Malaysian opposition raises alarm over jump in new voters

Election Commission chief Mohd Hashim Abdullah (left) said that if a political party finds that  voters have been shifted,  it should file objections.
Election Commission chief Mohd Hashim Abdullah (left) said that if a political party finds that voters have been shifted, it should file objections.PHOTO: UTUSAN MALAYSIA

Election body says normal to see spike in voter registrations when elections are near

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's opposition leaders have expressed alarm at the sudden spike in voter registrations in the last two quarters, claiming this could affect them at the general election.

The opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) has claimed "massive" shifting of voters in Kelantan that could weaken its position in the state that it has ruled since 1990.

The opposition leaders are asking to meet the Election Commission (EC), the government agency that approves the registration of new voters and has the right to shift voter addresses.

The EC, an agency under the Prime Minister's Department, is often accused of working to strengthen the electoral position of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) at the expense of the opposition parties.

The former EC chief, who is now a vice-president of opposition Parti Bersatu Pribumi Malaysia, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, said new voter registrations has jumped in the last three months of last year, and in the first three months of this year.

Previously, Malaysians who registered as new voters averaged a steady 70,000 every quarter in the last four years ago in 2013.

FILE COMPLAINT

If a political party finds that there have been (voters) being shifted, then file objections.

MR MOHD HASHIM ABDULLAH, Election Commission chief.

"The new voters registration was eight times higher than normal. It had been steady at around 70,000 per quarter since 2013," Mr Rashid told a news conference on Wednesday, reported Free Malaysia Today news site.

Voting is not compulsory in Malaysia, with political parties often taking on the job of registering new voters, especially when a general election is due. Nationwide polls are widely speculated to be called later this year.

In his response yesterday, EC chief Mohd Hashim Abdullah said he bears no ill feelings towards his predecessor-turned-critic.

"Personally, I am not offended. When a politician says something to me, it is from a political perspective," Mr Hashim told reporters, as quoted by Malaysiakini news site.

He said the surge in voter registration is normal when elections are due. There were 13.6 million registered voters in June last year, out of the total population of some 32 million.

Meanwhile, PAS deputy president Ibrahim Tuan Man claimed the shifting of voters in Kelantan would favour Umno-led BN.

In Malaysia, a voter is allowed to change his voting address to another constituency although his postal address is retained. This is to let someone who has a home in, say, Johor, change his voting address to Kuala Lumpur, where he works.

But Datuk Tuan Ibrahim said he has seen pro-BN voters being moved into Kelantan wards though they do not work or live there. "We will lodge a protest with the EC as we found that there had been a massive shifting of voters, particularly in several constituencies in Kelantan," Mr Ibrahim was quoted by The Star yesterday as saying.

In response, Mr Mohd Hashim said: "If a political party finds that there have been (voters) being shifted, then file objections."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysian opposition raises alarm over jump in new voters'. Print Edition | Subscribe