Tuesday, June 6, 2017

GE14 may use old boundaries

Election Commission (EC) chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah has not discounted the possibility of using the existing electoral boundaries for the coming general election (GE14) in view of the ongoing court cases over the redelineation of electoral boundaries.

In an exclusive interview with Oriental Daily yesterday, Mohd Hashim said he could not confirm whether the process of the redelineation could be completed before GE14.

“If we are not able to complete the process due to the various court cases, we shall have to use the old electoral boundaries,” Mohd Hashim said.

He said the EC could not adopt the new redelineated boundaries without Selangor and Melaka.

On March 8, the EC issued and gazetted its second round of proposals for the review of electoral boundaries, but excluded Selangor from these recommendations because of the Selangor state government’s court challenge of its first round of proposals.

In Melaka, seven voters on April 4 sued for a declaration that the EC’s second round of proposal was unconstitutional and invalid for five reasons, including the omission of Selangor and the use of an allegedly ‘defective’ electoral roll which has no addresses of 44,190 Melaka voters. They successfully obtained a stay order stopping local inquiries from going on in Melaka.

The High Court suspended the EC electoral boundary redrawing in Melaka on May 12 pending the completion of the judicial review filed against the exercise scheduled June 14.

Mohd Hashim said that though the government has not decided on the election date and the election budget, the EC is ready for GE14 anytime.

He said although GE14 is going to be challenging, he is facing it calmly.

“This election is the first GE I am facing (since taking over the EC chair), but I don’t feel the pressure and I’m not nervous.

“The Sarawak state election last year had been a training ground for me. Though I am the new kid on the block, I have the back-up of many staff members who are experienced.”

When asked whether the EC is ready to implement the automatic voter registration system, Mohd

Hashim said the commission did not want to be blamed for problems arising from changes relating to voter registration.

“To get voting rights, the age factor is only one of the factors, there are other conditions such as citizenship, criminal records to be considered.

“If automatic voter registration is perfect, many democratic countries would have adopted it a long time back.”

He said online registration of voters is not reliable.

“There are loopholes in online registration. If implemented, there will be new arguments about the government controlling the system et cetera,” Mohd Hashim said.

He believed both exercises would not be implemented in the country in the near future.

The EC chairman further emphasised that there is no law requiring the commission to publish the quarterly voters registration to make it available to the public.

He said the past practices of past EC chairmen to publish quarterly electoral rolls was at their “budi bicara” (discretion).

He said the abolition of such practices is not unlawful.

“There is no law stating that the electoral rolls should be published every quarterly. My predecessors had done so at their discretion. We discharge our duties according to the law.”

Since assuming the post of EC chairman, Mohd Hashim has taken some unpopular steps such as not publishing the quarterly electoral rolls, leading him to be accused of not being transparent.

Mohd Hashim had also declined to meet various political parties and election watchdogs such as Bersih 2.

Mohd Hashim said all that he did was to protect the EC and was firm that he would not meet any political parties or Bersih.

He explained that as the redelineation exercise in Selangor and Melaka are now in court, his statements could be abused and used against the EC in court.

“Every word that I utter could be used as evidence in court and could affect the court ruling. Since they have decided to bring the matter to court, why should I meet them in person?

“I admit the opposition and Bersih have requested for a meeting but I was too busy. Later they brought the matter to court. If the matter is not brought to court, I will be happy to meet them.”
In Sarawak, the number of state constituencies had been increased by 11 to 82 after the Dewan Rakyat approved the redelineation of parliamentary and state constituencies on Dec 3, 2015.

The number of parliamentary constituencies remains at 31 but some had their boundaries altered.

The next general election must be held by middle of next year.

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