KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 — Bersih 2.0 declared today that is has no current plans to organise a fourth rally for free and fair elections, despite calls from its supporters to do so.
The election watchdog, which has just organised its third rally “Bersih 3.0” on April 28, told a press conference here that its focus now was to ensure the coming 13th general election is as free as possible from fraudulent practices.
“At this stage, the committee, and this is endorsed by its 84 member organisations, has no plans for Bersih 4.0 and that is very clear,” Bersih 2.0 steering committee member Hishammuddin Rais said.
Bersih supporters, including opposition leaders and lawyers, have been tossing about the idea of holding a “Bersih 4.0” in the days following the group’s chaotic April 28 sit-in, claiming this would be the only way to motivate the government into implementing further electoral reforms.
PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu said in a news report on Monday that at least one million people would join “Bersih 4.0” if Putrajaya fails to clean up the polls process as demanded.
He had also pledged his party’s commitment to organising the next Bersih rally, saying it would be necessary if the government did not initiate proper polls reforms before the next general election.
“The students who went for Bersih 3.0 showed their anger to the ruling government who have let them be saddled in debt before even getting a proper job,” he was quoted by Sinar Harian as saying at a ceramah in Shah Alam on Sunday.
PAS spiritual advisor Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat had also recently said that the Islamist party would organise and facilitate Bersih’s next gathering.
But the support from the political leaders has also attracted accusations from Bersih 2.0 detractors that the movement has been co-opted by the opposition.
A website also appeared days after the April 28 sit-in, demanding an end to the alleged hijack.
“Dear Ambiga” (www.dearambiga.com), which professes to be pro-Bersih, accuses Pakatan Rakyat (PR) of hijacking the electoral reform group’s cause for their own “political interests and benefit.”
In response, Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan had said that she would be happy to meet those behind the “Dear Ambiga” website and reassured the public that Bersih’s cause has not been ‘hijacked’.
“I have no issue whatsoever with dearambiga.com,” said Ambiga recently, adding that she “respects their right to express their views.”
The title of the “Dear Ambiga” website’s solitary page reads “Time to stop Pakatan Rakyat hijacking our movement” and features a picture of Ambiga together with Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wearing Bersih 3.0 t-shirts.
The website features an automated email function that allows visitors to “email Datuk Ambiga if you want the hijacking to stop.”
The website also features tweets and news articles seemingly critical of PR’s involvement in the Bersih rally. It also polls visitors for their views on whether “politicians should be able to influence Bersih?”
Bersih 3.0, which had begun peacefully, ended just as Bersih 2.0 did last July 9, with riot police seen chasing citizens down the streets of the capital amid the chaos of tear gas, jets of chemical-laced water and warning bells from police trucks.
The electoral reforms movement remains critical of efforts to improve the voting system by the administration, including the recently-concluded PSC, saying that these were inadequate to guarantee free and fair elections in the country.
It also wants the government to delay the next general election until all of its demanded reforms are implemented.
Bersih’s eight demands are a clean electoral roll, reforming postal voting, the use of indelible ink, a minimum campaign period of 21 days, free access to the media, strengthening public institutions, stopping corruption and ending dirty politics.