EC: Stipulations for voters abroad are 'reasonable'
The stipulation that voters residing overseas must stay in Malaysia for at least 30 days over the past five years to qualify to vote is reasonable, said Election Commission deputy chairperson Wan Ahmad Wan Omar.
He said the condition was simple and appropriate and had also been adopted by other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada while Singapore had set the duration for three months.
"Thirty days in a period of five years, not 30 days consecutively. Voting is not just a right but a responsibility to the country. EC also looks at it as showing love for country and still having a link with the homeland," he told Bernama after being interviewed on RTM's "Selamat Pagi Malaysia" talkshow at Wisma TV, Angkasapuri in Kuala Lumpur.
Wan Ahmad said the general condition was proposed to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reforms which approved it.
He said, however, that the detailed duration - 30 days stay within five years - was set by the EC, as provided for under the Election Laws and Regulations.
"As a constitutional organisation, the EC has the authority to set certain conditions and procedures," he said, dismissing claims by certain quarters that the condition was not discussed at the committee stage at Parliament.
Earlier, Rasah MP Anthony Loke from the DAP had urged the EC to review the condition, contending that it was unfair and would unnecessarily impede the election process.
Anthony had also claimed that the EC delayed registration of voters residing overseas for almost 13 months from the date the PSC raised doubts on its preparedness and commitment to ensure a fair and clean election process.
In responding to this, Wan Ahmad said thorough preparation was necessary because the EC needed to discuss with the Foreign Ministry and on the election process for voters residing overseas as it would involve Malaysian embassy staff who would represent the EC.
Apart from that, he said the cooperation of the Immigration Department was also necessary to check the records on the outstation voters' return to Malaysia besides having to provide training to the assigned embassy staff.
The regulation to allow Malaysians abroad to vote through the post was gazetted on Jan 21 this year based on three conditions, namely that they must have been in Malaysia or returned to the country for 30 days in a period of five years before the dissolution of the current parliament or state legislative assembly, and living abroad excluding those who are living in southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei and Kalimantan.
Prior to this, only fulltime overseas students and civil servants and their spouses were allowed to vote through the post as absentee voters.
Meanwhile, Wan Ahmad said since Jan 21, the EC had received 500 applications from Malaysians living abroad to become postal voters in the 13th general election.
He expected the applications to increase with the simplified process of sending back the form to the EC via email.
"The opportunity for Malaysians to be outstation voters is a political transformation and a paradign shift in the democratic process," he opined.
Previously, Malaysiakini had reported that some Malaysians residing overseas had encountered several problems while attempting to register at Malaysian missions abroad.