Malaysia election: Phantom voters issue back to haunt polls

  • Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), which won the Wangsa Maju seat in the last two elections, alleged that 1,600 new voters in the ward are likely “pengundi hantu” – phantom voters, or ghost voters.
  • In Malaysia, the term refers to voters who are registered in a particular ward, and yet have never been seen by local residents or by the owners of these homes and shops.
  • “We first spotted an anomaly in the electoral roll when several thousand were registered as voters in the 2H16 in the Wangsa Maju constituency,” said PKR’s treasurer-general Tan Yee Kew.
  • Allegations of phantom voters date back to the 1990s, when former premier Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister. In the 1999 election, the opposition claimed there were more than 200,000 phantom voters with fake identity cards, with most allegedly located in Tun Dr Mahathir’s home state of Kedah.
  • This time around, Dr Mahathir, now an opposition leader, is accusing the Election Commission (EC) of helping Prime Minister Najib Razak’s coalition to maintain power with discrepancies in the electoral list.
  • With Malaysia’s elections just ahead, the electoral roll has 14.8 million registered voters, compared with 13.3 million in 2013. Malaysia has a population of 32 million.
  • The presence of phantom voters is just one of several issues that critics have pointed out with regard to the electoral roll.
  • Another is over army voters – who number in the hundreds or thousands – being moved prematurely into new addresses in various constituencies despite the incomplete construction of the army camps.
  • Despite complaints by critics in the last two decades, the EC says voter registration is based on the identification card address, and that the commission is not complicit in any wrongdoing.
  • The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition has in the past brushed aside the opposition’s claims too, saying that while it is accused of using illegal voters, the opposition accepted these same wards when its candidates emerged as victors.
  • Opposition lawmaker Ong Kian Ming, who compiled his own data before the 2013 election, had reported finding more than 100,000 dubious voters which – when combined with prior claims of suspicious voters – would total more than 400,000 nationwide.
  • The EC said an electoral roll clean-up is done every three months to remove names of deceased voters and those who lose their citizenship, based on information from the National Registration Department.

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