The People’s Voice: Modified local elections wanted in Selangor

6 Jul 09 : 3.35PM

PETALING JAYA, 6 July 2009: A coalition of civil society organisations is calling for Selangor to take the first step towards reinstating local council elections by allowing citizens to select councillors next June.

Maria Chin Abdullah
“It’s doable. Civil society is all ready to help them with the election, free of charge,” said Maria Chin Abdullah, chairperson of the Coalition for Good Governance (CGG).

Maria said the CGG presented a report to the Selangor government last week with recommendations for short and long-term actions the state could take towards reinstating local council elections nationwide.

The CGG is pushing for Selangor to immediately start work on a form of local elections that would bypass the Election Commission and the Local Government Act. The coalition called this the people-oriented selection process.

The system is meant to allow Selangor to hold local elections without having to pass any laws that could be vetoed at the federal level. States have to consult the National Council for Local Government, which is provided for in the constitution, before passing laws related to municipal councils.

In the proposed system, eligible voters who live in Selangor would nominate and vote for candidates in their constituency.

A selection commission made up of state government staff, non-partisan activists and academics would oversee the elections. The state government would then appoint the winning candidates as councillors.

Noel Dass, a member of the CGG, said he was optimistic the recommendations would be taken seriously despite the widespread view that there was no political will to reinstate local elections.

Noel Dass
The group was simply asking for Selangor’s Pakatan Rakyat-led government to uphold its election campaign promises, he noted.

States that are led by the Barisan Nasional (BN) could also use the reinstatement of local elections to show they are serious about governing in the people’s interest, he said. “It’s a matter of holding them accountable. Prove what you mean when you say, ‘We are for the rakyat.'”

The CGG estimates it would cost about RM4 million if the modified elections took place over 12 weeks, and RM5 million if they took place over four weeks.

Lobby needed

State governments should lead a lobbying effort for nationwide local council elections, Maria said.

She said state governments could push the issue into the agenda of the National Council for Local Government, and lobby for a Royal Commission on Local Government.

“We’re not saying the permanent solution will happen overnight. We are realistic. It could take years,” she added.

In the meantime, the CGG will continue to monitor appointed councillors through task forces, Maria said.

The Selangor government is expected to release the names of this term’s appointed local councillors today.

Local council elections, which were held after independence, were abolished in 1965 by the BN following the Confrontation with Indonesia in the 1960s. This was achieved through the Emergency (Suspension of Local Government Elections) Regulations 1965.

Some have argued that the real reason behind the suspension of the “third vote” was because the Alliance then feared the opposition taking over major Malaysian towns.