KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 — Voters are getting more enthusiastic over Election 2013 compared to the last general election as Bersih 2.0 aims for an 85 per cent voter turnout to mitigate electoral fraud.
Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, co-chairman of the electoral reform group, told The Malaysian Insider today that Bersih’s “Jom 100” campaign has seen greater awareness about the upcoming national polls among people of all races and ages in both urban and rural areas.
“People are raring to go and raring to vote,” said Ambiga (picture).
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm on the ground... people are getting more aware about their voting rights. I also ask the question, did you vote in 2008? They say no. Are you gonna vote this time? And they say yes,” added the former Bar Council president.
Election 2013, which will be held in weeks, is expected to be the most keenly contested election in recent times, with analysts saying that the outcome is in doubt for the first time in Malaysian history after the historic 2008 general election that saw Barisan Nasional (BN) lose its two-thirds parliamentary majority.
There are 13.3 million registered voters, or 83 per cent, out of 16 million eligible voters, according to the Election Commission (EC).
In Election 2008, 76 per cent out of 10.7 million registered voters turned up to vote, amounting to about 8.16 million voters.
Ambiga said she hoped for at least an 85 per cent voter turnout, pointing out that five to 10 per cent could make a difference.
“Any increase will help reduce or mitigate the fraud,” she said.
The lawyer said Bersih told Malaysians that they should not assume that their favoured candidates would win and that voting would help reduce electoral fraud.
“We don’t want people to think there are no solutions to the fraud. There is in fact a very effective, not complete solution, but an effective way of reducing it,” said Ambiga.
She added that the “Jom 100” campaign to encourage a higher voter turnout has been on the ground throughout Malaysia for several months.
She said Bersih was also working on voter education and getting citizen observers to watch out for deception in the polls.
She had said last December that Election 2013 will be marred with fraud, complaining that the EC’s efforts to reform the election process have been unsatisfactory.
Opposition researchers have claimed there are tens of thousands of phantom voters registered on the electoral rolls, including for Sabah and Selangor, two key states capable of tilting the outcome of Election 2013.
The EC has denied the allegations, arguing that the high percentage of discrepancies in the voter roll was “normal”.
Ambiga pointed out last December that the EC had also failed to commit to stop all forms of political violence before or during campaigning.
She urged Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday to censure Umno supporters for threatening to kill PKR vice-president Chua Tian Chang, or risk being blacklisted by Bersih 2.0 for condoning political violence.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, along with leaders from BN component parties, signed Transparency International-Malaysia’s Election Integrity Pledge last month in a move they claimed displayed their seriousness in playing fair in the upcoming polls.
But Najib and his coalition have come under heavy fire for their muted response to several violent attacks on the opposition, allegedly perpetrated by BN supporters or members of hardline groups linked to Umno, the ruling coalition’s Malay lynchpin.