Automatic voter registration a must, electoral watchdog insists

Jamny Rosli
Global Bersih said its assessment of the May 9 general election showed the registration process, especially for Malaysians abroad, were riddled with problems that the EC must fix now. ― Picture by Razak Ghazali

PETALING JAYA, Aug 17 ― Polls reform watchdog Bersih 2.0 and its overseas chapter Global Bersih reiterated today a call for automatic voter registration and other measures to improve the system before the 15th general election due in five years.

The groups said its assessment of the May 9 general election showed the registration process, especially for Malaysians abroad, were riddled with problems that the Election Commission (EC) must fix now.

“If the EC is to fulfill 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,” Bersih 2.0 acting chairman Shahrul Aman Mohamad Saari said in a joint news conference here.

Global Bersih secretary Nirmala Devi Windgätter said its survey of 1,620 out of 7,900 of Malaysian registered overseas voters from April 20 until May 31 showed 41.6 per cent faced registration difficulties, which include poor response and lack of information from the EC and Malaysian Foreign Mission.

“The list of the issues indicates that the central questions that revolved around these two official departments of which should have played an essential role in the process, have failed to do so,” she said.

Windgätter claimed the EC and Malaysian diplomatic missions overseas did not provide adequate and timely information on the registration and voting process, adding that officials also gave conflicting information that only confused would-be voters.

“The EC demonstrated incompetence by not processing applicants and notifying citizens of their voting status in a timely manner, allowing discrepancies on the electoral roll, erring with regards to voter eligibility and not providing an appeals process.

“Also, the timing that was allocated for the overseas voting process has made it nearly impossible for overseas Malaysians to return their ballots as there were only about nine to 10 days between the day the ballots sent out and the dateline on May 9,” she added.

Apart from the automatic registration, the groups also demanded the EC standardise the registration and voting system for Malaysians abroad, lower the voter age to 18 from 21, and fix the election campaign period to a minimum 28 days.

The groups said they will submit their written proposals to the EC in next week.

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