Third Vote

Let us hope that the die gets cast!I had just read this piece by RPK on local government elections. I have to say that I am in disagreement with him on several matters. I have some really strong views on this matter and I have mentioned it many times on this and the older blog.

Finally, Pakatan Rakyat could not delay any longer. Like it or not they had to announce the implementation of local council elections. But it is not something that Pakatan Rakyat can do on its own. They can’t just hold the elections as if they were holding a car boot sale on Sunday. It involves certain legal matters that need to first be resolved.

This is pure FUD. The so-called legal matters that need to be resolved can most certainly be resolved one way or the other if someone has the will to take the matter up. You see, there are Constitutional provisions that allow for local government elections and there are also Acts that try to suspend it. Therefore, as long as the PR government are too afraid of challenging the matter, they will fall into the trap of playing the game on BN’s terms. That is just pure stupidity.

Let’s take Perak as an example. Say they hold local council elections in Perak, a state under Barisan Nasional control. And, say, Pakatan Rakyat comes in at all or most of the local councils. Can you imagine the headache Barisan Nasional is going to have? The state would move in the opposite direction. Pakatan Rakyat and not Barisan Nasional will be the real power in Perak.

Wrong! If such a scenario happened, the real power in Perak would neither be the BN nor PR. It would be the rakyat of Perak. That is the true reason why both PR and BN are hesitant on running local government elections. They are both afraid of returning power to the people instead of hording it within their corridors. I keep stressing that local government elections are not a privilege to be given to the people but a right that needs to be returned.

If Najib agrees to local council elections he is dead. Barisan Nasional is going to lose control of many states. If Najib does not agree he is also dead. Pakatan Rakyat would have one up on Barisan Nasional because it would appear like Pakatan Rakyat is not only more democratic but more progressive.

This is pure speculation and wishful thinking. In his piece, he both justified the PR’s hesitance by saying that the local elections may sway towards BN and also said that if local elections were to be held, BN would be crushed. I am not sure which way he swings but he really should make up his mind. Personally, I don’t think that BN will be crushed if there are local elections, which is why I don’t understand why these politicians are so guided by fear.

You see, the people are not as dumb as some of us may think. We would be dumb to give either side a clean-sweep in the elections. It is far smarter to play one side off the other – in order to keep the power with the electorate rather than the elected. The rakyat knows this and chances are that if local council elections are held, some will go BN, others will go PR and neither will have a clean sweep of the councils.

That said, I do think that this is long overdue. They should have called for this at the very beginning. There may be another reason to have local government elections now – if they are afraid of losing the state in the next GE. There are lots of rumours that there will be a snap election called soon. If the PR are not confident of their chances, this is a last bet for them to keep a foot in the door, in case they get the boot.

Anyway, I shall reproduce some of my comments to KW Mak in another article.
Credit goes to me for suggesting mid-term local council elections!

None of these are show-stoppers. They can definitely be overcome with the right will.

Local elections can and should be held at mid-term. It is a good idea to hold it at mid-term as it can provide a form of feedback and allow the political parties to gauge the response from the people – sort of like a mid-term review. Not holding it in sync with national and state elections is actually a good thing.

As for the voter roll, local elections involve people locally – voter eligibility should be based on resident address, rather than official address (the one held by SPR). Anyone who can produce proof that he/she is resident in the area (e.g. by producing a credit card statement or utility bill) should be eligible to vote in the area.

The cost of the actual election itself is something shouldered by the state government. There is something called ‘cukai pintu‘ and this should be one of the reasons to pay local taxes.

The campaign cost is something that is shouldered by the political parties. That is a problem for the political parties, not relevant to the local council elections. If they are unable to run, they should just stay away from the elections or run leaner campaigns (e.g. by exploiting technology) with less wastage.

If a state government loses control of the local councils, that is a good thing. It is democracy in action. This is the same signal sent when the federal government loses control of the state governments. The government will need to improve itself, otherwise it will lose even more later.

For the candidate, anyone who wishes and is eligible to run should be allowed to run, just like MPs. Whether or not the candidate is clean or corrupt should not be a criterion in running. Let the voters be the judge of who is the best to represent them – that’s the whole point.

With regards to the mechanism, like you suggested, it is possible to do it in various ways – top 20, delineated, or even a la Malaysian Idol knockouts. I don’t see why everyone has to use one specific method since none of the methods are tamper-proof. In fact, it might be better to have different methods used for different council elections – it might make things more difficult to [set up].

As for the issue of the NGOs, there are many mechanisms that can be tested. For example, one could set aside a number of seats for NGOs, which is being done today, and allow them to compete with other candidates running on the NGO ticket for these seats.

As for “why waste money on an exercise that could potentially cripple your ability to run the state?” – it is the peoples’ democratic right that has been taken away. It is not a choice for politicians to restore it.

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Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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