Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Nine Ideas To PSC On Electoral Reform

Note: The article was first published on The Malaysian Insider.

Nine ideas to PSC on electoral reform — Wan Saiful Wan Jan

January 16, 2012

JAN 16 — The following is the summary of the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) recommendations to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform on January 12, 2012.

We focussed on the practical side of reforms, i.e. reforms that could be implemented quickly and have a fair chance of being adopted by the government.

First, there must be mandatory equal access to RTM for all contesting political parties. The media plays an important part in elections. Therefore, RTM as a taxpayer-funded public broadcasters must provide mandatory equal access to all political parties, say, for one hour per week over the campaign period, in all its TV and radio channels. It is wrong, immoral and corrupt if RTM abuses taxpayers’ money by acting as a propaganda machine for one side only.

Second, everyone must be allowed to use the postal vote without a need for a reason and all Malaysians living overseas must be given the right to vote too. Of course, it goes without saying that with the adoption of a widened postal voting scheme, the EC has to ensure that the system is trustworthy, secure and efficient.

Third, the electoral roll should be on “open access” to all authorised bodies with a legitimate interest, including political parties. We have to ensure personal data is properly protected, but at the same time a systematic approach to allow scrutiny of the electoral roll will help the process to clean up the roll.

Fourth, there should be a minimum 21 days’ campaigning period.

Fifth, the voting age should be lowered to 18. A total of 142 countries around the world use 18 as the minimum age. It is time Malaysians joined the majority of countries around the world. We are mature enough to vote at 18.

Sixth, the Election Commission must become a truly independent statutory body. It should be placed under Parliament, and report solely to Parliament. Members of the EC must work behind the scene and not become like politicians who appear in the media regularly. And only professional individuals should be appointed into the EC: it certainly should not become an old folk’s home for retired civil servants.

Seventh, we would like to see a “1:2 formula” adopted as the basis for apportionment of constituencies in Malaysia, which means the ratio for the smallest parliamentary constituency to the largest one is at most 1:2. The current malapportionment makes one vote in Putrajaya (6,008 voters) equal to almost 20 votes in Kapar (112,224 voters), which is clearly ridiculous.

Eighth, indelible ink must be used starting from the next elections. It seems like this has been agreed and therefore there must not be any excuses anymore.

Ninth, the PSC must publish a “minority report” as part of the final report that goes to Parliament. Just like proceedings in Parliament, there should be a permanent record of the ideas proposed to the PSC, what was accepted or rejected, and how each member voted.

The full copy of the submission can be downloaded at www.ideas.org.my

* Wan Saiful Wan Jan is the chief executive of IDEAS.

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