A parliamentary committee recommended a series of changes to the Malaysian electoral system on Tuesday, but opposition groups and activists said they did not go far enough to ensure a level playing field for elections widely expected later this year. The committee, which consisted of five members of the governing coalition, three opposition members and one independent, was set up last year by Prime Minister Najib Razak following a rally that brought tens of thousands of people into the streets calling for greater transparency and fairness in elections. Its report contained 22 proposals, including steps to ensure that the electoral rolls list only legitimate voters, that political candidates have equal access to the news media and that the Election Commission function independently of partisan politics. The lower house adopted the report later in the day.
“They are good recommendations, but they are not strong enough,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, a lawyer and co-chairwoman of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, which led the protests last July. The organization, also known as Bersih — “clean” in Malay — has campaigned for changes in an election system it says unfairly favors the governing coalition, which has been in power since Malaysia achieved independence in 1957. Ms. Ambiga expressed concern as to whether the government would implement the recommendations in time for the next election. The government has until April 2013 to hold the election, but some news reports have predicted that Mr. Najib may call for a vote as early as June.
Bersih and opposition parties say they have uncovered thousands of cases involving possible voter fraud, including examples of people who have died who are still listed on the electoral rolls and cases where dozens of voters are registered at one address. The report recommended that in cases where more than 50 voters are listed at one address, the Election Commission should notify those affected within 45 days so that they can come forward and allow the commission to update the list.