On 3 April 2012, Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform (PSC)’s unanimously recommended that the Election Commission (EC) put in place a system whereby all Malaysian citizens living overseas could vote by post. The EC was given a deadline of 3 months to consult with the relevant government agencies in order to enable the necessary regulations to be made. This recommendation was accepted unanimously by the Dewan Rakyat.
This deadline, 3 July 2012, has now come and gone without any announcement by the EC. This is despite the fact that in May, the EC Deputy Chairman, Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, had stated that the EC was targeting the recent 11-28 June parliamentary sitting for the necessary amendments to the elections regulations.
Nearly a year has passed since the EC Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof, announced in August 2011, after the July 2011 Bersih 2.0 rally, that the EC had agreed to give all Malaysians overseas the right to vote by post. Since that time, the EC has given all manner of excuses and “red herrings” to justify its failure to honour its commitment, and Malaysians have found it hard to avoid the conclusion that the EC has been trying to delay implementing this reform until after the 13th general election.
Malaysians have had enough of the EC’s excuses for its non-performance and its misleading attempts to justify its restriction of the voting rights of Malaysian citizens overseas. The EC Chairman must now explain why it has failed to abide by the 3-month deadline set by the PSC and the Dewan Rakyat.
EC Excuses and “Red Herrings”
- In November 2011, the EC Deputy Chairman pleaded that overseas postal voting would be a “logistical nightmare”, despite the fact that over 115 countries and territories around the world allow overseas voting, two-thirds of which allow overseas voting by post.
- In January 2012, the EC Chairman was quoted by the media as saying that the EC would be recommending to the PSC that Malaysians overseas who did not pay Malaysian tax should be excluded from voting by post, citing US practice, despite the fact that the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the US Constitution specifically prohibits the restriction of voting rights based on payment of tax. The EC Chairman subsequently denied the report.
- In April 2012, the PSC reported that the EC had proposed that only Malaysians who had returned to Malaysia at least once in the past five years should be allowed to vote by post. This is despite the fact that overseas postal voting could be implemented without new regulations if not for this additional requirement.
- In May 2012, the EC Deputy Chairman questioned the motives of those seeking overseas voting rights, doubting that there were large numbers of Malaysians abroad who were being denied voting rights and claiming that only 500 Malaysians had registered as overseas voters. This was despite the fact the Government has confirmed that there are 1 million Malaysians living and working overseas, but the EC regulations do not currently allow them to register as overseas voters unless they are military personnel, civil servants or students.