The much awaited regulations that covers the procedures of advance voting was finally gazetted via the ELECTION (CONDUCT OF ELECTION) (AMENDMENT)(2) REGULATIONS 2012 which came into effect on 30 April 2012.
This is the second amendment in 2012. The first amendment was gazetted in February 2012 and effective from 13 February 2012. The first amendment was mainly in relation to a complete replacement of Regulation 19 and the introduction of a new regulation 19A due to the use of indelible ink in the normal polling procedures. EC had previously stated that indelible ink would be used on advance voters but the first amendment was entirely referring to normal voters and the second amendment though were mainly on advance voting but failed to mention a single word on the polling procedures. Hence, there is uncertainty on the use indelible ink on advance voters. The second amendment introduced 3 new regulations to cover advance voting. 27A defines the persons required to vote as advance voters; 27B covers the safe custody the advance ballot box and 27C explains the counting of votes of advance voters.
27A states that all arm forces and their spouses and so are all polices and their spouses but excluding RELA shall be required to vote as advance voters. Only a member of the arm forces and the police force who could not vote on the date fixed for advance voting can apply to vote through postal voting. The spouse of a police has finally been gazetted as an advance voter via 27A(1)(d). A point to note here is that EC had been registering the spouses of police forces as postal voters before they were legally considered as either postal or advance voters. The EC in the FAQ section of it’s website has clearly indicated that the spouse of a police is a postal voter long before 30 April 2012 contravening the laws in existence then. This is yet another piece of evidence that the EC has acted beyond the power conferred upon it when it is advantages towards BN. When an act by the EC would put BN in a disadvantage position, it will claim that it does not have the power to do so such as the removal of doubtful voters in the principal electoral roll when Regulation 25 of the Election (Registration of Electors) Regulations clearly confer upon the EC a discretionary power to remove anyone for any reason. It is believed that EC has been using Regulation 25 to remove non-BN supporters from the principal electoral all these years as there were just far too many complaints that electors’ names were deleted for no reason.
27B explains the advance ballot box shall be in the safe custody of the returning officer or in accordance with the arrangement of the EC until the counting on polling day. 27C explains that all the procedures apply to the counting of normal votes shall apply to the counting of votes of advance voters.
There is no new regulation similar to 27C that says that the normal voting procedures shall also apply to the voting procedures for advance voting. Without a specific new Regulation similar to 27C on voting procedures, it is uncertain whether the EC is managing the voting procedures inside an army camp or police quarters. The existing postal voting regulations also are silent as to who should manage the voting procedures inside an army camp or police quarters. However, the practice thus far is the arm forces and polices themselves are managing everything inside the army camps and the police quarters. Hence, many candidates or their agents who do not know that they need to apply for a special entry permit for his agents from the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Domestic Affairs in addition to the EC’s tags will not be able to enter the army camps or police quarters to monitor and observe the voting processes. Hence, many stories of votes rigging were told all these years due to no one were there in the camps or the quarters to observe and monitor the voting process. Hence, the strategies of the non-BN parties would be to reject as many ballot papers as possible during the opening of postal envelops stage. The 2010 Sibu by-election was a classic case where DAP won through the rejection of a big number of postal ballot papers in the opening of envelops stage. EC has now introduced advance voting to get rid of the use of envelops and declaration forms as required under postal voting. However, the voting procedures are left silent as in postal voting. Hence, EC is clearly assisting BN to completely remove the risk of any ballot papers being rejected before counting commences but still retaining the power to manage the advance voting procedures with the arm forces and the polices. By not clearing defining the voting procedures for advance voting in the army camps or police quarters, EC is clearly seen to have purposely designed it this way to allow votes ringing to perpetuate.
Since there is no reference in the new 27A, 27B and 27C to the revised Regulation 19 and the new Regulation 19A on the normal voting procedures, indelible ink will not be mandatory to the advance voters before the issuance of ballot papers. Hence, 100% turn-out for advance voters could be achieved through personation.
Finally, 27C explains the procedures of counting of votes by normal electors shall apply to the counting of votes by advance voters. But where the votes of advance voters will be counted and whether under the supervision of the presiding officer or the returning officer is not explicitly stated as for normal votes. In the case of normal votes, counting is in the polling station under the supervision of the presiding officer, and as for the postal votes, in the main tallying center under the supervision of the returning officer. As the place which the votes of advance voters is to be counted is not explicitly stated, the place of custody of the advance ballot box referred to in 27B is also not explicit.
To sum it all, the above amendment regulations and the recently passed amendment bill on Election Offences Act has demonstrated that the EC has done nothing apart from allowing vote rigging to perpetuate.
National Deputy Sec-Gen of PKR
National Deputy Sec-Gen of PKR