Polling day 5 May, but lengthy period to nomination raises eyebrows

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Finally, the Elections Commission (SPR) has decided that polling for the 13th general election will take place on 5 May 2013 and that nomination day will be on 20 April.

Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof - Photograph: Malaysian Insider
Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof – Photograph: Malaysian Insider

Given our recent history regarding general elections, allowing 15 days for campaigning is most welcome. The last time we had a similar campaign period of 15 days was in 1982. In 1986, it was 10 days, 1990 – 10, 1995 – 10, 1999 – 9, 2004 – 8, 2008 (under Abdullah Badawi) – 13. So, 15 days is an improvement from recent years. In the first three general elections after Merdeka, the campaign period was 35 days, which would be the norm in more mature parliamentary democracies.

We note with concern that there is an uncommonly lengthy period from the dissolution of Parliament on 3 April to Nomination Day on 20 April, i.e. 17 days. This is the longest period since 1964. From 1974, the average gap was 7-10 days, except for 1986 (5 days) and 2008 (11 days). It must be a coincidence that the Barisan Nasional secretary general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor announced on 3 April, on the day Parliament was dissolved, that the Umno-BN was hoping to announce the names of their candidates over a period of seven to 10 days before nomination.

We wonder why the gap between dissolution of Parliament and Nomination Day (17 days) is longer than the official campaign period (15 days). What is the difference between the period from dissolution to Nomination Day and the official campaign period after Nomination Day? Look around us: flags are being put up, money is being spent, rallies are going on with earnest, manifestos are being unveiled and the media have lapped it all up. The BN manifesto, for instance, was launched by Najib on 6 April 2013 at the indoor stadium in Bulit Jalil on the occasion of the 1Malaysia People First assembly, apparently a government function.

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Is it because, according to Rais Yatim’s warped understanding, in spite of the dissolution of Parliament, a ruling coalition can continue to use government resources, vehicles, and personnel until Nomination Day? Does that mean more handouts can be delivered during these 17 days? This goes against all notions of what constitutes a caretaker government. Once Parliament is dissolved, the government of the day should immediately switch to caretaker mode.

The Election Commission should come out with strict guidelines on how a caretaker government should behave. These should be presented to the Attorney General, who, with the cooperation of the Bar Council, should come up with the necessary constitutional amendment. We note that there has been no constitutional amendment for the last five years due to the BN’s lack of a two thirds majority. In this case, regardless of who comes to power in Putrajaya, we call upon the incoming parliamentarians to vote unanimously across party lines to amend the Constitution.

Dr Francis Loh
President, Aliran
10 April 2013

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Ong Eu Soon
13 Apr 2013 5.29am

Until today both BN and PR still unable to sort out their candidates and seat allocation for the election. What is so wrong to have a delay which actually benefited both side. Your call for a fixed date of election was forgotten with your impatient to get rid of BN. Those days when the government relied on snap elections to defeat the opposition, you complained and i understand why. Now when you almost have a government that willing to wait until the parliament automatically dissolved, you put on tremendous pressure to force it to dissolve the parliament earlier.
yOUR INTOLERATE ,impatient and obsession is really an eyes opener. We finally saw how Aliran degrade to become a partisan NGO with no gut to fight without fear or favor. Aliran totally lost it’s direction, it has compromised it’s integrity and honesty in it’s quest to defeat BN.

Stephen Tan Ban Cheng
11 Apr 2013 1.19am

Rais Yatiim, a lawyer, rides out into the sunset come this GE13, but no before making the hilarious ministerial statement that “a ruling coalition can continue to use government resources, vehicles, and personnel until Nomination Day.” I say it is “a ministerial statement” and not “a judicial ruling” since our system does not empower a Cabinet Minister, nay, even a Prime Minister from making “a judicial ruling.” If the contrary were true, then we do not need the Courts at all. In one stroke, they become irrelevant and superfluous. It is really a sad day for our country when a senior Cabinet Minister cannot distinguish the living tree from the dead wood. Once Parliament stands dissolved, it is the common understanding in self-respecting democracies that the caretaker government is just a caretaker government stripped of its powers to “use government resources, vehicles, and personnel.” To ensure a level playing field for all parties, I concur with Aliran’s timely call for a joint all-party effort to study the guidelines to be first drawn up by the Election Commission with a view to amend the Constitution so that… Read more »