PETALING JAYA: Newly-appointed Election Commission (EC) chairman Azhar Harun has expertise in electoral laws and will be able to carry out his duty well, said Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Ismail Bakar.
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V has consented to Azhar’s appointment in line with Article 3 (114) of the Federal Constitution, he said when making the announcement yesterday.
In an immediate reply, Azhar, who is better known as Art Harun, said he viewed the appointment “as a responsibility that needs to be performed according to the law and the oath that I will be taking”.
“Of course, there will be challenges, but I look forward to performing the trust the best I can. I will give my best.”
The 56-year-old Kedahan, who has a big online following because of his writing, studied law at Universiti Malaya and King’s College in London.
Ismail said Azhar, who started practising law in 1987 with Allen & Gledhill before moving on to several other law firms, possessed expertise in electoral laws.
“With his qualifications and experience, I believe he will be able to carry out his duty, obligations and responsibilities as EC chairman in line with the requirements of the Federal Constitution,” he said.
Previous chairman Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah, who was supposed to retire in August 2020, had his tenure shortened to July this year.
Previously, all the chairmen of the commission were former civil servants.
Azhar is the first chairman to be appointed from outside.
Former EC deputy chairman Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said he did not see any problem with Azhar’s appointment.
“There will be an atmosphere of confidence in the commission. I believe he knows the expectation of the job. Good luck and best wishes to him,” he said.
Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin expressed confidence that Azhar would be able to strengthen the electoral system and to ensure free and fair elections for all parties in Malaysia.
However, the former Umno Youth chief pointed out Pakatan’s election manifesto which clearly stated that “the appointments of EC officers must go through the necessary Parliamentary process”.
“This (Azhar) appointment was never referred to the Parliament,” he said in a tweet yesterday.
“I’m sure that without a new chairman, the EC will be able to handle the Port Dickson by-election. So don’t use that as an excuse,” added.
Khairy said the public must not be caught up in the euphoria of appointing a progressive individual to head the EC, as he pointed out that the manner in which an individual is appointment reflects the government’s commitment towards institutional reforms.
Khairy hoped Azhar would temporarily reject the appointment until he gets the approval of the Parliament, saying: “You must not start the process of institutional reforms with an appointment made in total disregard to the very reforms you have promised.”
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