Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Phantom Voters Are Not the Problem

Written by johnleemk on 5:10:16 pm Jul 7, 2007.
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The campaigners for cleaner elections in Malaysia have been obsessively harping about one issue — the issue of phantom voting. Not many hear about the problems of dirty elections, but of those who have, most mainly know about the issue of phantom voters.

Basically, what happens is the government parties bring in voters not registered in the constituency, or uses voters who have already voted there, and gives them the identities of dead people so they can vote multiple times — of course for the government.

There are a number of shocking but dramatic examples, one such incident occurring in the recent Ijok by-election. In a constituency of 10,000 there were reportedly 31 people over the age of 100 — and eight of them voted in the by-election.

The hooha about phantom voting, however, does a disservice to the problems of elections in Malaysia. I am not sure why people have chosen to make this the lynchpin of the fight for clean elections, but phantom voters are far from the main, let alone the only problem with Malaysian elections.

If we want clean and fair elections, the main fight should be for proper delineation of constituencies. Gerrymandering and malapportionment have ensured that constituencies which vote opposition are reduced in number, while constituencies which support the government are increased, distorting election results.

Secondly, we should be campaigning for reforming how candidates may campaign. There are far too many restrictions on campaigning, which don't make sense and often end up being ignored anyway.

If we want free, fair and clean elections, we do ourselves a disservice by raising our voices solely on the issue of phantom voters. How many were there in Ijok? Enough to swing the by-election result? I doubt it.

The fact is, phantom voters are an insignificant problem in the bigger picture. What we ought to be doing is to emphasise the unfairness and injustice inherent in a system where the government can alter the size and number of constituencies at will to strengthen its power out of proportion to the mandate it has been given — a problem far larger than that of mundane and limited electoral fraud.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

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