Election 2022: We know of early voting – never heard of earlier voting!

Why is the Election Commission keeping quiet?

Two dates were announced by the Election Commission on 20 October after their special meeting to fix dates for the general election.

According to Election Commission chairman Abdul Ghani Salleh, Malaysians would vote in the general election on 19 November and early polling would be held on 15 November.

Only two dates were mentioned by the chairman for polling purposes. Except for 15 and 19 November, no other dates were mentioned. In other words, voting cannot be conducted on any other date. Early voting is on 15 November. 15. There cannot be any earlier voting.

Therefore, it came as a complete surprise when Pakatan Harapan chairman Anwar Ibrahim claimed that military personnel, particularly those in Bera, had cast their ballots on 11 November and received RM300. Interestingly, Bera is the caretaker prime minister’s constituency.

There are two issues in this disclosure by Anwar. There was voting outside the fixed dates set by the Election Commission. And there was alleged payment for voting. Was this payment an inducement for the voters to cast their ballots for a particular party?

Both the prime minister and the defence minister did not say anything about the earlier voting – they did not deny or confirm that it took place. But they took Anwar to task and accused him of disparaging the integrity of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

But Anwar insisted that he had the evidence to back up his claims. He had provided this information to the Election Commission.

Strangely, the commission did not confirm or deny that certain army personnel could vote earlier than the gazetted date for early voting. They did not clarify that there was provision for earlier voting than the announced early voting set on 15 November.

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On 13 November caretaker Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin said there had been no police report lodged on Anwar’s allegation that military personnel in Bera had already cast their votes even before early voting day.

From Hamzah’s comment, we can discern that the military personnel could not have “cast their votes even before early voting day”.

“Once we have any police report, we will allow PDRM to do a thorough investigation,” asserted Hamzah.

In other words, if there was no police report, there would be no investigation. Isn’t it baffling! It has been publicly stated that there was earlier voting in Bera where army personnel had voted even before the early voting date. It was also claimed that those army personnel who had voted earlier were given RM300 each.

Isn’t this claim that was openly stated and widely published sufficient enough grounds for “a thorough investigation”? If the prime minister and the defence minister are truly concerned about protecting the integrity of the Armed Forces, shouldn’t they order an immediate investigation to prove Anwar wrong and take action? Why aren’t they acting?

To add to the confusion, on 8 November Defence Force chief Affendi Buang in a statement revealed that “Armed Forces personnel who were registered as postal voters have been voting from 7 November and the process will continue until 19 November before 5pm”.

This is even more baffling! Anwar claimed that such voting took place on 11 November but according to Affendi, voting started even earlier on 7 November. It is, therefore, established that earlier voting outside the gazetted date for early balloting had taken place. It would mean that on the third day following the nomination process, voting had taken place.

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According to the law minister, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaffar, as reported on 14 November, “postal ballot papers for members of the armed forces had been issued since last Monday” – 7 November.

What is strange about this is the fact that ballot papers were issued on the second day after nomination. This begs several questions.

When did the Election Commission start printing the ballot papers? Were the ballot papers for the whole country printed simultaneously and were they available for distribution on 7 November? One would think that it was a mammoth task and it might not be possible that the entire ballot papers for the whole country were ready on 7 November. In which case, we can easily assume that ballot papers for the Bera constituency were printed early and therefore were ready on 7 November to be issued. This casts doubt on the motive and purpose for this to happen.

It also brings into doubt the Election Commission’s integrity. The commission must at all times be seen to be impartial, fair and above party politics. This earlier voting episode has somewhat tarnished its image.

We do hope that the Election Commission will provide cogent clarification and remove our doubts. It is important that it does. A neutral body must be seen and accepted as such – always beyond reproach like Caesar’s wife; otherwise, voting can become a farce.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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