Voting rights for Malaysians overseas welcome, but not without scrutiny

By MyOverseasVote

MyOverseasVote warmly welcomes yesterday’s announcement by the Chairman of the Election Commission (EC), Abdul Aziz Yusof, that all Malaysian citizens living overseas will have the right to vote by post, hopefully by the time of the next general election.

For the past year, MyOverseasVote have been lobbying the EC to extend the right to vote by post to all citizens residing overseas, and not just civil servants, servicemen and students.

While we are gratified that our position has, with the help of public pressure and the influence of the global Bersih 2.0 campaign, now been accepted in principle, MyOverseasVote will continue to monitor the details put forward and seek to work with the EC to ensure that the right to vote for Malaysian citizens overseas is realised expeditiously and in good time for the next general election, while also ensuring that the electoral system is not thereby opened up to any potential abuse.

To that end, MyOverseasVote now calls upon the EC to engage constructively with all political parties and with civil society on the following issues:

Registration of Voters

While responsibility for registering must lie with individual overseas voters, the EC must ensure that Malaysian missions overseas have the knowhow and resources to deal with registrations and enquiries by Malaysians who wish to register to vote.

For too long, the EC and Wisma Putra have simply pointed the finger at one another and made excuses for the fact that Malaysian missions have routinely turned away Malaysian citizens who wished to register to vote.

Suitability of Voting Mechanism

The current 2003 postal voting regulations provide for postal ballots to be sent directly by constituency returning officers to absent voters by post, and for the ballots to be returned to the constituency returning officers in the same manner. For many parts of the world, this process will take at least three or four weeks.

Either the campaigning period must be sufficiently long for postal ballots to be sent and returned in the normal manner, or the EC must consider implementing a system of advanced voting at Malaysian missions overseas.

Security of the voting system

Whatever method is selected, it is crucial for public confidence in the electoral system that the EC must ensure that there is no potential for postal ballots to be intercepted, either on the way to or on the way from the voter.

Timing of the amendments

Adequate time must be left for Malaysian citizens to register under the new regulations so they can be registered in good time for the next general election.

(For more information on MyOverseasVote, contact MyOverseasVote@gmail.com or visit www.MyOverseasVote.org