The Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) should not be dominated by partisan interests in order to be seen as independent and impartial, said the electoral reform group Bersih.
It said the ERC chairperson ought to be a non-partisan person instead of the Bersatu chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman.
Rashid is also the former Election Commission (EC) chief.
“This does not bode well with the public image that the ERC should be independent and impartial to facilitate discussion and building a cross-party consensus on electoral reform.
“Bersih recommends the chairperson of ERC to be selected among the committee members with no political party affiliation,” the group said in a statement today.
It is responding to media reports that the ERC intends to expand the ten-member committee to 18 members to include various groups including Bersih and BN, and said the statement was meant to clarify Bersih’s position regarding the ERC before deciding whether to join the committee.
Bersih added that Bersatu is overrepresented on the ERC. Out of its ten present members, the committee also includes Bersatu leaders Kamaruddin Md Nor, Nordin Salleh, and Wan Saiful Wan Jan.
On the other hand, there is no representation for PKR, DAP, Amanah, PAS, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, and other East Malaysia parties, while BN would have one seat reserved in the committee.
“Also, none of the ten members reported is a woman. Bersih recommends for a more inclusive composition and equal representation of all stakeholders in the ERC to facilitate cross-party consensus and support for electoral reform,” the group said.
Bersih added that the formation of the ERC should not preclude the Parliament from establishing a parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform – with the ERC being an executive process while the PSC is undertaken by the legislature.
“They should be separate but go hand in hand in complementing each other,” Bersih said, adding that the PSC would be important to translate reform recommendations that need immediate implementation.
The PSC would also have a wider and ongoing role compared to the ERC, including to monitor the EC and its budget and expenditure and to conduct inquiries.
It said the Parliament should establish the PSC without delay.
The group also urged the government to make the classified report prepared by the Institutional Reform Committee (IRC) public, excluding highly sensitive issues such as national defence policy.
This is because the IRC has already consulted civil society groups on electoral reform, and its report can form the foundation of the ERC and PSC on electoral reform’s work.
The group also reiterated its call for present EC commissioners to be replaced, and for a Royal Committee of Inquiry to be set up to investigate alleged misconduct at the 14th general election.