Malaysians have seen quite a number of elections so far this year. From the surprise results at GE14 to all the by-elections since then – culminating in Anwar’s return to parliament – there’s also another major election going on right now as we speak, altho it’s not your normal elections tho. That’s right, we’re talking about the PKR party elections.
The PKR polls are proving to be a very hotly contested one. Azmin currently leads Rafizi in the race for the number two spot with just over 1,000 votes (!). However, it’s not just the PKR number two spot that’s up for grabs. All members vote for both national and their local division leaders, as well as their respective wings such as women and youth.
It’s also a ridiculously long process, with over 750,000 PKR members all eligible to pledge a vote towards determining the leadership of the party. To put this in context, PAS only had 1,209 delegates that could decide their leadership during their party polls, while UMNO had 146,500 delegates. Because every PKR member can vote instead of just certain delegates, the PKR polls are a long and drawn out affair. Despite the party elections beginning on Sept 22, only 55% of the eligible PKR members have done undi so far at time of writing.
And just like a bad lover, things have gone on for way too long with delays and ugly scenes at the PKR elections. So many in fact, that here’s a quick round up of four things that have troubled the party’s polls.
1. Their new e-voting system ended up failing… cos no more mobile data
So first off the bat is PKR’s brand new e-voting system. Before the elections came around, it was announced that PKR had decided to use an e-voting system for the polls, and even got about 600 tablets just for the event. They weren’t the first people around to use them tho, as PAS had used an e-voting system for their own party polls last year. Maybe since already used before, means can trust la kan?
This was how the polls were supposed to have been carried out: Get to the polling center, register and verify yourself as a PKR member and get a barcode. Use one of the 600 tablets to scan the barcode, vote, and hey presto, that’s it. Simple right? However, once day one of voting came about, everything that could go wrong seemed to have, well, gone wrong.
Penang was the first state to hit the polls on Sept 22 and quite a number of PKR members were not happy with how things panned out. PKR Balik Pulau branch chief candidate Syed Mohamad Nazli was one of those who pointed out the negatives of the system, with the voter’s list not being updated and voters finding themselves changed to different branches. Elderly PKR members were also not used to the e-voting system.
“Since the beginning, I had mentioned that the system used was weak. The system itself is haywire, checks found the names but then they could not vote as the name was not registered at the said branch,” – Syed Mohamad Nazli, PKR branch chief candidate, as quoted by Malaysiakini
That would only be the start of the e-voting woes too, as subsequent voting days suffered similar problems. In fact, the latest round of PKR elections for Negeri Sembilan and Malacca were delayed due to the tablets used for the e-voting running out of mobile data. This meant that the votes were still on the tablets and not sent to the main servers for tallying.
And speaking of the trouble with the e-voting system, delays in results are certainly much more tolerable, especially when glitches in the system also apparently caused PKR members to fight with each other… for real.
2. Literal fistfights and chairfights happened during the PKR polls
So you’ve probably seen the video of some chairs being thrown about during the PKR polls. Here’s a quick reminder of it:
Yep, that’s a flying chair alright. The incident allegedly stems from apparent irregularities and issues about the e-voting system during the Seberang Jaya PKR polls. When the results were announced, some PKR members weren’t happy that the results stood despite the e-voting issues, and began to voice out their concern over it, yelling ‘bantah’ repeatedly. This subsequently led to a shouting match, and next thing you knew arms were swinging, chairs went airborn and people were injured.
Meanwhile, during the same weekend, Kedah’s entire party polls were annulled due to fighting and rioting. This time round, candidates and voters allegedly found their names in the e-voting system missing. A voter in Merbok apparently got quite pissed about it, and began fighting with other people, leading to others being severely injured. A video of him bashing people about with sticks was also shared online, and even the Federal Reserve Unit had to be called in to stop the rioting.
PKR would later condemn the incident and reprimand those involved in the fracas. Anwar Ibrahim, the PKR president-elect, has also promised to expel those involved in the Penang and Kedah fights out of the party. He adds that order should’ve been maintained and that there will be investigations carried out into the incident.
3. There’s been claims of phantom voters and worries about sudden membership spikes
We all know how closely fought the PKR polls are, especially for the number two spot between Azmin and Rafizi. This of course makes news of possible phantom voters all that more worrying, especially if it happens in Selangor, the home base of PKR that has the most members. Unfortunately for PKR, that’s exactly what happened, as there have allegedly been videos being shared online of Selangor polling officers ticking off unlisted voters during the second stage e-voting last weekend, which got people a little suspicious laa.
On top of that, in the Selayang PKR polls, a police report was made over alleged phantom voters too. Gan Pei Nei, who lost the Selayang PKR polls to William Leong, claimed that up to 20 phantom voters arrived at the Selayang polling center in a bus and tried to force their way in and disrupt the election.
“We have lodged a report with the police to have these phantom voters investigated for obstructing the party election process… Even when we refused them entry, tried to enter by force, forming a human barricade. Because of what they did, many voters who are legitimate PKR members left,” – Gan Pei Nei, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today
Selangor wasn’t the only state to have worries about possible phantom voters too. Sarawak PKR had to step in and investigate a mysterious spike in membership just before the polls. Julau, Sarawak for example went from 603 members on June 26 to over 13,000 the next day! PKR would then find out that out of these 13,000 plus members, 1,310 never wanted or consented to being a PKR member, 237 wanted to but never applied and 5,018 of them couldn’t be contacted. You could probably understand then why some people are concerned laa.
Phantom voters and fistfights aren’t the only thing that the PKR are trying to eradicate too, as they now find themselves going up against another problem…
4. It’s alleged that some candidates are offering money for votes
Malacca’s PKR polls have been plagued with rumours of money politics and alleged bribes for votes. Shamsul Iskandar, the current Malacca PKR chief says that he found at least one case of money politics happening in the run up to the state’s party polls. According to Shamsul, someone had reported that a division committee candidate for Tangga Batu was handing out RM50 to members in an attempt to secure votes.
“I received a report on the matter (on Friday) and I can tell you with all earnestness, we will thoroughly investigate the matter. If the claims are proven to be true, we will bring the matter to the MACC,” – Shamsul Iskandar, as quoted by Malaysiakini
Furthermore, despite their differences, both Azmin and Rafizi spoke up against money politics in the lead up to the election. Rafizi made claims that in some states, votes were going for RM100 per vote, and told members to reject money politics. Azmin meanwhile echoed his rival’s call, telling younger members to emulate senior leaders who continued the struggle without getting involved in money politics. But perhaps the most harshest critic of vote-buying and money politics in the PKR polls came from Anwar himself:
“This vote-buying is the useless work of Satan. You are not great, you have poor character. People support you because of money. We struggled for 20 years, this system (of money politics) should not be allowed to return,” – Anwar Ibrahim, as quoted by Malaysiakini
And yet, despite all the things that have gone wrong for PKR in their party polls…
As a leading political party in Malaysia, we should perhaps pay close attention to the PKR polls
Not everyone out there is a PKR member, or even a fan of PKR for that matter. However, they currently are one of the parties in govt and any developments to PKR can have a huge effect on all of us. As such, regardless of your political opinion towards PKR and its leaders, it probably won’t harm you at all to keep an eye on what’s happening in the PKR party elections.
In any case, keeping tabs on the PKR would also mean that we can act as a check and balance towards the PKR if they do or say anything that may be against what’s best for the country. If it is to be a Malaysia Baru, then we should also perhaps practice some good democracy and ensure our leaders stay put. You wouldn’t want, oh we don’t know, six decades of bad governance… right?