Friday, January 6, 2012

Court denies Malaysians abroad right to vote

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 1/6/2012

Court denies Malaysians abroad right to vote

A Malaysian high court ruled Friday that six Malaysians working in Britain do not have the right to cast their ballots abroad despite promises of electoral reforms.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has vowed to address appeals for reforms ahead of polls widely expected to be called this year following a mass rally last July against alleged electoral fraud and irregularities.

A key demand is that the estimated one million Malaysians abroad are allowed to vote. Currently only government employees, army personnel and full-time students can vote overseas.

But on Friday, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed an application by six Malaysians living overseas, ruling the Election Commission was following the rules in not allowing them to cast their ballots abroad, said Detta Samen of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.

The six had wanted the court to compel the commission to register them as absent voters and amend its regulation within two weeks to allow all Malaysians to vote overseas.

Samen, who was in court for the verdict, said Malaysians abroad should have the option to vote.

"Every Malaysian citizen should be given the right to vote," he told AFP. "(Else) the element of discrimination is there."

Last month parliament adopted recommendations by a bipartisan panel for poll reforms, which Najib set up following the mass rally.

The panel's recommendations include allowing overseas voting, using indelible ink and cleaning up the electoral roll to remove deceased voters to reduce the risk of cheating.

Activists and opposition politicians claim elections are unfair and marred by fraud, enabling Najib's Barisan Nasional coalition to stay in power for more than five decades

Election Commission deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said last month that the agency was open to changing the rules but that allowing Malaysians abroad to vote could be costly and difficult since only 25,000 Malaysians abroad have registered.

The July rally saw thousands of Malaysians march through the capital Kuala Lumpur in a rare showing of discontent. Police broke up the protest with tear gas and water cannon and arrested 1,600 people