KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s electoral reform group Bersih and the opposition are claiming that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is bringing in voters secretly to its weak constituencies.
The issue came to light recently when 1,051 military men and their wives were apparently registered as voters at an army camp that is still under construction in Johor’s Segamat constituency.
That seat was won in 2013 by Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam, president of BN’s Malaysian Indian Congress, by just 3 percentage points, or 1,217 votes.
Bersih has claimed that two other constituencies with uncompleted army camps had also added more than 1,000 army voters each. These allegedly involved the wards of Cabinet ministers Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Perak and Ismail Sabri in Pahang. Both also won narrowly in 2013.
For years, the opposition has claimed that BN would secretly transfer the voting addresses of police, army or other civil servants along with their spouses to some constituencies to give the ruling coalition an extra boost in the polls. The uniformed services and the civil service, consisting of mostly Malays, are staunch BN supporters.
Both BN and the opposition parties have regular access to new voters added to any ward – 222 parliamentary and 505 state seats, in total – through an electoral roll issued every quarter by the government.
But the claims of illegal transfer of voters have often been pooh-poohed by BN as sour grapes by the opposition when they failed to win in targeted districts.
Our analysis showed that these transfers happened in seats won (by BN) with a slim majority in the last general election… In particular, these three seats were won by ministers.
BERSIH DEPUTY CHAIRMAN SHAHRUL AMAN MOHD SHAARI
In the Johor case, the state chief of opposition Democratic Action Party, Mr Liew Chin Tong, said he had complained to Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on Nov 2 about the 1,051 “military personnel and their spouses” whose residential addresses have been assigned to the unfinished camp. The registration makes them voters in the Segamat Parliament seat and the two accompanying state wards of Jementah and Buloh Kasap.
“The Segamat camp is only due to be completed in April 2018,” Mr Liew wrote on his blog last week.
Datuk Seri Hishammuddin, in his response, told the media: “It is… crazy to transfer military personnel without preparing housing there because those sent there will not vote for us. Logically speaking, that makes no sense.”
He has asked his army chief to respond to the allegation.
Bersih, at a news conference on Tuesday, said it has discovered more new army voters being transferred to two camps in Bera in Pahang state, and in Hutan Melintang, Perak. Both camps are also still under construction.
Bersih deputy chairman Shahrul Aman Mohd Shaari was quoted by Malaysiakini news site as saying that 1,234 new army voters were found to be registered in the Bera parliamentary seat held by Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri. He had won the seat by 5.2 percentage points.
A further 1,411 new army voters have been registered in Hutan Melintang, under the Bagan Datoh parliamentary constituency held by Deputy Prime Minister Zahid, who won in 2013 by 6.5 percentage points.
The discovery was made after analysing the government’s 2017 third-quarter Supplementary Electoral Roll, Mr Shahrul said.
“Our analysis showed that these transfers happened in seats won (by BN) with a slim majority in the last general election,” he said, as quoted by Malaysiakini. “In particular, these three seats were won by ministers.”
Both ministers have not responded to the allegations.