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We know of early voting – never heard of earlier voting! Why is the EC keeping quiet?

By P Ramakrishnan

Anwar Ibrahim alleged that there was voting outside the fixed dates set by the EC. And there was a payment for voting. This is a serious allegation. Why is the EC quiet about this?

Two dates were announced by the Election Commission on Oct. 20, 2022, after their special meeting to fix dates for GE 15. According to EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Salleh, Malaysians will vote in the GE 15 on Nov. 19, and the early polling will be held on Nov. 15.

Only two dates were mentioned by the EC Chairman for polling purposes. Except for Nov. 15 and 19, no other dates were mentioned. In other words, voting cannot be conducted on any other dates. Early voting is on Nov. 15. There cannot be any earlier voting.

Therefore, it came as a complete surprise when Pakatan Harapan chairman Anwar Ibrahim claimed that military personnel, particularly those in Bera, had cast their ballots on Nov. 11, 2022 and received RM300. Interestingly, Bera is the Prime Minister’s constituency.

There are two issues in this disclosure by Anwar. There was voting outside the fixed dates set by the EC. And there was a payment for voting. Was this payment an inducement for casing their vote for a particular party?

Both the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister did not say anything about the earlier voting – they did not deny or confirm that it took place. But they took Anwar to task and accused him of disparaging the integrity of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

But Anwar insisted that he had the evidence to back up his claims. He had provided this information to the EC.

Strangely, the EC did not confirm or deny that certain army personnel could vote earlier than the gazetted date for early voting. They did not clarify that there was provision for earlier voting than the announced early voting set on Nov. 15.

On Nov. 13, caretaker Home Minister  Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said there has been no police report lodged on Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s allegation that military personnel in Bera have already cast their votes even before early voting day.

From Hamzah’s comment we can discern that the military personnel could not have “cast their votes even before early voting day.”

“Once we have any police report, we will allow PDRM to do a thorough investigation,” asserted Hamzah.

In other words, if there was no police report there would be no investigation. Isn’t it baffling! It has been publicly stated that there was earlier voting in Bera where army personnel had voted even before the early voting date. It was also claimed that those army personnel who had voted earlier were given RM300 each.

Isn’t this claim that was openly stated and widely published sufficient enough grounds for “a thorough investigation”? If the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister are truly concerned about protecting the integrity of the Armed Forces, shouldn’t they order an immediate investigation to prove Anwar wrong and take action? Why aren’t they acting?

To add to the confusion, on Nov.8 Army Forces chief, Affendi Buang, in a statement revealed that “Armed Forces personnel who were registered as postal voters have been voting from Nov. 7 and the process will continue until Nov. 19 before 5pm.”

This is even more baffling! Anwar claimed that such voting took place on Nov. 11 but according to Affendi voting started even earlier on Nov. 7. It is, therefore, established that earlier voting outside the gazetted date for early balloting had taken place. It would mean that on the third day following the nomination process, voting has taken place.

According to the Law Minister, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaffar, as reported on Nov. 14, “postal ballot papers for members of the armed forces had been issued since last Monday” – Nov. 7.

What is strange about this is the fact that ballot papers were issued on the second day after nomination. This begs several questions.

When did the EC start printing the ballot papers? Were the ballot papers for the whole country printed simultaneously and were they available for distribution on Nov. 7? One would think that it was a mammoth task and it might not be possible that the entire ballot papers for the whole country was ready on Nov. 7. In which case, we can easily assume that ballot papers for the Bera constituency were printed early and therefore were ready on Nov. 7 to be issued. This casts doubt on the motive and purpose for this to happen.

It also brings into doubt the EC’s integrity. The EC must at all times be seen to be impartial, fair and above party politics. This earlier voting episode has somewhat tarnished the image of the EC.

We do hope that the EC will provide cogent clarification and remove our doubts. It is important that it does. A neutral body must be seen and accepted as such– always beyond reproach like Caesar’s wife; otherwise, voting can become a farce.

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

First published in Aliran on 8 November 2022

P Ramakrishnan is the long-serving former president of Aliran who served three and a half decades on its executive committee, and has been with Aliran since its inception in 1977. Now an ordinary Aliran member, he continues to highlight issues of public interest to a larger audience.

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