Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Saturday that the Election Commission would be placed under Parliament’s watch to boost confidence in its independence after recent national elections sparked allegations of fraud, but the Opposition said the move did not go far enough.
Prime Minister Najib Razak’s National Front coalition won the May 5 polls, but with a smaller parliamentary majority. It also lost the popular vote to Anwar Ibrahim’s three-party Opposition alliance.
The Opposition has accused the Election Commission, which comes under the Prime Minister’s department, of being biased and failing to address irregularities such as bogus ballots and illegal voters that it said helped Mr. Najib’s coalition to cling to power. Mr. Anwar’s alliance has held many peaceful rallies nation-wide that have drawn tens of thousands of people to press for investigations into the alleged fraud.
Mr. Najib, who has rejected the accusations, said in a statement that a special bipartisan parliamentary committee that is independent and includes Opposition lawmakers would now be given oversight over the Election Commission.
“It is so easy to take the path of blame and denial, but this will not solve any of our problems or unlock the challenges facing Malaysia,” he said. “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.”
The National Front won 60 per cent of Parliament’s 222 seats, but only 47 per cent of the popular vote.
Opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang said it was a step in the right direction, but called for the top two officials in the Election Commission whom he labelled as National Front protagonists to step down to ensure a real change.
“The Election Commission must start with a completely new slate with a new chairman and deputy chairman if it is to win full public confidence,” Mr. Lim said.
His remarks were echoed by Ambiga Sreenevasan, an activist who is leading calls for clean elections, and who said the Election Commission must first be headed by credible officials to ensure its impartiality.
She also said the move was wrong in principle, noting that the commission, under the Constitution, should be an independent body that doesn’t bow to the Government.
“It’s a Band-Aid to a gaping wound,” she said. “It’s a good thing they recognise it needs fixing, but the wound is huge and this will not work.”