Without specifically mentioning the detail, polls reform advocacy group Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan raised yesterday the specter of the 650,000 newly registered voters who could not vote in the 1999 general election because they failed to register early enough.
the days before computerised registration became de rigueur, it took
six months for a newly registered voter to be added to the rolls.
lag has been cut to three months through computerisation which was the
reason Ambiga, speaking at a public forum organised by Aliran at the
Caring Society Complex in Penang, urged her audience of some 600 people
to not only get the vote out at the coming general election but also to
canvass the eligible but yet-to-register hordes to enlist as voters.
revealed that the latest figures from the Election Commission put the
number of registered voters in Malaysia, as at June 30, 2012, at 13.1
“There are another three million people who are eligible to vote but have not registered,” she disclosed.
is time still for them to register such that they become eligible to
vote if the election is held in March or April next year,” she said.
She urged concerned Malaysians to put in the effort to get the eligible unregistered to register.
May 1999, 650,000 people, including such surprisingly unregistered
notables as economics professor Jomo Kwame Sundram, hurried to register
as voters at the 10th general election.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the
then prime minister, had his back to the wall battling adverse public
reaction to the sacking and jailing of his popular deputy, Anwar Ibrahim
- a situation that saw hitherto apathetic sections of the public hurry
to register as voters.
Massive voter turnout crucial
In fact, Jomo (right)
sued the EC for being niggardly in the facilitation of his right to
vote, but Mahathir circumvented by a hair’s breadth the impact of the
650,000 new registrants by calling the country’s 10th general election
for late November 1999.
If the polls were held a month later, who
knows what the outcome would have been because the eventual difference
between the BN’s share of the popular vote and that of the hastily
composed Barisan Alternatif, which welded the newly formed Parti
Keadilan Nasional (forerunner of the present PKR), DAP and PAS in a
pact, did not exceed 650,000.
Ambiga said the EC was giving
Bersih the runaround with respect to complaints by the polls reform
pressure group of irregularities in the electoral rolls.
that despite this, the group would be relentless in pressing their case
for reform but to “mitigate the possibility of fraud” conscientised
Malaysians, who turned up in droves for the Bersih-organised public
demonstrations, of July 2011 and April 2012, must help get the three
million eligible yet-to-register voters registered and must help get the
vote out on polling day.
“Usually, only 70 percent of those
registered turn up to vote,” said Ambiga, who added she was hugely
enthused by the good turnout for the forum despite inclement weather.
She said that getting people to register and then getting the vote out would be a tremendous help in “mitigating fraud.”
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