Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Incremental Change in the Electoral Process?

Written by johnleemk on 1:53:24 pm Jun 9, 2007.
Categories: ,

I believe that if Malaysia is going to see change, that change will come gradually and incrementally. I have been trying to observe the direction our society is going in incrementally, but my last request for reader observations has so far met with no response.

Still, brainstorming and looking for where change is ongoing, I have realised that one area seeing quite a bit of change (relative to the glacial progress of most other areas) is the electoral process.

That there is something terribly wrong with how Malaysia runs its electoral system is undeniable. (Despite these flaws, though, boycotting the elections would be incredibly foolish.)

There are, however, attempts underway to clean things up. The BERSIH campaign for clean elections in particular has been responsible for organising efforts to lobby the Electoral Commission to get its act together.

Of course, the EC is hamstrung by its lack of independence from the government, and this will not really improve things as far as the situation goes for issues like gerrymandering, malapportionment, ridiculous campaigning restrictions, and probably vote-buying as well.

Nevertheless, impressively BERSIH has been quite successful in at least getting the EC to acknowledge that change in this area is needed, and better still, getting the EC to take small, incremental steps to change in the right direction.

For example, it has long been a practice to print serial numbers on both sheets of ballot paper and their counterfoils. The ballot carries no sign of the voter's identity, but the counterfoil does.

As a result, if the counterfoil carries a serial number which can be matched to the ballot, it would be a relatively trivial task to see who one has voted for, provided you have both the counterfoils and ballot papers.

Thanks to BERSIH's efforts, the secrecy of the ballot has been somewhat restored, with the EC getting rid of this practice of serialising counterfoils.

In addition, other measures to improve the transparency and fairness of elections have been taken, or are at least being considered. The EC has begun to use transparent instead of opaque ballot boxes to deter ballot stuffing, and has also agreed in principle to marking voters with indelible ink, so as to prevent multiple votes.

These don't seem like much, but incremental change never seems like much. You never realise it is upon you until it builds up and reaches a critical mass.

Perhaps I'm speaking too soon, but I think there's a chance incremental change could be working in our electoral process. If so, this can only be for the better.


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