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COMMENT | Denying rights: Voter disenfranchisement in Malacca, Sarawak

COMMENT | Over two years ago, Malaysia passed important constitutional amendments reducing the voting age to 18 from 21 and introducing automatic voter registration, thereby assuring that those who were not able to register could vote. These changes were arguably the most impactful democratic reform in Malaysia in the last decade, enfranchising millions who had not been able to vote due to legal and administrative obstacles in the system.

Over the last month, it has become blatantly obvious that not only did the Election Commission (EC) fail in its fiduciary duty to citizens to bring about the necessary administrative changes associated with the amendments in a timely manner, it is now opting to intentionally disenfranchise and disempower thousands of Malaysians, especially young Malaysians, from voting in the coming state polls in Malacca and Sarawak.

This comes after the EC has repeatedly ignored calls for timely safer remote and postal voting in post-GE14 by-elections and Sabah’s 2020 state election, unnecessarily and irresponsibly endangering citizens in a pandemic that remains serious. The current leadership of EC chairperson Abdul Ghani Salleh - a man who was removed from the commission earlier due to concerns about professionalism of the pre-2018 EC - appears resistant to reform and unwilling to bring the agency’s practices in line with international standards of electoral conduct.

Based on the electoral roll that the EC posted on its website last month (October), which included the composition of new voters in each seat, an estimated over 825,000 people are being intentionally disenfranchised (estimated 151,961 in Malacca and 674,732 in Sarawak for a total of 826,693).

To put in context, this is...

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