Without specifically mentioning the detail, polls reform advocacy group Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan raised yesterday the specter of the 650,000 newly registered voters who could not vote in the 1999 general election because they failed to register early enough.

In the days before computerised registration became de rigueur, it took six months for a newly registered voter to be added to the rolls.

NONEThe lag has been cut to three months through computerisation which was the reason Ambiga, speaking at a public forum organised by Aliran at the Caring Society Complex in Penang, urged her audience of some 600 people to not only get the vote out at the coming general election but also to canvass the eligible but yet-to-register hordes to enlist as voters.

Ambiga revealed that the latest figures from the Election Commission put the number of registered voters in Malaysia, as at June 30, 2012, at 13.1 million.

“There are another three million people who are eligible to vote but have not registered,” she disclosed.

“There is time still for them to register such that they become eligible to vote if the election is held in March or April next year,” she said.

She urged concerned Malaysians to put in the effort to get the eligible unregistered to register.
In May 1999, 650,000 people, including such surprisingly unregistered notables as economics professor Jomo Kwame Sundram, hurried to register as voters at the 10th general election.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the then prime minister, had his back to the wall battling adverse public reaction to the sacking and jailing of his popular deputy, Anwar Ibrahim - a situation that saw hitherto apathetic sections of the public hurry to register as voters.
Massive voters turnout crucial

ks jomo interview 180608 04In fact, Jomo (right) sued the EC for being niggardly in the facilitation of his right to vote, but Mahathir circumvented by a hair’s breadth the impact of the 650,000 new registrants by calling the country’s 10th general election for late November 1999.

If the polls were held a month later, who knows what the outcome would have been because the eventual difference between the BN’s share of the popular vote and that of the hastily composed Barisan Alternatif, which welded the newly formed Parti Keadilan Nasional (forerunner of the present PKR), DAP and PAS in a pact, did not exceed 650,000.  
Ambiga said the EC was giving Bersih the runaround with respect to complaints by the polls reform pressure group of irregularities in the electoral rolls.

She said that despite this, the group would be relentless in pressing their case for reform but to “mitigate the possibility of fraud” conscientised Malaysians, who turned up in droves for the Bersih-organised public demonstrations, of July 2011 and April 2012, must help get the three million eligible yet-to-register voters registered and must help get the vote out on polling day.

“Usually, only 70 percent of those registered turn up to vote,” said Ambiga, who said she was hugely enthused by the good turnout for the forum despite inclement weather.

She said that getting people to register and then getting the vote out would be a tremendous help in “mitigating fraud.”