Redrawing constituency boundaries: Electoral Commission, courts must act in voters’ interest

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Source: freemalaysiatoday.com

The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) is disappointed with the Court of Appeal’s decision to allow the Electoral Commission to proceed with the execution of local inquiries for parliamentary and state constituencies in Selangor, setting aside the decision by the High Court.

Bersih 2.0 finds that the commission’s push for a judgment at the courts is not in the interest of pursuing its mandate of ensuring clean and fair elections, nor does it mean to enshrine and protect the rights of the voter.

Rather judicial avenues are used to advance and implement unfair delineation boundaries for the upcoming elections, given the commission’s discretionary powers under existing laws and the fact that the substance and underlying issues in the objection have not yet been decided.

Despite the ample time for the commission to complete its delineation exercise, it has chosen to propel the cases on re-delineation forward despite significant objections on the grounds of missing addresses, malapportionment, and gerrymandering to name a few.

To proceed with holding local inquiries without establishing nor resolving the concerns addressed in the objections in the courts will result in:

  • ineffectiveness by way of implementation,
  • waste of government resources, and
  • failure to take into account electoral best practices and respect for the righst of voters.

The expediency of the delineation matters pushed through courts at lightning speed does not allow sufficient time to respond to developments in the case, as illustrated below:

7 Dec | Stay on the local inquiry was granted at High Court
11 Dec | Selangor government received notice of the appeal
14 Dec | First hearing
18 Dec | Second hearing and decision

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The Electoral Commission and the courts are avenues of justice and a recourse to address errors and wrongs in electoral matters. They must act for the people and in the interest of the people; and as such, they should not follow the government’s election calendar when dealing with issues of re-delineation.

“The rights of the voter is the basis for any democracy. Without a voter, there is no basis for a government. The constitution empowers the people to choose their own government. As such, it is the role of the Election Commission and all government bodies to respect, uphold and protect the interest and rights of the voter,” says Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah.

Despite the impracticality of holding local inquiries at a time when most Malaysians will be on holiday or celebrating the New Year, local inquiries are expected to take place anytime soon.

Bersih 2.0 calls on those who filed objections against unfair delineation in Selangor, in September 2016 to be on standby and expect to receive a notice from the Electoral Commission soon. If you do have not received the notice by now, do call the Electoral Commission at 03 5519 4273 to ensure that you do not miss the inquiry and the opportunity to make your objections heard and represented.

For further information, please contact Bersih 2.0 at 011-2860-5720 or send an email to outreach@bersih.org.

Issued by:
BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee

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