The Penang CM declared that they had written to the SPR to request the latter to organise long abandoned local council elections-seemingly to cheer up the 2nd anniversary of the Mar 8 `tsunami’ where it has been shrouded by the de-stabilising talks of defections. Some lawyers eg Derek Fernadez had pointed out that there is a clause in the Local Government Act 1976 to allow state governments to apply for exclusion of certain areas from implementing the Local Government Act 1976, which aims at stopping local government elections in the municipalities. The last time local government elections were held in Penang was in 1965. So has the CM applied for the exclusion to the Federal Govt?
If it has not then it seems that the CM is counting on the SPR’s refusal to kick the ball of holding local govt elections over to the federal govt-thus deflecting its responsibility to fulfil its key election promise. However such superficial action cannot cover up the internal resisitance to hold local elections: actually there are resistance from PR component parties and even within DAP itself towards local government elections. If there were real commitment towards local elections there are various options for that to be carried out without apparently contravening the Local Government Act.
Procedures apart the DAP should consider the following for them to get serious about implementing local government elections: in most democracy the 3rd tired government is check n balance mechanism to the state and federal governments. They are usually not governed by the same parties. In this way opposition parties in the state and federal levels can still have access to administrative resources at local government levels-thus enabling the opposition parties to survive in a 2 parties system. In contrast what we have now is a `winners take all’ system which work against the 2-party system, thus reducing the political stability of the country-and bring about the 10-year cycle of political turmoil to the Malaysian political system.
Ruling parties like BN will try all they can -by fair and foul means, to cling on to power because they will lose all if they don’t. By making it possible for them to cling on to some power this will encourage them to agree to allow local government elections. The 2-party system helped by local government elections is, afterall, good for all. The losing of some local government seats from the state and federal governments is a small price to pay for the maintenance of the 2-party system. So self interests may cause Federal govt to approve local government elections in Penang-afterall it will allow BN parties to claw back some City Council seats from the PR!
Penang restores local council vote
PENANG, March 6 — Penang has decided to ask the Election Commission (EC) to conduct local government elections for two municipalities in the state this year, sticking to its campaign promise to restore the third vote just days shy of its electoral victory two years ago.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the local election will involve two municipal councils: the Municipal Council of Penang Island (MPPP) and Municipal Council of Seberang Perai (MPSP).
If held, the elections would be the first in the country in more than 40 years since the federal government banned them in the 1960s.
“The executive council decided this week we will go ahead with the local government election,” he told The Malaysian Insider, adding the government has sent a letter to the EC on March 4, asking them to conduct the polls.
In the letter addressed to EC chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, Lim said the state was asking the commission to conduct the local government elections under Article 113 (4) of the Federal Constitution.
The Article reads that federal and state laws can confer power to the Election Commission to conduct any other elections apart from those in Schedule (1). Lim’s letter said the federal laws that allow the state government to be a competent authority include Local Government Elections Act 1960 and the Local Government Act 1976.
The chief minister also hoped for a meeting soon to get the EC’s views on the local government elections, which it hoped would be held soon.
The DAP secretary-general had proposed the third vote campaign in 2007, a year before then-prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for elections on March 8, 2008. But the federal government had refused the proposal to restore the elections.
He also pushed for it in the Common Policy Framework of the Pakatan Rakyat unveiled last December, but the coalition pact opted to go for the phrase “strengthening local government democracy”. Pakatan now comprises PKR, DAP and PAS.
It is understood the main fear of the allies was losing to the ruling Barisan Nasional federal government if such elections were held. There was also a fear that non-Malays would swamp Malays in the vote, particularly in urban areas, but several Pakatan strategists had pointed out that there have been shifts in population demographics.