A plan by the Election Commission (EC) to appoint civil society groups as observers for the 13th general election received a setback when one of the five groups involved withdrew from the exercise and the rest raised key concerns at a dialogue with the EC last week.
The Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham), which consists of former members of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the Royal Police Commission, declined the EC’s offer due to “their own lack of experience, expertise, personnel and resources to effectively undertake the responsibility of election observations” according to a joint statement by the remaining groups.
In late June, EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had invited the five groups, the think tanks Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) and the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli), pollster Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, corruption watchdog Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) and Proham, to monitor the next general election, on condition that, among other things, they would not speak to the media.
“We have not yet received any formal letter of appointment, nor have we accepted the EC’s kind invitation. At this stage, we are still negotiating the terms and conditions with the EC” the groups said in their joint statement.
At the meeting last Thursday, the groups voiced the concerns of many other civil society organisations that were raised since the EC’s invitation to accredit the five groups as election observers.
Among other things, the civil society groups had expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the process of selecting organisations to be accredited as election observers, the invited groups urged the EC to announce clear and consistent criteria for accreditation of election observers to ensure their credibility’ is not questioned.
They also urged the EC to ensure that the entire process of election observation adheres to international standards. The groups said they had analysed two key documents – the Declaration of Global Principles for Non-partisan Election Observations and Monitoring of Citizen Organisations and the Handbook for Domestic Election Observers – produced by Ihe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, a specialised institution of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe dealing with elections, human rights, and democratisation.
“In our meeting with Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, we called upon the EC to ensure all rules imposed on accredited observers, as well as the process of accrediting the observers, complies with these international standards” the statement said.
“As a group, we look forward to the EC’s responses to our requests. We look forward to working with the EC as well as with all our friends in civil society to ensure GE13 is free and fair. We hope the cordial relationship that has been built with all parties wilt enable us to work together for the betterment of our nation,” the groups said. It is understood that the EC will not provide funding to the groups for election monitoring.