Global Bersih is a non-profit organization established under the Swiss Civil Code which aims to support Malaysian civil society’s efforts to
strengthen Malaysia’s maturing democracy using peaceful action, with emphasis on the citizens’ right to a free and fair elections which is
ethical, impartial and transparent in all its stages of its administration and implementation.
22 March 2017
The Electoral Commission must uphold the right of Malaysians overseas to vote in the upcoming General Elections (GE14) by taking all appropriate and necessary actions to enfranchise overseas Malaysians in accessing their right to vote, and to ensure a smooth process in registering overseas voters and implementing advance voting ballots for postal voters. There are approximately 1.4 million Malaysians living overseas (source: World Bank).
Under Section 2 of the Election (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, overseas Malaysians registered as an ‘ordinary elector’ must return to Malaysia to vote, whereas Malaysian students and civil servants based overseas can register as ‘absentee voters’ to be eligible for postal voting. However, this process enables only a portion of overseas Malaysians to participate in the elections process, as not many are able to afford the cost of travel. Furthermore, most embassies do not allow overseas Malaysians to register as ‘ordinary electors’ owing to lack of information and understanding.
Over the years, there has been little progress in clarifying the process by which Malaysians based overseas can register and vote in the general elections, as embassies and consulates in different cities and countries receive, perceive and implement these processes to different degrees. In Guangzhou, the consulate allows for registration of new voters whereas in Hong Kong, the Consulate General does not. In Frankfurt, overseas Malaysians can register to vote whereas in Berlin, the process is more stringent. In Hague, the Consulate only registers absentee voters, and in Singapore, the embassy does not allow for postal voting despite large numbers of Malaysians living there, on the assumption that these Malaysians will travel back to Malaysia for the general elections. There is almost no active communication of the voter registration process to Malaysians by consulates in different countries, with a few exceptions.
In the 13th General Elections (2013), the Elections Commission allowed overseas Malaysians who do not fall in the category of absentee voters to vote as advance postal voters. This development is a result of a group of six Malaysians living in Britain (referred to as MOV6) lodging a suit against the Elections Commission after their application to be a postal voter was rejected by the EC. Consequently, the Elections Commission allowed for the inclusion of other eligible Malaysians to register as advance postal voters in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. However, the Elections Commission has remained silent on the subject of allowing all eligible overseas Malaysians to vote in the capacity of advance postal voters for GE14.
This year, G Bersih has submitted a proposal to the Elections Commission to reform the overseas voting process in these areas: enfranchisement of all overseas Malaysians, voter secrecy, transparency and security in the election process, and legitimacy of the election outcome. This proposal is a result of a survey of 10 cities which found that mission staff were often misinformed, confused and inconsistent about electoral policy, especially in regards to postal voting.
Global Bersih urges the EC to urgently review Global Bersih’s memorandum outlining the reforms necessary for overseas voting processes including the advance voting proposal (https://www.globalbersih.org/proposal-for-reforms-to-overseas-voting-process/), and take immediate action to ensure that all Malaysians enjoy their right and have access to voting no matter where they reside.