Local Council Elections
By G. Manimaran and Syed Mu’az Syed Putra, Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — PAS has proposed a mix of elected and nominated councillors for local governments to reflect the interests of various groups and races if the Election Commission (EC) agrees to implement the third vote.
PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar (picture) is leading a special party committee overseeing all aspects of the third vote that will ensure the interest of professionals, activists and all races will be included in the administration if there are local government elections.
The EC is due to announce its response later today to holding such elections after requests from Pakatan Rakyat (PR) states Penang and Selangor.
“The PAS committee will see how the third vote can be implemented while taking care of any concerns it will be unfair,” Mahfuz told The Malaysian Insider, stressing the Islamist party supports strengthening local democracy as outlined in PR’s Common Policy Framework.
The PAS-dominated PR governments in both Kedah and Kelantan have yet to announce their support for local government elections, triggering talk that the party is not supporting the move pushed by the DAP within the coalition.
But Mahfuz said PAS just wanted to ensure that all levels of society are represented in local councils rather than it remain a race among politicians to dominate another layer of government.
“There are the ultra-Malays, especially Umno, who claim that local government elections will reduce Malay representation if a particular race wins. Only one party would spread such concerns,” the Pokok Sena MP added.
He said apart from racial balance, there were also concerns about representation from both professional and NGO groups, including the business community.
He said the committee will study several models including Hong Long, which has a mix of elected and nominated members of its legislative council
“We are considering many possibilities, perhaps 60 per cent are elected and 40 per cent get nominated. If that is the case, then the groups that are under-represented after the election can get representation,” he added.
Mahfuz said the party wants to change negative perceptions about the third vote, which Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has rejected.
“Discard the issue or race… don’t worry that it will be controlled by just one race but see it as change that will benefit the people especially the tax-payers,” he said to the perception that non-Malays will dominate the elections.
“We don’t see local government elections as an issue unlike Umno-Barisan Nasional. We see it as a forming a local government made up of various races that will serve the people,” the outspoken party vice-president added.
Mahfuz predicted that the EC is likely to reject the third vote proposal, adding his party is also considering other mechanisms that will reflect democracy in the composition of local councils.
“From the reaction of the prime minster, I think the EC will not make a decision that enables them to run local government elections. If this happens, PAS will have to find a way to see how the local council composition can be determined,” he added, saying his committee will meet soon to discuss the matter.
The Penang and Selangor governments have written to the EC to discuss the issue before the commission makes it decision.
The EC has said it is considering both Penang and Selangor’s request for local government elections which were suspended in 1965 at the outset of the Confrontation with Indonesia. Local government elections first began in then Malaya in 1951 but the last such elections were held 10 years later.
“We have completed our in-depth discussions into the matter. Wait for our decision that we will announce tomorrow,” EC deputy chairman Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar told The Malaysian Insider last night.