KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — Political parties are prohibited from canvassing in military camps and police barracks during Election 2013 due to their “security zone” status, although campaigning within the vicinity of the two locations is permitted, the Elections Commission (EC) has said.
According to the EC, laws regulating the camps and barracks are not within its purview and whether or not political parties can campaign there was solely up to the military and the police.
“With regards to campaigning in the army camps and barracks of the police contingent headquarters as well as district police headquarters, the EC will try and get more information on related laws and regulations from them,” EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof told The Malaysian Insider via a text message yesterday.
“If I am not mistaken, campaigning in the camps and barracks was never allowed from the very beginning,” he said.
There are an estimated 250,000 military and police voters spread out across 25 parliamentary constituencies nationwide. They include personnel in the police force, army, air force and navy.
The staggering numbers mean their votes could be crucial to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the federal opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Both are now racing to outdo each other to woo their support although the military and police are traditionally seen as BN supporters.
Abdul Aziz said that should restrictions for political parties to campaign in the camps and barracks stay, the military and police voters were still free to observe the campaign conducted outside.
“They can still observe the campaign like any normal citizens outside the camps or the barracks. It is certain that they would know who the candidates are through the ongoing campaign in their areas,” he said.
The campaign restriction could deal a severe blow to the opposition’s plans to tap into the military and police votes.
Recently, PKR said it had set its sights on some 250,000 voters living in police barracks and military camps nationwide, hoping to capitalise on the influence of former military personnel who have joined its ranks.
The idea was to use their clout to “educate” the military on issues that impact their livelihoods, such as the recent use of the Armed Forces Pension Fund (LTAT) to buy out a firm belonging to carpet dealer Deepak Jaikishan and Wanita Umno’s Raja Datuk Ropiaah Abdullah.
“The current issues involving Deepak and the LTAT, I believe they must be well articulated on the ground so these military personnel can understand what their government is doing to their money,” PKR’s election director Azmin Ali told The Malaysian Insider in a recent interview.
He noted that it was not possible for PKR to lead its campaigners into police stations, naval base or any military camp, but pointed out that the party finally has a link to these servicemen — through the few personalities from the military that have joined the party’s ranks.
Top of the list is retired Royal Malaysian Air Force Brigadier-General Datuk Abdul Hadi Abdul Khattab, who joined the party in November 2011 and currently sits as PKR’s security committee chairman.
BN leaders, however, believe that the armed forces and police remain a key vote bank for the coalition, citing the ruling government’s policies that have benefited the security forces.