The PKR 2018 Election

It began on 22 September and after 8 weeks, the PKR 2018 Election has drawn to a close, or maybe not.

“I don’t know why (they are celebrating). We have yet to reach the end (of the poll),” she (the PKR President) told reporters after launching the Astro Junior Championships U15 (Regional) badminton tournament, here.

According to the official website, there were 76 positions at the central level and 10,212 at division level, contested.

It was certainly a huge undertaking and having done so using a new untried e-voting system, it was also a huge risk.

It would have been more sensible to hold division elections separate from the central elections but my guess is that they have no time left as their last election was in 2014.

With the whole process taking so long to complete, following the election was a challenge but the media basically boiled it down to team Azmin and team Rafizi.

Essentially Team Azmin has won, except for Azmin himself, as the results for the deputy president position hangs on a balance.

Perhaps the most relevant thing arising from the election so far is the damage to PKR’s reputation.

Responding to an article I shared about a statement the PKR secretary-general made regarding the membership of the Julau branch, which went from hundreds to thousands in 1 day, my niece’s husband commented, “Getting worse this party”. That from a person who rarely makes political observations.

Even before the election, I had written an article about the accusations thrown at Azmin by Rafizi, and the way Rafizi paraded his close ties with Anwar, questioning whether justice is still at the forefront of the party.

More pertinent is Ambiga’s response,

Ambiga said they were about to “lose the moral high ground to call themselves reformists” if the unsavoury situation at the party polls continued.

She also questioned the veracity of 13,000 new registered voters in the party in Julau, Sarawak within just one day in June, ahead of the cutoff date for new members to be eligible to vote.

“After all, they saw through the shenanigans of the last government and threw them out. Thirteen thousand increase in members in one day? Really?” she added.

Perhaps the most damaging is the controversy surrounding Julau.

It seemed that the PKR secretary-general explained that the 13,000 new registered voters in the Julau division came from the Julau MP Larry Sng, who joined the party on May 11, having contested as an independent.

But that did not stop claims that some were actually dead people, and thousands share the same address, and others were people who did not know they are now PKR members, and still others who actually still belong to rival political parties.

The controversy did not end there. On the day of election at Julau, Rafizi (according to some reports) claimed that some of the tablets used in the voting system have been compromised by the presence of a malicious program. The election results were then suspended.

The police came into the picture, a technical man sent by PKR to help supervise the election in Julau was arrested, and the compromised tablets were seized.

There were other issues: Some Malacca and Negri Sembilan divisions had to hold their election again as slow internet access hampered the process. A wireless jamming device was found at 1 election center. Several incidents of violent protests occurred.

The fact that there were acts of violence and sabotage are of little consequence in the sense that these are events that cannot be anticipated or prevented. One can only mitigate the damage and provide clear information that will allay suspicion of fraud or interference.

In this I find PKR wanting. For a party that have been insistent on clean and fair elections for more than a decade, it should be familiar with all the issues involved in the integrity of elections.

On the matter of the membership of the Julau division, the secretary-general came out to say,

“The PKR HQ received the 12,000-over applications from Julau on June 12. The deadline was the 26th. Then the party leadership approved the applications for Julau and more than 400,000 applications from all over Malaysia.

“After that, the new memberships become open for objections, with the final date being July 17. The onus is on the branch to object. We did not receive any objections from them,” he said when contacted by Malay Mail.

He stressed that only members from Julau may object to the new membership applications.

Saifuddin explained that while the authority to evaluate the authenticity of suspect memberships was with the central leadership, it could not do so independently of a formal complaint from the affected branch.

When such reports are filed, he said the party’s application committee will investigate.

“But as a non-Julau member, can we reject the names submitted? We can’t because there were no objections from them,” he said.

Basically he said that the veracity of members is not the responsibility of the PKR HQ.

But with a 1-member-1-vote system, the 13,000 Julau members would have more weight than 30 PKR divisions in Sarawak, which according to PKR central committee member Latheefa Koya, stands at 9000.

On the matter of the compromised tablets in Julau,

The chairman of the PKR Party Election Committee (JPP) Datuk Rashid Din said in a statement here that the matter was detected by the ‘Unit Sistem & IT JPP’ at 2pm at the Julau Voting Centre after the devices failed to function as usual.

”A report was sent to seek the feedback of the JPP Cyber Security Team in Petaling Jaya.

”The information received said the software was used to erase the e-voting application in the tablet, steal data, change the password and control the tablet using a remote-controlled computer,” he said.

He said the unit had taken several immediate steps to overcome the problem by changing the voting mode to offline, to switch off the Device Administrator privilege and to install the ‘Prey Anti-Theft’ application from the ‘Application Manager’.

As those who are familiar with software will know, these claims are quite farfetched. (See too this response from the Prey software developer.)

Subsequently the JPP has issued a statement saying the Julau election results have not been compromised.

The whole point of using an e-voting system is:

1. It can be made relatively tamper proof
2. It is more efficient, with checks made almost instantly
3. It can provide an audit trail
4. Results can be available very quickly

The revelation that you can change the voting mode to offline is quite shocking as it is a compromise.

The fact that votes can be lost via a poor internet connection is shocking. There should be several points for data storage, with the cloud as the final destination. Together with an audit trail, the developer of the system should be able to ascertain the veracity of the data.

That the tablets used can be compromised by the installation of unauthorised software is shocking. If access is so easy how can you assure the public of its integrity?

However, the reported acts of sabotage are, to my mind, a red herring. 7 tablets compromised out of 76 used in 1 division election has a miniscule effect. On top of this what was done, if indeed, was to remove the e-voting program. It would take insider knowledge and great skill and access to compromise the data. Similarly the jamming device. Some people want to cast aspersions on the veracity of the process. But a clear technical explanation can clear the air.

What is even more shocking is the amount of unverified information given out to the public over the past few days, including the involvement of the police. And the lack of clear, professional input on what is a technical matter. A PKR man was arrested and then released. Yet no word on him since.

But for me, the most shocking is the slow release of the results of the election.

I am sure everyone can still remember the anxiety on May 9 when the Election Commission were slow to announce the results of the elections.

In the case of PKR only the elections held in weeks 1-3 have official results announced. In an e-voting system, how can you have so much to deal with in the “peti undi ragu”?

In the meantime we get all sorts of unofficial results in the media.

I can understand the Azmin camp’s impatience in claiming victory. Just as Mahathir did early on May 9 when the unofficial results became clear.

For the President of PKR, who suggested that unnamed infiltrators may be behind the Julau controversies, the election is not over yet.

“I am waiting for JPP to make a decision. I am leaving that (to them) as we want the election to be conducted independently,” she added.

Even though she has her own preferred candidate.

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