Election watchdog Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) today said that it will carry on with its independent observer work with or without the support of the Election Commission (EC).
The EC was reported this morning as saying that it has dropped its recognition of Mafrel as an official election observer because it (Mafrel) had allegedly failed to hand over its reports for the past nine by-elections.
This EC decision comes just two days after Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister and Selangor Umno deputy chief Noh Omar accused Mafrel of being biased and called for its recognition by the EC to be reviewed.
"We will continue to monitor the upcoming Hulu Selangor by-election from outside the polling centres," said Mafrel president Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (left) when asked for a response.
He explained that EC's recognition only allows Mafrel to observe polling and vote-counting at the tallying centres stressing the major part of Mafrel's work was outside those areas.
"From experience, most campaigning abuses such as corruption occurs outside the polling stations and there are also abuses in terms of media coverage," said Syed Ibrahim.
However, the watchdog chief, stated that the body will appeal the EC decision.
Reports not submitted
"Mafrel is already in the process of contacting the EC and we hope to meet them to appeal against their decision as soon as possible," said Syed Ibrahim.
Syed Ibrahim conceded that Mafrel's reports for the past nine by-elections had not been submitted to the commission.
Explaining the delay, he said: "Unlike a general election where we can be more selective on where to focus, we had the same team covering new by-elections even before the previous reports were completed.
"We want to ensure that the reports are up to proper standards and will hand all reports over to the EC before the coming Hulu Selangor by-election," he assured.
When asked if the EC's move was politically-motivated, Syed Ibrahim said that was difficult to determine but said it would be disappointing if it were true.
"If their decision was made because political pressure was exerted onto them, then it is very unfortunate because the EC should be independent," he said.
With about 90 expected volunteers, Mafrel will begin ground observation for the Hulu-Selangor by-election on nomination day on April 17, maintaining a presence until polling day on April 25.