KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 – The Election Commission has warned that the results of the Port Dickson by-election can be invalidated if announcements of development projects in Port Dickson and other pledges made, should a particular candidate win, are considered an election offence.
New EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun said this would be possible if an election petition is filed against the winning candidate, Bernama reported.
“Such announcements and pledges could be used as grounds for invalidating the election in any election petition that might be filed,” the prominent lawyer who is better known by his nickname Art, said in a statement yesterday.
Ministers cannot campaign during working hours
Azhar also reminded Cabinet members and politicians holding government positions that they should not indulge in campaigning activities during working hours for the by-election at the Port Dickson parliamentary constituency.
“Campaigning activities during working hours is an abuse of their working hours.
“These Cabinet members should be aware of the difference between their tasks as members of the government administration and party leader or member,” he was quoted as saying by the national news agency.
Azhar also pointed out that such Cabinet members using government assets or facilities for campaigning purposes is wrong.
Azhar’s comments could be seen as a direct response to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who yesterday dismissed suggestions that Pakatan Harapan had an unfair advantage over other candidates because ministers had campaigned for Anwar.
“They are ministers. But they are also party members,” Dr Mahathir had said.
Mat Sabu giving medals, campaigning for Anwar
This followed complaints made against Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, who held a ceremony to present army veterans with Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) medals at the Army Museum in Port Dickson last week, with PH’s candidate Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim sitting with him at the podium.
It was reported that the minister told the audience, who mainly comprised army veterans and current army personnel, that a vote for Anwar was a vote for a future prime minister who would ensure greater benefits for veterans.
The event was held during the day with the Amanah president also following Anwar on the campaign trail later the same night.
Access to military camps
Azhar also admitted that the EC was unable to better enforce against election offences and take necessary action to stop the gross imbalance on how the different candidates run their campaigns.
He gave the example of how the PKR president was allowed to enter military camps in Port Dickson to meet with army personnel and campaign, while the same privilege was not accorded to other candidates.
“It is not fair if one candidate is allowed to campaign in the military camps while other candidates were not allowed to do so.
“Despite my commitment to create a clean and fair electoral process that is guided by the laws and the spirit of democratic principles, the EC is still powerless to take action against any candidate or their party.
“This is because the EC has no authority over this matter as granting access to a camp falls within the ambit of the army and the Defence Ministry,” Azhar had said in an earlier statement made on Friday.
He was referring to complaints made by PAS on not having access to the military camps.
“Military camps should give equal opportunity to all candidates subject to whatever security procedures of the camps.”
Toothless Election Commission
In the earlier statement, Azhar admitted the EC was toothless in that it did not have the power to punish or investigate any candidate or the party they represent for any breach of election law, especially the legislative provisions of the Election Offences Act.
“The EC would like to advise all parties who have any information regarding the violation of any provision under the Act to report the violation to the relevant authorities instead,” Azhar said.
He reminded all parties and voters that complaints or reports could only be made to the police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
The question that Azhar must also answer, as a lawyer, is if the powers to act against various Election Offences sat with the EC until the commission’s independence was compromised by having it placed under the PM’s Department, during Mahathir’s previous term as prime minister.