Can politicians ever be non-partisan observers? Bersih 2.0 asks EC after Sandakan race starts

Bersih 2.0 said the EC must not tarnish the integrity of the Pemerhati programme and undermine its neutrality by appointing politically-active politicians as election observers. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Bersih 2.0 said the EC must not tarnish the integrity of the Pemerhati programme and undermine its neutrality by appointing politically-active politicians as election observers. — Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Bersih 2.0 called on the Election Commission (EC) to explain its standard operating procedures for appointing election observers after spotting Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah president Datuk Lajim Ukin wearing the official attire and tag of one at the Sandakan by-election nomination centre yesterday.

The election reform group’s steering committee wanted to know if active politicians could now be appointed electoral observers and whether such a stance was not contrary to the Declaration of Global Principles for Non-Partisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations.

“The importance of having non-partisan observers for elections cannot be overstated as observers have to evaluate the overall integrity of the election process and their reports can add or diminish legitimacy to the result of elections.

“If Lajim or any other politicians were indeed appointed as Pemerhati, then EC has to explain on what basis were they appointed or was there a failure in their SOP to screen applicants for Pemerhati,” it said in a statement, using the Malay word for observer.

Despite lauding the EC’s openness since GE14 in appointing many local citizen groups and NGOs, including Bersih 2.0, as part of their Pemerhati programme, Bersih 2.0 said the EC must not tarnish the integrity of the programme and undermine its neutrality by appointing politically-active politicians as election observers.

The Sandakan parliamentary by-election is being held following the death of its incumbent Datuk Stephen Wong Tien Fatt of a heart attack on March 28.

The by-election will see a five-cornered fight between DAP candidate Vivian Wong Shir Yee, PBS candidate Datuk Linda Tsen Thau Lin and three other independent candidates.

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