Polls watchdog: 'Weak' PSC report lacks political will

Malaysian Election Observer Network (MEO-Net) coordinator Ong Boon Keong has described the report by the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform tabled in Parliament yesterday as lacking the political will to institute real change.

"It is a very weak report, there does not seem to be a real intention to improve the weaknesses in the election system," he said when contacted yesterday.

An example, he said, was several instances in the report in which the committee asked for the Election Commission (EC) to study certain reforms without providing recommendations on how it should be done.

"The PSC should recommend the mechanisms or the EC will have an escape clause - they will say the reforms will be implemented in 10 years' time," said the election observer who has seven years of experience under his belt.

Achievements such as the EC's consent to implement the use of indelible ink following the PSC's recommendation, Ong said, had been overhyped compared to countries which have multiple measures in identifying voters.

"Other than indelible ink, countries such as Bangladesh and Philippines have their electoral roll complete with a colour photograph of the voter."

He added if a voter had a fake identity card, the photograph would rat them out.

Ong (right) who had boycotted the PSC and had instead directed proposals throughout his seven-year experience directly to the EC, said some interest groups and political parties had also lost sight by harping on the campaign period.

This, he said, ignored other important components of the electoral process, including the nomination period which is critical in vetting proper candidates.

"In our country, the nomination period is only one hour, in other countries it's weeks and months. It's the same with the objection period."

No proper appeal period

Ong added that unlike other countries, Malaysia does not have a proper appeal period.

"Any appeal has to be taken to court, by that time polling day would have arrived," he said.

All this has not been addressed by the PSC, he lamented.

Ong also brushed aside EC's justification that the campaign period should not be too long as it will incur a high cost.

"If you extend your nomination period, then you will not need to have thousands of people and police gathering at the nomination centre. Besides the bulk of EC and police work is during nomination and polling day.

"The political parties are the ones that will do most of the spending during the campaign period," he said.

Pakatan Rakyat members on the PSC, in its report, were outvoted in recommending that the campaigning period be increased to a minimum of 21 days and had to instead settle for a minimum of 10 days instead.