Election amendments on the way out
Resistance from both sides of the political divide will see these amendments being dropped in the Senate tomorrow.
UPDATEDKUALA LUMPUR: Amendments to the Elections Offences Act 1954, which Bersih opposed recently, will be dropped in the Senate tomorrow.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz said this was because two more amendments (to the original three) were added during the current Senate sitting.
This, he said, would have resulted in a “messy” back-and-forth debate between the Dewan Rakyat and the Dewan Negara over the amendments.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Nazri said both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat politicians had issues with the amendments.
He added that this led to the Cabinet deciding to “abort” the Bill.
Nazri also had meeting with the Election Commission (EC) together with Opposition strongman Lim Kit Siang and the Dewan Negara Speaker over the matter this morning.
Bersih had earlier condemned the amendments to the Election Offences Act stating that they paved the way for the dirtiest general election yet.
Chief among its concern was changes that would have made the voting process less transparent.
One of the changes, to Section 26 1(e), effectively rules out candidates or their staff from verifying IC numbers of voters which is vital to detect phantom or multiple voters.
Another proposed change was the extension of the current 50-metre exclusion zone from the polling centres to 100 metres or any distance that the EC may deem fit.
Bersih feared that this would make it impossible for election monitors to spot illegal going-ons and impossible to see if voters were marked with indelible ink after they have cast their votes.
Kit Siang: Right thing to do
Today, Nazri said that the amendments to the law had been proposed by the EC and that the government could not interfere there.
“We first received the memorandum to amend the Election Offences Act last year, and out of respect for the independence of the EC, we agreed in total [to] what was recommended,” he said.
Nazri added that after further debates with Pakatan Rakyat, Parliament was able to amend three sections of the law.
Following further debates in the Dewan Negara, he said that two more sections of the law would have to be amended.
This means that the amendments would have to go back to the Dewan Rakyat for further debate.
“We (BN and Pakatan) met with the EC, and the chairman [Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof] has agreed that if there will be five amendments [in total], the whole Amended Bill will become meaningless,” he said, adding that the EC agreed to this.
Nazri said that he did not think that the EC would push for any amendments to the Election Offences Act after this.
Though against the three original amendments, Ipoh Timur MP (DAP) Lim Kit Siang said that dropping the amendments was the right thing to do.
Even so, he said that the EC should seriously consider Bersih’s eight demands for free and fair elections (which include fair media access and an end to corruption).
Lim added that the EC should have had “proper” consultation with the public and various NGOs before suggesting these amendments in the first place.