MyOverseasVote is pleased that the Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar has acknowledged that over 20,000 Malaysians overseas have registered as voters at embassies and high commissions overseas, and not 500, as previously claimed by the EC chairman.
There are in fact several numbers that are relevant, and the EC must be clear what it is talking about:
- the number of Malaysians registered as absent voters overseas [500?];
- the number of Malaysians registered as ordinary or absent voters at Malaysian missions overseas [20,000?];
- the number of registered voters who are living overseas [unknown];
- the number of Malaysians eligible to register as absent voters overseas [c. 20,000]
- the total number of Malaysians living and working overseas [c. 1,000,000].
Starting from the bottom, according to a joint study by the World Bank and the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, there are 1 million Malaysians living and working overseas. It is presumed that most of the working population are over 21. Given that Malaysia only has 16 million eligible voters, of whom only 12.5 million are registered, this is a significant proportion of the potential electorate. 98% of these are currently not eligible to vote by post.
Of the 1 million, only approximately 20,000 or only 2% of the 1 million are currently eligible to register as absent or postal voters. Military and government personnel will number several hundred at the most, so the bulk of these comprise postgraduate students who are generally over the age of 21 (estimated at a quarter of the total number of Malaysians studying overseas).
The EC cannot in fact know how many registered voters live overseas. This is because while some register at Malaysian embassies and high commissions abroad, for most people it is easier to register as ordinary voters at post offices and through political parties while in Malaysia. Many Malaysians who work overseas have already registered as voters when they were living in Malaysia.
The EC can only tell us: (a) how many Malaysians have registered as ordinary or absent voters at Malaysian missions overseas, and (b) how many of these are qualified to be absent voters. As we have seen, neither of these figures is relevant to how many registered or eligible voters actually live abroad and want to vote by post.
And the proportion of voters who register to vote is irrelevant to whether voting should be allowed for those who choose to register. In Sarawak, nearly 30% of eligible voters have not registered to vote. Should we then abolish voting in Sarawak? If the EC can organise postal voting for government servants and students overseas, it can also do so for other overseas Malaysians.