By Ili Aqilah | Malaysiakini

In line with their #Reformasi100percent campaign, electoral watchdog Bersih has released recommendations to amend the Election Offences Act 1954.

The report, authored by Asraf Sharafi, New Sin Yew, and Benjamin Wei, proposes amending 19 out of 40 sections, introducing four new sections and sub-sections, and creating four new descriptions for the law.

During a briefing about the report, Asraf (above) explained that it was based on engagement conducted between 2019 and 2021 with various agencies, including the election commissioner, Electoral Reform Committee, and political parties, to modernise the law.

They identified areas for improvement in the Act, including the use of complex language, lack of definitions, impractical candidate allocations, lack of control over government funds usage during elections, and inadequate law enforcement.

Asraf highlighted that the law was last revised in 2003 and emphasised the need for updates to address weaknesses.

Referring to Housing and Local Government Minister Nga Kor Ming’s recent allocation announcement for Kuala Kubu Baharu, Asraf said the law currently lacks provisions for controlling government funds usage during elections, potentially leading to misuse for campaigning.

Housing and Local Government Minister Nga Kor Ming

Bersih previously slammed the government for the allocation ahead of the by-election, scheduled on May 11.

“Every time there is an election, there will be an announcement (on allocation) that could mean misuse of government funds for campaigning,” Asraf explained.

He further pointed out that the Election Commission (EC) has limited power under the Act, as they can only lodge reports with the police or the MACC.

Precise definitions, increased fines

Additionally, Asraf said there are proposals for more precise definitions of election phases and increasing fines for offences from RM5,000 to RM10,000, the latter of which was supported by political parties.

Similarly, Bersih also proposed that the EC should be empowered to issue compound notices of up to RM10,000.

Meanwhile, Projek Sama convener Ngeow Chow Ying highlighted Bersih’s recommendation to double campaigning allocations for parliamentary and state constituency candidates, from RM200,000 to RM400,000 and RM100,000 to RM200,000, respectively.

Projek Sama convener Ngeow Chow Ying

Besides the increase, Ngeow said existing loopholes such as parties spending on candidates and sponsored billboards should also be addressed.

“We call for transparency for the candidate’s account, which can be audited. Most parties agree to the suggestion based on the engagement,” she said.

While Bersih also suggested that the campaign period for elections be extended from 14 days to 21, Ngeow said politicians indicated in feedback that it may then cost more money.