WITH the 14th General Election (GE14) speculated to be just around the corner, election fever is well and truly upon us, with political parties and voters keenly awaiting the dates to be announced.
However, the responsibility of ensuring the polls proceed smoothly lies squarely on the shoulders of the Election Commission (EC). New Straits Times speaks to EC chairman Tan Sri Hashim Abdullah on the commission’s preparations for GE14.
Question: What is the status of EC’s preparations for GE14?
Answer: Our preparations focus on two areas — manpower and logistics.
On the former, we have trained about 230,000 people in anticipation of the polls, and they are equipped to handle election duties.
In terms of logistics, we have examined polling centres nationwide, such as schools and community halls. We have also identified locations where we will set up tents, and have even prepared wheel-chairs.
An estimated RM4 million will be spent on this election. We are on standby for polling day.
Q: What is EC’s view on the opposition’s call for external observers for GE14?
A: We will be inviting observers from election commissions from several Commonwealth and Asean countries.
We will also be extending this invitation to politically-neutral NGOs.
We allow candidates to place their agents in each voting stream within these polling centres. It’s important that the agents become observers. This is so that they can see for themselves the counting process. They can also see all the goings-on at every voting stream.
We will be publishing the names of candidates and observers who are not present. I’m doing this because there have been many accusations hurled against EC, such as supposed fraud, running away with ballot boxes or even changing them.
There have been cases where visits to polling centres showed that the observer seats were empty. Candidates must ensure that there are observers for each shift.
Q: How do you respond to claims that changing the constituencies of voters and the redelineation exercise are strategies to ensure a BN victory?
A: There is a system to everything. This is meant to update addresses to ensure that voters live there. We organise public exhibitions to ensure that the voter who has been objected to lives in the address stated.
If there are five people living at your address who you do not know about, wouldn’t you object? EC cannot do this (cut their names) without an objection.
This is not about people living in Kuala Lumpur and voting in their hometown in Kelantan or elsewhere. Giving an advantage to any party is beyond our role or purpose.
Q: Wednesday (yesterday) was the last day for the redelineation exercise in Selangor. What are your views on this?
A: This is a normal process. This means that we have completed the first round. We hear the objections, and after hearing them for the second time, EC will use its discretion to get a report done on whether these objections are valid or otherwise.
EC can, by law, submit the report on the proposals to the prime minister.
It is up to Datuk Seri Najib Razak to bring it to the Dewan Rakyat or not. If he tables it, MPs would then debate it and then it would be submitted back to us. We will base our decision on what is decided in the Dewan Rakyat.
In Selangor, the issue is delayed due to objections brought to court. We will abide by the court’s decision.
Q: You have previously suggested that employers set up a secretariat to monitor employees who go out to vote. Why?
A:There are countries which do this to gauge the number of employees who do not vote.
The workers tell the secretariat that they are going out to vote and call them back when they are done. The companies can then encourage staff members who have yet to vote to go and do so.
While we cannot force employers to set up such secretariats, this can go a long way towards encouraging Malaysians to exercise their constitutional right.
Q: Will EC be allowing Pakatan Harapan to use the ‘PH’ name and logo during GE14?
A: As long as the Registry of Societies allows it, we do not have an issue. We have many other logos for parties to use.
Q: The opposition has labelled GE14 a ‘dirty election’. They did the same in previous polls. What is EC’s stand on this?
A: When it comes to the opposition, there is always something wrong. In the end, people will realise this and not be influenced by it. There are many who sympathise with EC.