in 2010. As most Malaysians abroad tend to be recent emigrants, it is likely that the majority are registered voters – and there is an urgent need to ensure no Malaysian voters abroad are deprived of their right to vote.
During the recent general election, Global Bersih conducted a data collection exercise among overseas Malaysians to track and assess the effectiveness of the overseas voting process in the election. Malaysians from all over the world took part in this exercise by filling out a survey documenting their individual experiences with the overseas voting process. The data collection report is the result and part of our reform proposal for the overseas voting process in the next general election.
Global Bersih’s findings from the data collection and the general election period include the following:
- The Electoral Commission and Malaysian missions overseas did not provide adequate and timely information on the registration and voting process. The information from these authorities was confused, conflicted, and varied from agency to agency.
- The Electoral Commission demonstrated incompetence by not processing applications and notifying citizens of their voting status in a timely manner, allowing discrepancies on the electoral roll, erring with regard to voter eligibility, and not providing an appeals process.
- The illogical and impratical timeline for overseas voting has been well documented. There was not enough allowance for ballots to reach voters and for their return to the respective constituencies in time. This caused many voters to expend extraordinary time, effort and money in order to get their ballots counted in time.
It is because of these glaring failures by the Electoral Commission and related bodies that Global Bersih and Bersih 2.0 demand that the commission implements the following reforms before the next general election:
- Implement automatic voter registration
- Lower the voting age to 18
- Ensure a minimum 28-30-day campaign period
- Standardise on an ongoing basis the system for overseas voters
- Ensure the Electoral Commission take direct responsibility for the overseas voting process
The Electoral Commission has the power under Section 16 of the Elections Act 1958, with the approval of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, to make regulations for the conduct of elections and all matters incidental to that.
If the Electoral Commission is to fulfil its constitutional role as an enabler of Malaysia’s democracy, it must consider these recommended amendments to the regulations and urgently work towards creating a dialogue with Malaysians who have voted in their millions for a better Malaysia. This continues to be at the core of Global Bersih and Bersih 2.0’s agenda for Malaysia baru.