Malaysiakini News

Global push for overseas voting reform

William de Cruz  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT Malaysians abroad have sent a proposal to the Election Commission (EC), urging it to implement reforms that will deliver a secure and transparent voting process at as many overseas locations as possible.

The principal objectives of the proposal, co-ordinated by Global Bersih (GB), is a voting system that gives voting rights to all eligible Malaysians abroad and delivers a legitimate tally of all votes cast overseas.

The proposal, which contains suggested reforms to the current system, was distributed for signatures at Bersih 5 rallies across the globe during the weekend of last Nov 19.

The proposal has since been emailed to the EC from various cities with GB chapters, and followed up by letter. It has also been delivered to Malaysian missions in France, Perth, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland and Sydney.

A survey by GB recently revealed widespread inconsistency and a lack of knowledge in many overseas missions regarding voter registration and overseas voting legislation.

Partly as a result, citizens everywhere have little faith in the system when it comes to voting and related issues at overseas missions, and many would hesitate to even register as overseas (advance) voters. In the same vein, Bersih 2.0 has always maintained its preferred option is for voters living abroad to fly home to vote if they can afford travel costs.

It is precisely with these issues in mind that GB now seeks a system of registration and voting that engenders confidence in the minds of voters as they cast their ballots abroad.

GB is calling for legislative and regulatory reforms that “adhere to the letter and spirit of Malaysia’s constitution”, says Geneva-based Bala Chelliah, the newly elected president of GB, which independently acts in support of the demands of electoral reform group Bersih 2.0.

Recognising the deficit of faith in the system, Chelliah said: “Malaysians living abroad are entitled to a clear system that is uniformly adopted and implemented across overseas missions.

“Transparency and accountability are key issues addressed in the proposal, which seeks to cover citizens living abroad who are eligible to register as new or ‘ordinary’ voters as well as overseas (advance) voters.”

A key reform in the proposal covers the counting of ballots - in GB’s view, ballots should be counted at high commissions, embassies and consulates, not sent back to Malaysia for counting.

“We urge all political parties from the government and opposition to study this proposal from Malaysian citizens and to consider offering their open support,” said Chelliah.

GB’s proposals hold that political parties, their candidates or independent candidates should be able to appoint overseas Malaysians as official scrutineers at overseas ballot centres. These overseas scrutineers, or party agents, should have the same authority and powers as their counterparts in Malaysian polling stations.

They should be allowed to monitor the receipt and opening of ballot sacks, and monitor the sealing of these sacks when voting, counting and final tallying are conducted overseas.

The proposal before the EC also seeks overseas (advance) voting to be extended to Malaysians in Singapore, Brunei, Indonesian Kalimantan and the southern provinces of Thailand, all of whom were not allowed to cast their vote from these locations during GE13, on May 5, 2013.

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