12 November 2011 | Last updated at 09:26AM By Farrah Naz Karim, Minderjeet Kaur and Carisma Kapoor
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Barisan Nasional is not against the idea of allowing Malaysians living abroad to vote in the next general election.
Instead, the coalition is merely highlighting potential logistical problems that could arise from the exercise, said BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
He said there were slightly more than 800 constituencies in the country and it might pose difficulties in implementing the voting system.
“BN is not opposing it. But it wants to highlight the enormous difficulties in implementing it,” he said after chairing a slightly more than two-hour closed-door Barisan Nasional supreme council meeting at Putra World Trade Centre yesterday.
He was asked on what appeared initially as a proposal by MCA not to allow Malaysians living abroad to cast their votes in the next general election as they had lost touch with the country for a long time.
Najib, who is also the prime minister, said that the hype on Parliament being dissolved to make way for the general election yesterday was “pure speculation”.
He also said there was no discussion on seat allocation and possible election dates during the meeting.
Najib said the meeting discussed ways to strengthen and improve the performance of the component parties.
“It was a normal meeting between members. We also looked at our journey so far and the preparations needed to face the general election.”
Earlier in the day, MCA central committee member Datuk Ei Kim Hock told the first public inquiry conducted by the parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms that Malaysians living abroad should not be allowed to vote.
But MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who was at the BN supreme council meeting, told reporters later the statement by his committee member was “not a correct statement because nowadays everyone is connected and it is purely based on logistical issues”.
Dr Chua said the actual reason for proposing not to allow Malaysians living abroad to vote was because it was difficult to implement the verifications involved during the voting process and it could also lead to abuse.
Furthermore, he said, at each embassy, the government would have to set up some 800 ballot boxes, after which independent witnesses had to verify that no one tampered with the votes.
Giving an example, he said if a voter was in Taipei and he or she was voting for constituency A which had three candidates, there should be witnesses present.
“Otherwise, there will be a lot of accusations that the embassy people voted on behalf of the voters.”
Dr Chua said the verification process could also be open to abuse.
Meanwhile, Election Commission deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said the commission had completed the appointment of assistant registrars at missions worldwide.
This, he said, would help facilitate the registration of ordinary voters who include businessmen and Malaysians living abroad to become registered voters. However, as under the law, only full-time students, civil servants including those working in missions and members of the armed forces were eligible as postal voters.
“However, if the government wants to allow them to become postal voters, the law must be amended for these ordinary voters.
“This also involves massive logistical arrangements, including increased personnel and cost.
“I think our focus now should be on the over 3.7 million unregistered voters in the country and, of course, the millions more registered voters who on polling day will be forced to sit out due to work commitments,” he said referring to among others, those working on oil rigs, journalists, doctors and nurses as well as cabin crew members.
He said the EC’s initiative to appoint assistant registrars at Malaysian missions was to safeguard the constitutional rights of Malaysians abroad. However, he said until laws were amended, they would still have to return to their respective constituencies to cast their votes on polling day.
Supporting the statement by MCA, he said many Malaysians overseas were not even reachable, with Wisma Putra only having records of about 25,000 of them, despite claims by some quarters that there were hundreds of thousands of Malaysians all over the world who wanted to cast their votes from abroad.