3 October 2016
The Election Commission needs to provide voter registration facilities at overseas missions and publicise this move without further delay as the next general elections loom. Over 1 million Malaysians living abroad should not be denied such access to registration facilities as it is part of their right to vote as citizens.
A combined effort by Global Bersih and MyOverseasVote to survey consulates, embassies and high commissions across the globe has shown that only the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore offers assistance for voter registration at the current time, as reported in Malaysiakini on 29 September 2016.
Our survey has shown that Malaysians across the world have been told to literally go home and register with the EC. In some cases, missions themselves were uncertain about whether registration is at all possible. Elsewhere, enquiries have remained unanswered.
If an election is called for March 2017, it will be too late for the vast majority of eligible Malaysians to sign up to vote.
The last window of opportunity to register for an election in the first quarter of 2017 was September 30. According to available statistics, this means that the majority of Malaysians who are eligible to vote will not be able to do so if the 14th general election is called early next year.
This is an unacceptable situation for Malaysians to find themselves in.
Voter registration should be a core function of overseas missions. The EC need only appoint Assistant Registrar Officers at these missions and publicise the appointments as soon as possible.
The stark contrast between Singapore and the other cities shows that voter registration is being carried out efficiently and openly, but uncertainty and confusion reign in most other cities.
Enquiries made after the survey have now shown that Malaysians may also register as first-time voters in Frankfurt, Germany and Washington USA.
Online searches conducted after the survey have shown that the website of the High Commission in Canberra states Malaysians may register as first-time voters at the mission, although a citizen who enquired during the survey period was told registration was not possible at the current time.
However, the same website continues to give incorrect and out-of-date information on postal voters, saying only Malaysian civil servants and full-time students abroad, and their spouses, were eligible. The survey showed that incorrect information on postal voting was also being given out by high commissions in London and Wellington.
The fact is, the categories of voters entitled to the postal vote now cover most Malaysians living overseas. The expansion of categories was the result of a legal challenge lodged by Malaysians against the EC, which was settled before the 13th general election was held on May 5 2013.
According to public responses to the survey results, as published in Malaysiakini, a citizen enquiring at two post offices in Malaysia on 28 September (Wednesday just passed) was told that the online system for registration had crashed, and that the situation would likely continue into the next day.
The more we look, the more we find that Malaysians are unable to register as voters.
Global Bersih and MOV jointly call on the Election Commission to address all these matters urgently, and to properly facilitate registration of voters everywhere, including post offices at home.
The results of our survey are now on the public record. If the Commission does not attend to these matters urgently, and publicise voter registration services at home and abroad, it would be hard to escape the conclusion that the EC does not want to encourage more citizens to participate in elections.
ANDREW YONG, MyOverseasVote
October 3, 2016
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