GE14 Roundup: Lest we forget

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on May 14, 2018 - May 20, 2018.
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THE Election Commission contributed to the BN’s defeat in GE 14, knowingly or unknowingly, by its action as well as inaction — action against Pakatan Harapan for seemingly “trivial matters” and inaction against the BN for what many saw as “the flouting of election rules and regulations”.

In short, the EC was perceived to be biased towards the BN. And every time the commission acted against Pakatan Harapan , it was seen to be doing so at the behest of the incumbents.

Voters got riled up and decided to punish BN via the ballot box, the results of which we know very well now.

The EC has always been accused of favouring the BN but this time, it went overboard. At least that’s how many see it, including yours truly.

Even before parliament was dissolved, people were already talking about how the EC would help BN win the election, using the delineation exercise as a clear example to prove their point.

It’s all accusations, if you like . But the EC somehow did its best to prove its critics right as the election loomed.

The fixing of polling day on Wednesday was strongly criticised as a move that made it difficult for outstation and overseas voters, in particular, to cast their votes since it would require them to take several days’ leave.

Its flip-flop over the use of a common logo by the opposition was another issue that raised many an eyebrow and set tongues wagging .

The removal of Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s images from Pakatan’s billboards and posters was childish, to say the least, and only succeeded in making even more people angry, including so-called non-partisans.

The reason given for banning Mahathir’s image was that he was not the president of the contesting party, which is PKR. As all Pakatan candidates were using the PKR symbol as their common logo, the EC felt that only Datuk Seri Wan Azizah’s image could be used by virtue of her position as PKR president.

Yet, the commission allowed huge images of Tengku Adnan Mansor on billboards and posters all over the federal territory despite him being only the secretary-general, and not the chairman, of BN.

And, of course, we remember all too well what happened on nomination day in Batu, Rantau and many more constituencies. No elaboration needed.

The “strict” interpretation of election laws by the EC’s returning officers deprived some candidates of their right to contest.

EC chairman Tan Sri Hashim Abdullah’s response to the complaints, saying “if you are not happy, take it to the courts” didn’t go down well with a lot of people.

And the list goes on ... Most would be familiar with the grouses, so I see no reason to go into more detail.

But here’s the thing — the EC might have its reasons, or should I say, justification for doing things that way. But the level of mistrust among the public was so high that every move it made was seen as designed to help the BN.

The long queues on election day at voting centres — which saw voters having to wait for hours before casting their votes —  was seen as a delaying tactic to frustrate pro-Pakatan voters or prevent them from voting by making them so fed up that they would leave.

That was the accusation.

The refusal to allow voting hours to be extended to accommodate those who could not make the 5pm cut-off time because to the long queues made matters worse. People claimed they were denied of their right to vote because of the EC’s inefficiency .

Then, there were suspicions of extra votes being poured in during the counting process. Nothing was proven but the suspicions remained.

Of course, the refusal of returning officers to sign the B14 forms to endorse the victories of Pakatan candidates made things more heated.

The delay in announcing the results on election night stirred up a frenzy of all kinds of accusations, one of which was that the EC was buying time for BN to manoeuvre and try to clinch victory via the back door.

But now that the results of the election — which obviously would have satisfied many of those who slammed the EC — will the accusations stop ?

Should Malaysians who complained about the commission just let bygones be bygones and kiss and make up?

I would say “no”. Yes, stop making accusations now, but don’t forgive and forget.

No, I am not talking about a vendetta, or suggesting that the new government go on a witch hunt.

But I must say I agree with former Bersih chair Maria Chin Abdullah, who urged all Malaysians “to hold the EC accountable for its inefficiency in managing GE 14”.

She said the rakyat have spoken and it is now time for us to chase our dreams for a brighter future but “at the same time, we should not set aside or forget the inefficiency shown by the EC in handling this election”.

Put simply, I would say reform is the order of the day .

New government, please take heed.

 

Mohsin Abdullah is a contributing editor who has covered politics for more than four decades

 

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