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‘Form panel to pick EC chairman’

Publish date: Sat, 15 Jun 2024, 08:53 AM

THE top priority of the incoming Election Commission (EC) chairman is to rebuild trust between the commission and all political parties ahead of the redrawing of electoral boundaries expected to start in 2026.

And the only way to do this is for a select committee to be set up to allow all political parties to sift through and nominate candidates for the powerful top post, said Bersatu supreme council member Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah.

The former foreign affairs minister said there is still time to establish and convene a select committee for the purpose of choosing candidates before the next parliamentary sitting scheduled on June 24.

According to Saifuddin, the select committee, chaired by the Speaker and MPs from various parties, can form a committee to look into the appointment of the EC chairman and its members.

“They can form the committee now and by June 24, the House only verifies (the appointment).

“So, we can quicken it and while doing that, they (the committee) can start doing work. We can get names for the EC chair,” said Saifuddin, adding that Pakatan Harapan had also pledged to ensure that the appointment of key positions would go through a parliamentary committee.

Saifuddin said the Opposition should also be given a chance to nominate a candidate for the EC chairman post, which will eventually be submitted to the Cabinet.

“This is a good exercise of democracy where stakeholders have the opportunity to propose names,” he said in an interview recently.

He also said the proposed bipartisan committee could debate criteria on the appointment of EC chairman.

“For all you know, some names from both parties could be the same person,” the Indera Mahkota MP said.

At the same time, he said the EC chairman post should include leaders from various backgrounds, but it should not be a former civil servant who recently retired from the government.

“For me, there should at least be a two-year moratorium (before the a retired civil servant is appointed as EC chair).

“Because you just came out from the government of the day. You are trying to convince me that you are not biased? I won’t trust you,” he said.

To restore trust on the EC, Saifuddin said it will begin with the appointment of the EC chair and its members, because the present process is too “secretive”.

“It is very ‘closed door’. I’m happy that Azmi Sharom, the current EC deputy chair spoke about the need for the appointment of EC chairman and members to be made in a more open way,” he said.

Last month, during the Bersih Congress, Azmi said the appointment process of EC chairman, himself included, was “shrouded in secrecy and opaque practices”.

Bersih said in April that the election manifestos of both Pakatan and Barisan Nasional promised that the appointment of key positions such as the EC chairman would go through the parliamentary committee.

Meanwhile, Saifuddin said Bersatu appointed its deputy women’s chief Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin to lead a team, comprising himself and former minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof to look into the redelineation process that was expected to begin in 2026.

“PAS has its own team and so does Gerakan,” he said.

Saifuddin said it is important for Perikatan to cooperate with like-minded NGOs that share similar principles such as limiting gerrymandering and malapportionment.

Malapportionment is when an electoral district is improperly created, where one district has significantly more voters than another district.

Gerrymandering is the manipulation of electoral boundaries to favour a certain party.

Saifuddin also said Perikatan would immediately seek a meeting with the EC chairman upon appointment to lay out the Opposition’s principles on redelineation.

“Trust deficit is a big issue and one way for the EC chairman to regain trust of the people is to be open with stakeholders,” he added.

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