Cheap sugar, rice? No element of bribery in Sungai Limau, says Election Commission chief
There was no element of bribery in the sale of rice and sugar at discounted prices by Barisan Nasional (BN) during the Sungai Limau by-election campaign period, said the Election Commission.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said that despite these household goods being offered cheaply to Sungai Limau residents, they still had the freedom to vote for the candidate of their choice.
"There are no election laws regarding this. They (BN) would have had to obtain permission from the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-Operatives & Consumerism before selling the items at a discounted price," Abdul Aziz told .
"What I know is, the act is not an offence. I was not informed of this. If it was sold to the public, it shouldn't be a problem but what is not allowed is if they had called voters to buy the items at a cheap price and then insisted that they vote for a certain candidate."
On Sunday, the eve of polling day, BN organised a shopping-like carnival in Bukit Besar, located 19km from Alor Star. It was packed as word spread that household essentials were being sold well below market prices.
And while the BN government recently removed the sugar subsidy that caused the price to go up, a 1kg packet of sugar cost RM1.00 at the carnival. After the subsidy was removed the 1kg packet retailed at RM2.84.
A 5kg bag of rice, usually sold between RM18 and RM20, cost RM5 at the carnival.
Abdul Aziz said it was only considered bribery if voters were asked to vote for a particular candidate and the voters had to show proof that they had voted for the said candidate.
However, Abdul Aziz noted that PAS's victory proved that the cheap sale had not succeeded in influencing the voters.
"We don't know who came for the carnival and who they voted for. If there is any element of bribery, I myself will call the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
"This is similar to giving transport fare to voters. The voters are still free to make their own choice. The majority of the voters in Bukit Besar support PAS. This means that they were not swayed by the cheap sale.
"They bought the items but their vote is still a secret."
Abdul Aziz said voters will take whatever is given to them but it does not necessarily mean they will do what the giver wants them to do, in this case, vote for their candidate.
He said yesterday's by-election went smoothly although there were a few incidents which had made the situation tense.
The rowdy behaviour and abusive language of some supporters marred the otherwise peaceful atmosphere in Sungai Limau.
"Overall, the by-election went on well and small incidents are normal during elections. However, the campaigning was heated,” Abdul Aziz said.
"I will not mention which party but certain mean-spirited things that happened made me change my mind about visiting certain areas because I saw that the supporters had lost their minds. You can imagine the situation there."
PAS candidate Mohd Azam Abdul Samat defeated BN’s Dr Ahmad Sohaimi Lazim with a majority of 1,084 votes. Azam, 37, will be sworn in as the new Sungai Limau assemblyman at the Kedah legislative assembly on November 18.
Last May, the late Tan Sri Azizan Razak won the seat with a 2,774-vote majority in a four-cornered fight.
The EC pegged voter turnout at 85.5%. It was a drop from the 89.43% voter turnout in the general election on May 5. There are 27,222 voters in the constituency