KUALA LUMPUR: Election promises would not be seen as acts of bribery if the people who made them did so in their official capacity as Government representatives.
Citing a case over an allegation made by a former Finance Minister in the 1981 Pengkalan Kota by-election, law expert Azhar Azizan Harun said Saturday that a promise made would not be seen as a bribe if it was made to a whole community.
He said that an election petition was filed based on the allegation made, with the hearing presided by the former Judge Tan Sri Dr Eusoffe Abdoolcader.
According to Azhar, the Minister supposedly told a crowd of over 1,500 people that he would personally give money to improve Pengkalan Kota if BN won.
Dr Eusoffe, he said, did not rule the Minister's action was an offence as it was not made in his personal capacity.
"The late Eusoffe seemed to suggest that if he did not make it in his personal capacity as an individual, it was okay, because he was making it as a policy of the Government," he told a Bar Council forum entitled "Electoral Offences - Righting the Wrongs".
Azhar said that as the act was made to an entire constituency and not towards particular voters, it did not come off as an act of bribery.
Going by this, he added that Malaysian courts appeared to have "constrained" the application of corrupt pratices in an elections.
"It seems to suggest that if it was made to a particular class or section of society, it would be okay, but not to a particular individual or voter - that's not okay," he said.
Azhar added that it would not be an offence if voters did not promise to vote for the candidate in return for something.
Citing Section 32 of the Election Offence Act 1954, Azhar said that there were five provisions in which a polls result could be voided, as long as they proved to the satisfaction of the judge in the Election Court. They were:
i) bribery, treating or intimidation that was made to such an extent that it would "reasonably affect" an election result
ii) a non-compliance of election regulations
iii) if a corrupt practice was committed by a candidate, his agent or anyone else with the candidate's knowledge or consent
iv) if a candidate engaged a person as his election agent and knew that the latter had been convicted of a corrupt practice in the past seven years
v) if the candidate was at the time unqualified to contest an election
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