DAP calls for electoral reforms

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr Lim Kit Siang, when he officially opened the Niyor DAP Branch in Johore on Monday, 30th August 1971 at 2 p.m.

DAP calls for electoral reforms with (i) automatic registration of eligible voters; (ii) compulsory voting (iii) reduction of voting age to 18

This is the third DAP branch in the Bekok constituency to be officially opened in four days – after the Chamek DAP Branch and Cha’ah DAP Branch.

There is no better evidence than these official openings of the DAP’s growing and expanding ground support in Bekok and in Johore. I expect to see more branches to be opened in Bekok and Johore, to provide more vehicles for the propagation of our creed to build a democratic socialist Malaysia.

I must give a note of caution, however. The official opening of a branch is not the end of our effort, but only the first step in a long journey to wage a protracted political struggle for a new Malaysia – a Malaysia where there is justice and equality, where there is no more poverty, suffering and human exploitation.

Although during the last general elections, the DAP did not do as well in Johore as in the other states of Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Perak, Malacca and Penang, we did not do too badly either.

We won one State seat, our Comrade Lee Kaw for Gunong Lambak, but in two State Constituencies, we narrowly missed victory by losing less than 1,000 votes: namely Broleh in Batu Pahat and Bandar Segamat. In fact, Comrade Lee Kaw himself narrowly missed winning the Parliamentary seat in Kluang Utara, and send a Rocket into Parliament from Johore.

We succeeded in the 1969 general elections in cracking the Alliance monopoly of all the Assembly seats in Johore in 1964, and in the coming general elections, I have no doubt whatsoever that we will make even more gains if we redouble our effort in all parts of Johore now.

There are going to be changes in the State and Parliamentary constituencies in Johore in the next general elections. At the end of 1968, the Elections Commission recommended redrawing all the State and Parliamentary constituencies in the country. For the State of Johore, they have recommended the reduction of two Parliamentary seats and four State seats.

Whatever the changes in the constituency boundaries, however, it is our task to ceaselessly and relentlessly bring our message for a democratic socialist Malaysia to all Malaysians in the State of Johore and the entire country.

Next month, the Elections Commission will resume its annual operation to register new voters.

We notice during the Bekok by-election and the 1969 General Elections that the overwhelming number of youths who support us are not registered voters. All DAP Branches in the country must organize a machinery during the period of registration of voters to get the maximum number of unregistered voters to register, so that in the next elections they can exercise their sacred right and duty to help decide the future of our country.

The present system of registration of electors is most unsatisfactory, and I would suggest various electoral reforms to make the electoral system a more workable one:

I would make three proposals here:

1. Introduce automatic registration of all eligible voters who have reached the voting age of 21, so that neither the government nor the people need be inconvenienced each year by registration exercises.
2. Introduce compulsory voting, so that every voter must cast his vote. This will go a long way to minimize abuses during elections through vote-buying and intimidation tactics.
3. Reduce the voting age to 18 years of age as (i) the legal age has now been reduced to 18; and (ii) to reflect the youthful character and composition of Malaysia, where more than 60 per cent of her population are below 25 years of age.

If these electoral reforms are carried out, our electoral system will be more efficient and competent in reflecting the democratic wishes of the people during elections.

I shall take up these proposals of mine in the next meeting of Parliament, which will meet for 35 days from 29th November to 21st January 1972 to discuss among other things the new Budget.