Election Commission chairperson Azhar Azizan Harun said he is prepared to answer any allegations against him in parliament but argued there is no basis for the complaints raised by opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
“The allegations against me by YB Ismail Sabri, however, is totally lacking in merit and is reflective of the siege mentality suffered by some politicians who are out to gain sympathy.
“His suggestion that I should advise the police on matters that are solely within the purview of the police is bewildering if not astounding.
“Hasn't he heard of the principle of administrative law that disallows public officers from acting ultra vires the law or his or her powers?
“If not, perhaps in getting the legal advice that he intends to get to sue the EC he should also be getting some advice of the doctrine of ultra vires,” he said in a statement today.
In legal parlance, 'ultra vires' means to act beyond the powers allowed by law.
Earlier today, Ismail Sabri said opposition lawmakers had filed an urgent motion in the Dewan Rakyat to debate the new conditions being imposed on campaigning activities in the ongoing Tanjung Piai by-election. In addition, they would mount a legal challenge against the new rules.
Among others, the new rules stipulate a police permit would be required for door-to-door canvassing of votes.
“The requirement for a police permit for all ceramah is stated in the law.
“In the case of Tanjung Piai, the police have decided to impose a new requirement for permits even for walkabouts and house visits,” Azhar said in a separate statement yesterday.
The electoral reform group Bersih has also urged the EC to reject the condition being set by the police, noting that the commission has mandated under Article 115(2) of the Federal Constitution to seek assistance from public authorities who must, in turn, render such assistance.
However, Azhar said today that he is bound to uphold the law and will not interfere with the police’s duty to maintain public order.
“I was appointed as chairperson of the EC to uphold the law and not to disregard the law. It would be illegal for the EC to ask people to defy a directive issued by the police in exercising the powers given them by the laws of the country.
“I must state that the EC will not at my rate encroach or transgress upon the powers and jurisdiction of any other institutions, especially the police.
“The police are always acting with the safety of the nation in their mind, and I will not question their decisions,” he said.