Your reforms just window dressing, Bersih 2.0 tells outgoing EC chief

Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah argued that none of the reforms introduced by the Election Commission were effective in addressing electoral fraud and other weaknesses. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah argued that none of the reforms introduced by the Election Commission were effective in addressing electoral fraud and other weaknesses. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — Reforms held up by retiring Election Commission (EC) chief Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof were largely cosmetic and did not substantively improve Malaysia’s allegedly flawed voting system, electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 said today.

Responding to Abdul Aziz’s assertion that he made 18 key changes to the election system during his tenure, the group’s chairman, Maria Chin Abdullah, argued that none of the reforms introduced were effective in addressing electoral fraud and other weaknesses.

“Example given (such as) the indelible ink was a laughable farce and he even admitted it... So, yes, he made changes but these are superficial, badly implemented, and cosmetic, which shows that EC is not about reforms,” Chin told Malay Mail Online.

Nearing his retirement as EC chairman, Abdul Aziz thanked Bersih 2.0 and opposition parties for their suggestions throughout his seven years as head of the voting regulator.

In an exclusive interview with local daily Oriental Daily published yesterday, Abdul Aziz also said he had managed to implement 18 reforms to the Malaysian voting system, including the introduction of indelible ink and overseas voting.

Other reforms he listed included verification of voters’ identity with the National Registration Department after they are registered as voters, allowing opposition parties to debate on television and radio channels during the campaign period, extending the campaign period from seven to 11 days and approving domestic and international election observers.

But Chin said reforms such as the advance vote were pointless as the EC did not allow observers and political parties full access, adding that the ballot boxes were moved without transparency.

On overseas voting, the Bersih 2.0 chief alleged that its implementation was chaotic as processes were not set up properly and voters were unsure as information was not disseminated well.

“It was an afterthought that overseas voting was implemented and for such an important matter, more thought needs to be done and all parties consulted,” she added.

Chin said that fundamental and substantive changes remained necessary as the EC has not delivered on these.

She cited the retention of Section 9 (a) of the Elections Act that disallows challenges to gazetted electoral roll, saying it frustrates candidates when there is evidence of dubious voters in the roll during elections.

She said there are also other key issues like unfair delineation and tainted electoral rolls that must be urgently addressed ahead of Sarawak’s state election.

Chin also said the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Sabah’s illegal immigrants, which contained allegations of vote fraud by foreigners, did not result in any tangible solutions more than a year after its findings were published.

“These are hardly worth a pat on the back. The next EC chief and team will have to prove they are above politics and are committed to reforms that are accountable, transparent, clean and just,” the Bersih chairman added.