Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak vows to reform Election Commission
Agence France-Presse in Kuala Lumpur
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday announced he would reform the nation's Election Commission amid opposition allegations that recent polls were tainted by fraud.
But poll-reform activists said the proposal was a "band-aid remedy for fixing a huge wound" and called for the body's leadership to resign, claiming they were biased towards the 56-year ruling coalition.
Najib said a special, bipartisan parliamentary committee would be set up to oversee the commission, which is in charge of running elections, to "strengthen public confidence" in it.
"I understand that sections of the public want to see our election processes strengthened. I am announcing these improvements to our electoral system in the spirit of unity and national reconciliation," he said in a speech to mark the Malaysian king's birthday.
He gave no further details.
Senior opposition politician Lim Kit Siang said the move was a "step in the right direction" but lacked details. He added that the commission's top officials must resign if the body "is to command full public confidence".
Ambiga Sreenevasan, who heads Bersih, a coalition of NGOs that has organised several mass protests for electoral reforms in recent years, also called for the officials' resignation, dismissing the announcement.
"It will not work. To me, it's not an answer. It's a band-aid remedy for fixing a huge wound." She added that the commission should be independent and not overseen by a parliamentary committee.
Najib's Barisan Nasional won 133 of 222 parliamentary seats in the hard-fought May 5 polls but gained less than half of the popular vote. The opposition and activists claim this is due to gerrymandering, one of many of the electoral system's problems. They also decried the fact that the supposedly indelible ink - introduced by the government as a safeguard against multiple voting - washed off easily.
Tens of thousands of people have flocked to opposition rallies throughout the country since the polls to protest against the alleged fraud.
The opposition insists it would have won the elections. The government has denied any fraud took place and said the elections were fair.