Election Commission deputy chief Wan Ahmad Wan Omar today acknowledged the heat the commission has had to take on electoral reform but explained that it also had the arduous task of having to bargain with the government.

NONEElaborating on one of the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform’s recommendation for equal access to media, Wan Ahmad (left) said the EC had to first convince the government as the public media was controlled by the Information, Communications and Culture Ministry.

“It has always been the policy of the government that the public media is a government media, this is an open secret... The policy that public media is government media was not just made last month, it has been practised a long time.

“When we discuss, we try to tell them that public media belong to the public, it is public money. The government understands this but they justify that they want to give information and don’t want it to be abused to confuse the rakyat,” he told a forum organised by the National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIEI) yesterday.

As such, he said it was only after several rounds of meetings that the EC was able to convince the government to give up some ground in at least allowing the opposition manifesto to be presented over public media.

Similarly, Wan Ahmad said the EC is preparing guidelines for a caretaker government but again has to be meticulous before taking it up with the government.

NONE“We are not done yet (on the guidelines), we want to start with the federal government. It will be very soon and we must be very thorough.

“We don’t want to go to the government and the government says no, we want it to be implemented,” he said.

However, he expressed confidence that the government would react positively as Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had often spoke of political transformation.

The guidelines, he said, would spell out the separating of party and government machinery during the general election and would also apply to both BN and Pakatan Rakyat-controlled state governments.

'Gov’t pressured to empower the commission'

Despite the pressure on the EC, Wan Ahmad said it has in some ways been positive as the government in turn is also pressured to empower the commission.

niei k shan election forum pj 201012He said with the pressure, the Public Services Commission finally granted the EC more personnel  to help on electoral reforms and it will next year have its own headquarters help shape its independent image rather than having to “squat” with other government agencies.

He also advised civil society to engage the EC on electoral reforms.

When approached, NIEI acting director K Shan (right) said the EC’s gesture was a step in the right direction.

“I think after the parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms, there was a vacuum in the process in terms of the reform timeline because there was nobody to oversee it.

“But now we are moving into a stage where we are looking at the details (of electoral reforms),” he said.