MALAYSIA’S electoral management body, the Election Commission (EC), has successfully managed 13 general elections since independence.
The general elections and by-elections were conducted within the existing legal framework and the election results have consistently reflected the overall political will of the Malaysian electorate.
The dilemma of the EC is that in trying to be objective and professional, it is viewed negatively by some parties who perceive the EC to be an extension of the bureaucracy. Regardless of such a perception, the EC should continue to carry out its responsibilities without fear or favour.
It would be in the interest of the EC and the country if it finds a strategy to win over and gain the hearts, minds and confidence of the Malaysian electorate.
Simultaneously, the EC could convince and prove to the international community that it has always been transparent and fair in being a “referee” in the political or electoral contests of the country.
In the 13th General Elections, a total of 18 international observers were invited by the EC to monitor the electoral processes at several polling centres.
The observers invited were from the Asean Secretariat and countries in Asean such as Thailand and Cambodia.
The image and reputation of Malaysia and the Election Commission of Malaysia specifically will be further enhanced if the international observers invited comprise those outside of the Asean countries too.
Observers invited could also be from professional groups and organisations like the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organisation of American States, the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the African Union, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
Normally, these high-quality monitors will initially send Long-Term Observers (LTOs) who will then monitor the entire electoral process in a wider political situation.
These LTOs will also monitor the media, looking at the legal framework, campaign environment and inspect relevant tasks like voter registration, advance or postal voting.
The Short-Term Observers (STOs), on the other hand, will begin their work on polling day by monitoring the opening of polling stations, the votes cast, the ballot counting and tabulation of electoral results.
After polling day, the observers will monitor shortcomings or complaints about elections-related matters. Reports on the findings of the observers will be made public and presented to the EC.
The EC has consistently participated with international groups in electoral monitoring of elections in several countries.
It is therefore appropriate and justifiable for the EC to further demonstrate and showcase its competency in managing a free and fair 14th General Elections in our country by inviting international electoral observers from outside Asean too.
The Declaration of Principles of International Election Observation describes international electoral observation as “the impartial and professional analysis of systematically gathered information on the conduct of election”.
By allowing highly reputed and unbiased international observers to monitor the country’s 14th General Elections, the following objectives will be achieved:-
> Gain domestic and international respect as the act of allowing international observers in itself shows that the EC has nothing to hide;
> As it is generally believed, election observers do help losers to have confidence in the electoral system and finally to accept that the election is free and fair. They will ultimately accept the election results.
This will definitely promote peaceful transfer of power;
> Enhance the credibility of the EC and the country;
> The EC will gain “public confidence” as required and as stipulated in Article 114 of the Federal Constitution;
> Give credibility and legitimacy to any political party that wins the elections and the Government that comes to power;
> The presence of international observers will definitely instil trust in the electoral system;
> The presence of international observers will deter fraud and intimidation;
> While demonstrating the neutral stand and independence of the electoral body, the presence of observers will definitely enhance the EC’s image internationally;
> The international monitoring of the 14th General Elections will help to enhance the quality of democracy in Malaysia.
MOHAMED MOKHTAR AHMAD BAJUNID