Friday, February 02, 2007

Why BA is right in boycotting the by election

By Mohamed Hanipa Maidin

BA has decided to boycott the by election in Batu Talam. This unprecedented decision may have significant impacts. Who knows it may change the country's political landscapes. The decision also begs a serious question i.e whether BA would participate in the next coming General Election. As far as BA is concerned, this question does not arise at all as it was categorically stated by PAS’s Deputy President that the boycott is only restricted to Batu Talam by election.

One may ask whether the decision is justifiable ? Justification aside, the boycott seems to be the best available option in conveying a strong signal and message to the Election Commission ( EC ) that enough is enough.

The failure of Election Commission to conduct a free and fair election is common knowledge now. The unfair election undoubtedly renders the participation of BA as an exercise in futility. To continuously take part in the tainted election may give an impression that unfair election is a norm and unavoidable.

It is axiomatic the main beneficiary of an unfair election is the ruling party. Thus any attempt to reform the crippled electoral system may be seen as a threat by BN. For its survival, BN will ensure the tainted election keeps intact.

Having lost substantial number of seats in 1999 General Election BN decided to amend the electoral law. Don’t make a mistake such amendment was never intended to help improve the system. On the contrary the amendment sought to to tighten the loose grips of the electoral law , perceived as contributing factors to BN’s poor performance in 1999 Election. Needless to say BA received a fatal blow with such arbitrary amendment .

The amendment among other things dealt with the issue of phantom voters. Instead of acknowledging this chronic problem and finding the appropriate solutions, the amendment on the contrary closed all the avenues for any parties to challenge the electoral roll. This was done by ousting the court’s power to declare the validity and veracity of the electoral roll. With such amendment the phantom voters found in the electoral rolls are immune and untouchable.

It is very unfortunate that we do not have a system known as a competitive election . In this type of election voters are presented with a choice between competing political parties and they may have the ability to actually select which party candidates they most prefer .

On the contrary what we have is a dominant party election. In this type of election voters may have the legal right to vote for any party they want, but they do not, in fact have a real choice for a variety of reasons. Sometimes actual intimidations are involved where even secret votes are checked. Voters who fails to vote for the correct party may land themselves in uncomfort zone after the election..

In Malaysia, the rampant electoral fraud and corruption keeps the single dominant party in power. This was also the case for the Philipines under Marcos. The dominant party sytems unfortunately are a surprisingly common and resilient type of election in the third world.

Given this scenario what are the best options available to BA. To participate or to boycott ?.

Some contends that by failing to field a candidate in this election, BA has in actual fact denied the fundamental right of voters to choose the candidates. Such denial, it so argued, goes against the principle of democracy. This argument presupposes the existence of free and fair election. It fails to consider the right of voting is meaningless if it is not exercised freely and voluntarily.

Such an argument may only be valid in a free, fair, healthy and competitive election . In that political environment the key players of the election are allowed to play in a level playing field governed by just laws and independent referee. In the absence of such a fair game, denial of rights to vote is a non starter.

The EC chairman chided BA by saying that such boycott was a stupid act. May be he has to define for us what stupidity is ?. If one keeps on losing in an unfair game and decides not to participate in such game unless the rules of the game are changed , can we attribute stupidity to such person ?

Or may be the EC Chairman was right. May be BA was so stupid in the past for placing hope on the EC , being the custodian of the election process, to conduct a free and fair election. Or may be BA was also too stupid for failing or neglecting to realize that all this while EC and its Chairman has been assuming a role of agent provocator to BN.

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