According to journalists at a press conference held by PKR today Saifuddin Nasution the PKR Election Director had reiterated his stand that he would not allow PKR candidate Mansor Othman to face the voters by himself in a candidates debate which the other 3 independent candidates had agreed to attend. If candidates from all sides attend the debate then history would be made since BN candidates, with very few exceptions, always boycot such debate challenges/invitations before. The most recent debate between a BN candidate and a Opposition candidate took place in Klang between BN/MCA’s Dr Tan Yee Kiew(since joined PKR) and Teng Chang Khim-now the Selangor Speaker, in 2004 General Elections. The opportunity to make the BN-free election an exemplary election operation look set to be squandered-if PKR does not review its decision by tomorrow evening!
With such an emphatic refusal to attend the debate the party seems to put itself on the same level as BN in looking down on the other candidates and running away from the voters.
Saifuddin’s argument has indeed glossed over the pro-debate position taken by PKR/Pakatan itself all along.
In defending his position Saifuddin was reported to say that there are other ways to `benefit’ the candidate other than joining a debate. He never specify what other ways he was referring to-and indeed his `packed schedule’ cannot be provided to inquiring media yet! This could give the impression that the 1-way communications through `ceramah’, house-to-house campaign etc could be used cynically to secure votes better than multi-dimensional, interactive communications that a debate offers.This means that PKR is unabashedly leveraging solely on its superior machinery to win-unwittingly forfeiting its intellectual assets.
Indeed public debate can be seen as a platform to level the playing field in policy debates-irrespective of the strength of electoral machinery. In a country where election expenses of candidates are declared without proper auditing such reliance on machinery could perpetuate the elements of unfairness in election by giving unconstrained advantage to the side with more resources. Put simply if the `machinery’ is costed the unfairness in election would become unmistakable. This factor had advantaged BN before-to loud protest by the Opposition parties. Now PKR wants that advantage to itself when fighting the independents, while keeping the option open to protest uneven playing fields offered by BN’s election deals.
PKR need to decide if it can offer a politics based on level-field, brain-based policy contests or old-school/BN-styled pocket-size resources contest.
Most funnily Saifuddin made a point that there could still be a good debate with 3 independent candidates, forgetting its past experiences in holding debate with an empty chair reserved for the absentist main protagonist in the political `drama’. He almost sounded charitable to the debate organiser while in truth the decision of running away from the voters’ scrutinies lies with his own party, or at least the candidate’s minder!
The organiser will persevere to organise the debate despite being boycotted by the party to highlight the value of multi-directional communication over 1-way communication so beloved by over-confident candidates/parties.
MAFREL will always defend voters’ right to question the candidates-who are job seekers in a job interview tagged election. Refusing to speak to the `boss’ in a job interview is certainly unadvisable!