Besides looking at the democratic process of elections, perhaps another aspect to consider is the democratic process of nomination/selection of candidates. Candidates that are not selected democratically not only limit the choices of the electorates, but may also cause the election results to be a distorted reflection of public sentiments. There are two dimensions to look at here – the selection of candidates within the party and the provision for independent candidates to stand for elections.
With regards to the Permatang Pauh by-election, we observe that the final decision on who to field as candidate rests with the central leadership of each party. The internal mechanism on how the decision was reached is vague and may lack consultation with grassroot members.
Secondly, do the residents of Permatang Pauh themselves have a voice in determining the choice of candidates for this by-election? It cannot even be ascertained that the people of Permatang Pauh would want a by-election unless a referendum is done earlier to gauge public opinion.
In this by-election, we have a candidate, Hanafi Mamat from AKIM, standing as an independent. Independent voices may be an important platform for the public to express their choice of candidates for any election. I have tried to search the internet and found only this website – Malaysia Votes 2008 – highlighting the importance of, and difficulties faced by independent candidates. Amongst the difficulties highlighted are high deposit needed, lack of media coverage, and disadvantages in terms of logo usage. It was reported in Malaysiakini that Hanafi will only begin his campaign today (21st August) as he was still in the process of preparing his campaign materials.
It is therefore equally vital to highlight the importance of democratizing the selection process of candidates in an election.