11 April 2018
According to recent United Nations estimates, the number of Malaysians abroad soared to 2.7 million in 2017 from less than 1.3 million in 2010 (1). As most of the Malaysian diaspora are recent emigrants, it is likely that the majority are registered voters. Of the total of 15 million registered voters, it’s also likely that a significant proportion of these are living and working overseas.
Yesterday, the EC announced that polling day for GE14 will take place on Wednesday, 9 May 2018, only 11 days after nomination day on 28 April.
The majority of overseas Malaysians – all those who live and work in Singapore, southern Thailand, Brunei and Kalimantan (Indonesia) – are excluded from voting from abroad by post. This is due to EC regulations put in place for the previous 13th general elections, and confirmed only in January as applicable to this year’s GE14. These Malaysians will have to travel home to their constituencies in order to vote. With polling day falling in the middle of the working week, instead of at the weekend, many Malaysians living and working in neighbouring countries will not be able to return to vote for financial or logistical reasons (2).
For Malaysians living and working further afield, and who were able to register as overseas postal voters, the EC, by fixing such an unreasonably short campaign period, appears to have effectively sabotaged the overseas postal voting process. PosLaju, which has been chosen by the EC to despatch overseas postal ballots (3), states that it can take up to 7 working days to send documents one way to most countries overseas. For instance, PosLaju EMS deliveries to New Zealand can take a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 5 working days one way, while deliveries to Italy can take a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 7 working days (4). The tight schedule announced by the EC — with only 8½ working days between nomination and polling — makes it impossible for postal ballots to be printed, despatched and returned by voters overseas in time to be counted on polling day, unless alternative delivery methods are employed.
Global Bersih and MOV call upon the EC to provide guarantees on an urgent basis that it will be possible for overseas postal ballots in GE14 to be printed, despatched and returned in time to be counted on polling day. If such guarantees are not forthcoming, Global Bersih and MOV will not hesitate to take all necessary legal steps to vindicate overseas Malaysians’ voting rights.