Electoral roll needs to be scrutinized

Written by Dr V.S. Paraman Saturday, 28 April 2012 15:56


Malaysia practises a type of democracy where polls are won by candidates obtaining the most votes. However the winning candidate does not necessarily need to receive an absolute majority of all the votes cast.

Barisan Nasional is one of the world’s longest ruling political parties and its elected rule is now entering the sixth decade.

The opposition parties and their leaders have long complained that BN has been practising unfair and illegal methods in most of our polls to assure itself victory and consolidate its power.

However, it is only after 2008 that more light is being shed on the crooked ways that BN appears to employ to win at all costs. Malaysia’s elections is based on the ‘first past the post’ system but in more ways than one, the distance in the race to the post appears to be getting shorter by the day for the BN victor at the expense of his opponent.

From the expert analysis of many political scientists and analysts like Wong Chin Huat and Ong Kian Ming as well as electoral reform coalition Bersih and civil society action group TindakMalaysia, a clearer picture is beginning to unveil – the GE13 is going to go down in the nation’s history as the dirtiest elections ever.

BN’s bag of dirty tricks

The usual dirty tactics, as always, remain. BN is accused of controlling the mainstream media, abusing government machinery and facilities, bullying civil servants and using federal money to assist and fund their political campaigns.

What is even more alarming is the revelation of the elaborate methods being employed to dilute the power of the legitimate voters in this country.

First is the outright rigging, which includes vote buying, ballot stuffing and counting/tabulation frauds.

Second is the rigging through the electoral roll. This is done through three methods:

  • Inclusion of non-voters – the phantom voters. These include dead people and non-residents who vote, non-existent voters (cloning) and foreigners being given citizenship/MyKads;

  • Exclusion of legitimate voters omitted directly from the electoral roll; and,

  • Re-delineation of constituencies: Altering the size and boundary of the ward can affect the power of the ballot. Recently the Election Commission has been doing this under what it terms the ‘border correction exercise’.

The count of registered voters who number more than 50, sharing a same address is 1,262.

Spike in Selangor voters

The number of new voters who have been registered since BN lost its two-thirds majority in the last general election is nothing short of spectacular.

  • 2008: 130,000 persons
  • 2009: 278,621 persons
  • 2010: 851,210 persons
  • 2011: 1,133,707 persons

Selangor appears to be the epicentre of this sudden feverish spurt of voter ‘enlightenment’. The state has registered 340,000 new voters since the last GE, which is a 21.8 percent increase compared with the national average of 16.3 percent.

Ong Kian Ming highlights that a trend appears to be repeating itself as two other states Sabah (after the 1990 GE) and Terengganu (after the 1999 GE) saw a sudden jump in the number of voters on the electoral roll after the BN losses there.

Subsequently in the following GEs, the BN returned to power in those states quite spectacularly.

The total number of registered voters in the previous GEs:

  • 1995: 9,012,370 persons
  • 1999: 9,694,156 persons
  • 2004: 9,756,097 persons
  • 2008: 10,740,227 persons

As of Dec 31 last year, a total of 12,595,268 Malaysians are registered as qualified voters.

In 2011, the National Institute for Democracy and Electoral Integrity (NIEI), the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Merdeka Centre conducted a national voter registration audit.

The main purpose was to assess the accuracy and completeness of the electoral rolls. A total of 1,177 ordinary voters were randomly sampled from 60 parliamentary constituencies.

The key findings indicated that 8 percent of these voters live at invalid addresses.

About 26 percent of these voters are unrecognisable voters, meaning they could not be recognised by a neighbour or local resident.

In short, the identities of these voters may not be valid. Only 31% of them were living at their stated addresses.

Voter-representative relationship

The high number of non-resident voters is a major concern and poses an unhealthy practice of democracy as per our first-past-the-post system that is especially designed to provide for residents to elect their representatives in accordance with the local needs.

Ong’s Merap (Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis) Project detected around 100,000 problematic names based on 10 issues.

He states that if this number is added with other previously highlighted issues, it would be easily amount to over 400,000 dubious voters and that, too, is only the tip of the iceberg.

There are also a further 42,051 voters on the electoral roll whose IC numbers could not be detected in the National Registration Department (NRD) database.

Strangely EC chief Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof finds this figure trivial as it only amounts to 0.3 percent of the master electoral roll of 12.6 million voters.

It is a wonder if the EC chief could find anyone who is 0.3 percent pregnant in this world. One can either be pregnant or not, and applying the same analogy to this case, one must view the electoral roll as ‘dirty’ and nothing less.

Even more hilarious is that 42,000 out of 12.6 million is actually 0.003 percent and not 0.3 percent as he had stated. Perhaps decimals are not a big issue to the EC either!

Another mindboggling issue is that in the voter registration audit report, it is clearly stated that the EC had given the total number of registered voters as of March 31, 2011 as 12,032,467. How is that so?

Bersih had also unearthed more instances of fraud in the latest electoral roll.

It appears that there are 24,105 voters in Sabah and Sarawak who have been allegedly re-registered in Selangor.

Its steering committee claimed that 15,520 Sabah and 8,585 Sarawak voters had been registered twice in Selangor in the latest electoral roll (updated until first quarter of 2012).

Why rush the Rela Act?

Another alarming development that is brewing is how the BN government appears to be rushing to pass the Rela Act in Parliament.

The first reading of the bill has been submitted and among the contents is the provision “allowing Rela members to assist any security force or authority established under written law upon the latter’s request”.

Some are wondering if this is a backdoor method to eventually register a segment of the more than two million strong Rela membership as postal voters.

After all, there is a provision in postal voter regulation 3(f) which empowers the EC to designate any group as postal voter through the gazette.

Looking at all these issues from a macro point of view, it appears that the BN is very determined to win the 13th GE and is willing to go to whatever length in order to do so.

Pakatan Rakyat’s chances of coming to power are looking slimmer by the day even though the crowds at their ceramah are swelling.

It is my personal opinion that in a free and fair election Pakatan will win hands down. But under the ‘first past the BN’s post’ rule, Pakatan would require a perfect storm of unity and support from all races in Malaysia to do so.