PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 recorded a whopping 23 cases of election offences during the recently concluded Cameron Highlands polls, making it the highest committed in a by-election since the 14th General Election (GE14).
Its steering committee said the offences were committed by both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH), with 14 and five cases respectively, as well as PAS (two), from nomination day on Jan 12 to polling day on Jan 26.
The group however believed that the high number of offences documented was not due to an increased disregard for the election law.
“On the contrary, this may be attributed to the fact that this was the first by-election called due to an election offence committed (during GE14), which led to a heightened awareness of election offences by all parties,” Bersih 2.0 said in a statement today.
“Furthermore, the highlighting of election laws by both the Election Commission (EC) and Bersih 2.0 through clean and fair election pledges and statements, and that both PH and BN held each other to account for election offences, may have contributed to the higher number of recorded incidents.”
The election offences committed were for treating (four cases), abuse of state resources (three), bribery and undue influence (two), the incitement of ill-feeling on race and religion in campaigning (four), campaigning on polling day (nine) and others (one).
Bersih 2.0 said the incitement of ill-feeling on race and religion to campaign for votes was the most worrying offence, with among others, PH candidate M. Manogaran being linked to the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim in the Seafield temple incident, through leaflets that were distributed.
“Bersih 2.0 strongly condemns such campaign tactics and call on the police to investigate these incidents without delay and hold the perpetrators accountable for what they said in order to preserve inter-communal harmony among Malaysians,” it said.
The watchdog also raised concern over the abuse of state resources by both PH as the ruling federal government and BN as the ruling state government, while also noting there were numerous “ministerial working visits” two weeks before the official campaign period began.
Bersih 2.0, however, commended the EC, noting that there have been some improvement and innovation in the conduct of the election, including issuing warning and making police reports for offences, releasing unofficial results early, and providing live telecast of the counting of votes.
“These measures and actions taken by the EC has resulted in greater efficiency, transparency and respect for the existing election laws, further restoring public confidence in the EC,” it said.
BN retained the seat after its candidate Ramli Mohd Noor garnered 12,038 votes, beating M. Manogaran (8,800 votes) and two independents, Sallehudin Ab Talib (314 votes) and Wong Seng Yee (276 votes).