COMMENT | The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) is dismayed that the Pakatan Harapan government continues to abuse its position as the federal government when it comes to competing in by-elections. It was reported that Rural Development Minister Rina Harun made a ministerial visit to the constituency of P165 Tanjung Piai on Oct 15 and handed out grants to the Tanjung Piai management committees.
While current laws do not make it an offence for incumbent governments to use their position and state resources to campaign for their political parties, the principle of free and fair elections is violated when there is no separation of government roles and party duties in election campaigning.
Bersih 2.0 is aware that during by-elections, the function of government should continue as it would be unrealistic to pause every time there is a by-election, and the Tanjung Piai by-election is the ninth since GE14. We would recommend the following guidelines to ensure that the playing field is level for all competing parties in a by-election.
1. Official ministerial visits and functions to the constituency facing a by-election should cease the moment the speaker of Dewan Rakyat/state assemblies declares the seat vacant.
2. No government resources like public funds, facilities, staff and vehicles should be deployed by ministers and deputy ministers who are campaigning as party leaders with the exception of assigned vehicles and personnel for their security.
3. If any government aircraft, helicopter or boat is used to travel to the by-election constituency, the equivalent cost of chartering such a conveyance from a private entity should be paid to the Treasury.
4. Any new allocations, an announcement of projects or relief aid should not be exclusive to the constituency undergoing a by-election but it should be state or nationwide.
5. Conditional promises that are material in nature or have valuable consideration that is dependent on a candidate winning, especially by a party in government, can be deemed to be a form of bribery which is an offence under Section 10 of the Election Offences Act 1954.
Bersih 2.0 calls on the Harapan government to set a higher standard for electioneering and for compliance with the Election Offences Act 1954 and other relevant laws.
Bersih 2.0, together with the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC), is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of existing election laws with a view to bringing clarity to certain offences, to include new areas of concern and to empower the EC to enforce election laws.
Until our recommendations become law, we call on all parties to observe existing laws and the principle of free and fair elections so that voters can make informed choices based on issues that are important to them and their constituencies and not out of any sense of fear or any unreasonable pressure placed on them.
Satukan Tenaga, Malaysia Baru!
The above is issued by the Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0
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