©Malay Mail (Used by permission)
as published in Malay Mail on 21 June 2011
RAKYAT GUIDES 9: PART 2
PREVIOUSLY, Rakyat Guides 9: Part 1, explained what an election is, how it is conducted and who is eligible to vote and become Members of Parliament. This week, we continue with the Elections Commission and some frequently asked questions.
What is the Elections Commission (EC)?
AS we explained earlier, the Constitution sets up the EC to run elections for the Dewan Rakyat. The EC also runs elections for the 13 State Legislative Assemblies.
The EC registers voters, prepares and updates the electoral rolls (which sets out the names of all persons who can vote), reviews the boundaries of the voting constituencies and makes recommendations to the Dewan Rakyat for changes to the boundaries.
The EC consists of a Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and five other members who are appointed by the Yang DiPertuan Agong after consultation with the Conference of Rulers. In selecting members, the Agong must have regard to the need to have an EC that enjoys public confidence.
A member of the EC may hold office up until he or she is 66 years old. That member shall be removed from office if he or she:
The EC’s chairperson cannot be a member of any board of directors or board of management of any body of a commercial nature whether or not he/she receives payment or profit.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Must I register if I wish to vote?
Yes, you must register with the EC to be a voter. Currently, you can register at any EC office in Malaysia or at a computerised post office. You can check the EC’s website at www.spr.gov.my to obtain more information on how to register. Once you register, it may take about four months before your name appears on the electoral roll and you are able to vote.
2. Is my vote a secret?
Under the law, every voter shall vote for the candidate standing for election by marking on a ballot paper that is then inserted into a secure ballot box. No person may ask you who or which political party you voted for. Since amendments to the law in 2006, no one should write your voter number on the counterfoil of the ballot paper given to you. This means your marked ballot paper cannot be traced back to you.
3. What is the ‘first–past–the–post’ voting system?
The Constitution does not say how elections are won. However, Parliament has provided that the candidate with he highest number of votes compared to other candidates will win in a constituency. This is known as the “first past the post”. This means that the candidate who wins may not have obtained the majority of the total votes.
For example, in Constituency X, Candidate 1 obtains 32 percent of the votes, Candidate 2 obtains 35 percent of the votes and Candidate 3 obtains 33 percent of the votes. None of the candidates obtains an absolute majority of more than 50 percent, yet the one with the most votes will be declared the winner. In this case, Candidate 2 is the winner. There are different systems practised in other countries.
4. What is a by–election?
A by–election is an election conducted for a particular constituency when there is a “casual vacancy”. This can happen when an MP dies, resigns or is disqualified. However, the casual vacancy need not be filled if it happens within two years of Parliament being dissolved unless it affects the strength of the party with the majority number of MPs in the Dewan Rakyat.
5. Who is an ‘absent voter’?
An absent voter is a citizen registered as being unable to physically attend at the voting station of his/her constituency to cast his/ her vote on the voting day. The EC has determined that those serving in the navy, military or air force or are in public service of the Government on duty outside Malaysia, or are engaged in full–time studies at any higher educational institution outside Malaysia may register as absent voters. The spouses of such people may also register as absent voters.
Absent voters vote by postal ballots, which means that the ballot papers are delivered to where they are situated for them to cast their votes. The ballot papers are then returned to the relevant constituency to be counted.
6. Must a person be a member of a political party to be a candidate at elections for the Dewan Rakyat?
No. A candidate that is not contesting as a member of any political party is known as an “independent candidate”.
7. Is there a limit to how much a candidate can spend on an election campaign?
Parliament has determined that a candidate for the Dewan Rakyat can spend a maximum of RM200,000. However, this does not include the amount that political parties can spend on candidates.
8. Can we vote to choose Senators for the Dewan Negara?
Currently, we cannot. There are 70 Senators who are selected as follows:
The Constitution does say however that Parliament may:
9. Can the results of an election be challenged?
Yes. A result may be challenged by filing an Election Petition in the High Court within 21 days of the results being published in the Government Gazette.
The grounds for challenge include:
10. Can the boundaries of the voting constituencies get changed?
Yes, if Parliament approves such change pursuant to recommendations by the EC which are made after conducting a review. The Constitution says that at least once in every eight years, the EC must review the boundaries for the constituencies of the Dewan Rakyat.
11. What principles does the EC apply in recommending changes to the boundaries?
The Constitution requires the EC to take into account several principles in its review such as:
12. How will I know if the constituency boundaries are being changed, and can people question the changes?
Once the EC conducts its review, it may make recommendations for changes to any constituency. It must inform the Dewan Rakyat Speaker and the Prime Minister of its recommendations, and publish in the Gazette and in at least one newspaper circulating in the constituency a notice stating:
So, once you see such a notice, you can make your representations to the EC and the EC shall consider such representations.
Also, any State Government or local authority affected by the recommendations or 100 or more persons who are on the current electoral rolls of the constituencies in question may make representations to the EC objecting to the recommendations – in which case, the EC must hold a local enquiry.
If the EC changes its recommendations, it goes through the process of publishing notices and seeking representations again. However, the EC need not hold more than two enquiries in respect of the recommendations.
After completing the procedure above, the EC submits its report to the Prime Minister who must present the report to the Dewan Rakyat
The recommendations must be approved by votes of not less than half (50%) of the total number of MPs to take effect.
13. How do I check if I am registered to vote and if so, at which polling station?
Check with the EC. Currently, you can go to the EC’s website at www.spr.gov.my for any information on your voting status.