PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Harapan leaders including Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should respect the Election Commission’s independence in introducing electoral reforms, said EC commissioner Faisal S. Hazis.
He said the curb on the usage of government machinery is “very minor compared to what we have lined up in terms of reforms.”
“We are still far from having free and fair elections. Not using government machinery is only a small part of the reform agenda. We are also looking at electoral offences and cleaning the electoral roll.”
“It is very difficult to differentiate party lines and government machinery as there are no laws under the Electoral Offences Act which touch on abuse of government machinery,” said Faisal, who made clear that he is not speaking on behalf of EC, but giving his opinion as a commissioner on what Dr Mahathir had said on Tuesday.
According to Dr Mahathir, the EC should reconsider prohibitions on ministers and politicians with government posts from campaigning during working hours.
“The EC drew up these conditions, and we find it grossly unfair to the government. We are going to ask the EC to reconsider their condition against government officers from campaigning (during working hours). They (the Opposition) can campaign 24 hours but the ministers can’t do the same,” said Dr Mahathir.Faisal said the government must understand that to have a democratic government, it should give full support to the the new EC to introduce reforms.
“We are not working on reforms in silos but with political parties on both sides. As a commissioner, I believe in EC standing firm on decisions that we have made even if it tramples the ruling party. Both sides (EC and the government) should learn to respect the mandate of the people.
“We are trying to create a level playing field. If we do not curtail (the usage of government machinery), we will regress to what it was (under Barisan Nasional),” said Faisal.
Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 said the EC must not budge from its reforms. which are in line with international resolutions against corruption.
“EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun must stand firm on this restriction to avoid any perception that the EC is controlled by Dr Mahathir, who has called for its relaxation,” it said.
It noted that the restriction on political activity of public officials outside the scope of their office is in line with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 51/59 Actions against Corruption.
Bersih 2.0 suggested that ministers take leave when campaigning and that certain exceptions be made for the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers over the usage of government vehicles and security staff during elections.