A VIDEO of PKR supreme council member Azmizam Zaman Huri holding off two clashing groups of angry PKR members has become one of the most watched videos in recent days.
Azmizam was trying to cool down one group while Seberang Jaya assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin tried to hold back the other group.
The situation was quite tense and just moments earlier, a couple of chairs had been flung about by members who were unhappy about the party’s new electronic voting system, which they claimed was flawed and open to manipulation.
The Seberang Jaya fracas had come on the heels of another incident in Merbok, Kedah, earlier in the afternoon that saw members bashing each other with long sticks, prompting the FRU to be called in to control the situation.
It was a dramatic start to the PKR polls which has since been suspended till next week.
Azmizam, who is Port Klang assemblyman, had decided to head for Penang to observe the party’s e-voting system which is being used for the first time in the country.
His division in Selangor had a problematic time in the last party election in 2014 when tables were overturned and ballot boxes flew through the air.
Azmizam wanted to get a close-up look at the new system kicking off in Penang and learn how to anticipate possible problems.
Instead, he ended up in an all too familiar nightmare – caught in the middle of flying objects.
Had everything gone smoothly on Saturday, Perak and Perlis would have voted yesterday, followed by Negri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor this weekend.
Everything is on hold for a week in order for tempers to subside and for the election committee to fine-tune the teething problems which polls chairman Rashid Din has described as “technical glitches”.
But that is not going to assuage members given the diverse complaints coming in.
Amir Ghazali, who has been with PKR since 1998, got a shock when he found that his name was not in the voter registration list and he was not allowed to vote.
Even more ironic was that Amir is the incumbent Permatang Pauh division chief. He had decided to go for the vice-chief post this time around in order to make way for Nurul Izzah to become the new division chief and for Dr Afif to be the deputy chief.
The technical problem over Amir’s voting status saw him ending up with zero votes for the vice-chief post. The former division chief is now left with nothing.
“YB Izzah advised me to lodge an official complaint. I am also asking the party to stop the e-voting system because what happened has created suspicion among members. There are so many complaints, we have lost confidence in the new voting system,” said Amir.
A common complaint among some of those voting was that they were unable to vote for the candidate of their choice because the tablet device allegedly did not respond to their choice.
It is quite possible that the problem lies with members who are not familiar with using a tablet and having to browse through a long list of candidates for both the central leadership as well as the division leadership.
But such stories of unresponsive tablets can be very damaging for the credibility of the election process. It is like those stories of Bangladeshis voting in the general election, which although untrue, eventually acquired a life of its own.
Moreover, the election is taking place amid reports that several divisions and state had registered rather suspicious spikes in membership in June this year, shortly before the cut-off date for new members to be eligible to vote.
A party figure said the graph charts of the membership spikes looked like the “Petronas Twin Towers”. Another common complaint from the Kedah and Penang polls was that the e-voting system did not allow for verification by independent observers.
One of the complainants who lost by one vote had demanded a recount but was told that e-voting is supposed to be “perfect”, with no need for a recount.
The Penang fracas happened at the end of a problematic day of voting in the state. Members, including several from the Bagan division, had gathered at a late night press conference in Seberang Jaya called by Rashid to announce the polls results in Penang.
The election committee, which had suspended the election of nine divisions in Kedah, also announced that the election results of all the other Kedah divisions had been nullified.
The crowd at the Seberang Jaya venue was expecting Rashid to also nullify the results of some of the Penang divisions where there had been similar problems and complaints.
They got angry when he announced that the Penang election results had been accepted in toto by the election committee.
That was when tempers flared. Some of those present tried to stop the committee members from leaving the room and then things got out of hand.
Dr Afif had to calm down the crowd by calling another press conference to air their grievances on their behalf.
“People are questioning the integrity of the new voting system. They think it is open to manipulation, they will not move on if they have no confidence in the process,” said Dr Afif, who is also vying for the top AMK post.
Dr Afif claimed that many divisions in Penang are not happy with the way the election was conducted and he wants secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution to take responsibility and explain.
Rashid has since issued a statement where his explanation of the problems faced last weekend seems to suggest that the party was not well-prepared for such an ambitious system of voting.
But Rashid also seemed confident that the issues have been ironed out and the polls will resume next Sunday in Johor.
The party needs to ensure the polls run smoothly otherwise the negative vibes may impact on the crucial by-election starting soon in Port Dickson.
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