KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - One of the priorities of Malaysia's incoming Election Commission (EC) chairman Azhar Harun is to change the public's perception of the EC by cleaning up the electoral roll.
Azhar said as there were perennial problems with the roll, he would be looking into this when he starts work on Friday (Sept 28), a day before nomination day for the Port Dickson by-election.
"We have to relook at those 104-year-olds who are still voting in our country," he said.
"Phantom voters... Somebody else may be carrying the IC to vote for them, although I do not know how prevalent this problem is," said Azhar, who is better known as Art Harun.
He told The Star in an exclusive interview on Monday (Sept 24): "With regard to those 104-year-olds or 94-year-olds or whatever, there is an explanation. I have seen the explanation before.
"The National Registration did not inform the EC on the death of these people or they may have been dead but there is no death certificate. That's the problem.
"The EC cannot just look at the electoral roll and find the 104-year-olds and strike them out. We can't."
Azhar said with such problems, the EC was stuck as there were procedures that needed to be followed. He assured genuine voters that he would look into it and solve the problem.
With regard to the redelineation exercise that was done prior to the 14th general election, Azhar, 56, who is the first EC chairman from outside the civil service, said he would be consulting all stakeholders and would then decide on what to do with it.
He said he would be forming an engagement initiative within the EC where it would consult political parties - government or opposition - non-governmental organisations and civil society groups, among others.
"That is one of the initiatives that I am thinking of. We will then sit down with them, listen to whatever proposal they may have and we will then give due thought to consider them. And, if it is good for the country and for the democratic practices, then we will adopt and recommend to the government to do it," he said.
Azhar also intends to see better enforcement of the Election Offences Act as allegations of wrongdoing and bribery had been prevalent in previous elections.
"There must be a clear line drawn to what a caretaker government may or may not do - from the onset of election until the election day," he said.
He also called the workforce of the EC the "unsung heroes" who have taken on the mammoth task of organising elections.
However, he said it was due to the bad policies of the EC policymakers that had tarnished its reputation.
"I have to shield them... it is my responsibility to correct the policies. That's how I see it."