Thursday May 10, 2012
Electoral Bill withdrawn
By MARTIN CARVALHO
KUALA LUMPUR: The Election Offences Amendment Bill passed in Parliament in April will be withdrawn following resistance from lawmakers on both sides of the political divide.
“Since there was a lot of resistance, the Government has decided to abort the Bill after consultation with the Opposition and the Election Commission (EC),” Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz told reporters at Parliament lobby here yesterday.
He said the decision was based on consensus from Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers and the EC with a motion to be tabled in the Dewan Negara today to withdraw the Bill.
Nazri, who is also minister in charge of Parliamentary affairs, explained that the Bill was introduced following recommendations from the EC last year.
“Out of respect for the EC's independence, we agreed to the EC's recommendations in toto,” he said.
However, he noted that the Bill ran into resistance in the Dewan Rakyat with three amendments made during debates, while lawmakers in the Senate voiced their intention to call for two more changes.
He said EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof had also concluded that the numerous amendments would have made the initial changes meaningless.
In light of the withdrawal, Nazri said existing laws under the Election Offences Act 1954 would remain in use.
Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang, who spoke on behalf of Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers, said the decision was agreed upon by all parties concerned.
However, he said the EC should hold public consultations with relevant parties before proposing amendments to electoral laws in future to avoid a similar situation.
The amendments were aimed at streamlining and improving the polling process.
Among the changes were the removal of the mandatory requirement for the appointment of a polling or counting agent by a candidate's election agent.
It also expanded the exclusion zone for non-authorised persons from 50m to 100m at polling stations.
The proposed changes also did away with the need for election posters and banners to display details of the printers.
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad expressed concerns that the withdrawal of the amendments would give way to “all sorts of unwanted events” that the Government might not be able to handle.
On a separate issue, Nazri clarified that Abdul Aziz was no longer an Umno member as his membership had lapsed.
He said the EC chairman had been registered as a member by neighbours at a surau in Ampang where he lived 30 years ago.
However, he said Abdul Aziz's membership lapsed after he failed to pay his annual membership fee.