Free and Fair Election

Free and Fair Election The electoral system have to be fair and just and to ensure this, free and fair election will be held when the Parliament is dissolved or finish it’s sitting duration of 5 years. A free and fair election must be in orderly manner and it must not have Coup d’etat. Coup d’etat is meant by a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics . It is an alteration of an existing government by a small group that tend to create riots and chaos. The current Malaysia government believe that Bersih 2. 0 and 3. 0 is an attempted coup d’etat to topple the government – an allegation made by the Prime Minister himself.

But the 8 demands from Bersih 2. 0 have no bias standing against any of the governmental parties in Malaysia. Basically they just wanted a clean and fair election, which is the fundamental element in the electoral system. Malaysia practices the simple plurality system which is also known as ‘first-past-the-post system. The hallmark of this system is that constituencies are single-member constituencies and a candidate with the largest vote wins the electoral district even if it does not constitute an absolute majority of the electors.

Article 116 and 117 constitute that representatives at State and Federal level are divided into constituencies in accordance with the provisions contained in the Thirteenth Schedule. This system is following the Westminster post system which is also followed by UK and India. The MP who won the election does not usually equal to the majority of votes. They won the election by simple majority but not the entire popularity of the voters. The fundamental built on this system is that each voter is entitled to only one vote. Constituencies are approximately equal in population size so that it carries the same value.

All constituencies are single-member constituencies so that there are as many electoral districts as there are seats in the elected chamber. Only one ballot is held and the candidate obtaining the most votes is declared elected. Candidate with the largest vote wins. The advantages of the simple plurality system are that it produces a clear winner; it provides political stability; reduce the number of political parties represented in Parliament; enables stability in government and ensures easy passage of legislation through Parliament. Furthermore, it avours large groups and coalition and eliminates small parties, making it an easy tunnel for the legislation making to pass through. There is no perfection in everything, so does the political electoral system. One of the defects of first-past-the-post system is that it produces parliaments that are elected but not representative. Democratic legitimate is in doubt because the ascendancy of government population is usually below 50%. Voters who voted for unsuccessful candidates receive no representation in Parliament. In 1982, 60. 5% of the votes gave to the Barisan 85. 7% of the constituencies. In 2004, 63. % of the ballots translated to 90. 41 seats in the Dewan Rakyat. These flaws can be minimized with the system of proportional representation where the parliamentary seats are given to the parties in proportion to the number of votes obtained by them. In single transferable vote system, a candidate is elected only if he obtains the quota of the vote cast. It is a multi-member constituency but each voter has only one vote and he is required to mark out his preference for different candidates. In the list system,each party is allowed to put up a list of candidates equal to the number of seats to be filled.

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The voter gives his vote to the whole list en bloc. There must have an honest and competent administration to run the election so that the election will be fair. The Election Commission must be fair. Article 114(2) of FC written that in appointing members of the Election Commission the YDPA shall have regard to the importance of securing an Election Commission which enjoys public confidence. This implies that public confidence is essential and to gain the public trust, independent and fair Election Commission is a must.

In Article 114(4)(b) and (c) also clearly stated that the YDPA shall by order remove from office any member of the Election Commission if such member engages in any paid office or employment outside the duties of his office or is a member of either House of Parliament or of the Legislative Assembly of a State. By staying away from the executive and legislative branch, it prevents the Election Commission from choosing side or bias towards any of the party in the election. Even their remuneration comes from consolidated fund as stated in Article 114(5) of Federal Constitution.

This proves that the Election Commission is neutral from the government. Their duties are to conduct election, keep the election roll clean and constitutes boundary as listed. Mobilising organisations like political parties aided our country to envisage democracy. Non-political associations and organisations like firms, industries, trade unions and religious organisations help to create and mobilize public opinion. This indicates that developed system of a political party is essential to ensure fair and free election. In Malaysia political parties are allowed but they must apply for registration under Societies Act.

Nearly 34 political parties are registered with the Registrar of Societies. The ruling Barisan National is the world’s most enduring political coalition. Starting out as the Alliance since 1955, today it has 14 parties, 9 which won federal parliamentary seats. There are 20 registered opposition parties, 4 of which gained parliamentary representation. To achieve a free and fair election, candidates must apply the general rules of fair play. Equal chances should be given to each participating parties to conduct their election campaign.

Election campaign could be conducted through media and spreading their propaganda. Shifting voters illegally, creating “phantom” voters, granting illegal immigrants citizenship and the right to vote, buying votes, handing out cash aid to vulnerable groups, and intimidating voters are crimes of election and must not be conducted in any way. The use of propaganda is limited in some countries by forbidding use of opinion polls, newspaper advertisement and house to house campaigns. Giving of free transport, food and bribes to the electorate is forbidden.

But government after government gets around the law by promising or delivering “development aid” just before the election (Prof. Shad Saleem Faruqi, 2008). In Malaysia, under the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1959-82, the period for election campaign has been progressively shortened from the period of 147 days to a minimum of 11 days. The conduct of the campaign is supposed to be fair and equal to each participating parties. But the Government’s ban on political processions on the alleged ground of security make the certain parties unable to reach the electorate and to mobilise public opinion.

The short campaign period limits out the other parties to reach out to the electorate. The ownership and control of the mainstream print and electronic media by the Government or groups affiliated with the ruling coalition like TV3, Bernama and Berita Harian gives the Government an unfair advantage over its opponents. These issues need to be addressed and redressed. The right to speech, assembly and association are the essential pillars of a democratic set-up; to reach the goal of free and fair election. Speech, assembly and association are restrained considerably in Malaysia.

Though Article 10(1) enshrines these freedoms, Articles 10(2), 10(4), 149 and 150 permit the Parliament to impose restrictions on the exercise of these freedoms on 14 constitutionally permissible grounds. A plethora of laws has been enacted under the authority of the Constitution to ensure that electoral zeal does not compromise race relations, national security and public order. As in during ordinary or election campaign, processions, public rallies and assemblies are not allowed except with a police permit under the Police Act. The recent case of Bersih 2. rally was an assembly that was not permitted by the Police Act, although their organization was legal and permitted. The root to achieve fair and free election results is through the votes. Malaysia uses the “One vote, one value” which is based on one cardinal principle- that constituencies should be approximately equal in population size so as to give reality to the principle of one person, one vote, one value. This principle is an offshoot of the rule of equality before the law. The weightage of the votes are differ based on geographical areas, basically categorized into rural and urban area.

The Baker v Carr rules gives parliaments a primarily urban bias. For this reason many countries including Malaysia allow rural constituencies to be smaller in population size than urban electoral districts. “Rural” or “urban” are not defined in the Constitution and wide disparities in population exist from constituency to constituency. Population, geographical size and the urban-rural dichotomy seem to have exerted influence. Labuan, Putrajaya, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Sabah and Perlis are over-represented. Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor and Terengganu are under-represented in the federal legislature.

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