Promises and democracy — The Malaysian Insider

DEC 17 — Working towards a “cohesive alliance” this weekend, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday papered over cracks about ditching local government elections as a policy for the Pakatan Rakyat.
Days of robust discussions had failed to get the promise of restoring local government elections in black and white, and DAP negotiators were frustrated enough to say that they had “reservations” about the document.
“It is not true. I don’t know how it was leaked to say that there was a strong difference of opinion, because the agreement is that we must agree on a consensus and then we went through everything. For example, today we focused on the preamble and the issue of local council [elections] was in the last meeting,” Anwar said.
But inside the meetings, the story was different although the negotiators had promised to keep quiet about their deliberations.
To the credit of all three allies, this was just another bump in an attempt to turn a nascent alliance into something “cohesive” to borrow the words of the charismatic Anwar who has managed to get leftists and rightists to coalesce into PKR apart from getting the DAP and PAS to go for another coalition.
But it was a big enough bump for DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng to return from a United States trade trip as Penang chief minister and roll up his sleeves to discuss the issue with his counterparts in PKR and PAS.
Asked by The Malaysian Insider, all Lim said was the road to democracy must include the promise made to restore local government elections.
“The DAP stand is unequivocal that there must be the restoration of local government elections. Our partners in Pakatan Rakyat understand this and it is now just about ways to implement it,” he said, noting the federal government is the only authority that can do so.
Lim noted that the discussions however showed that Pakatan is a truly democratic platform as no one party had dominated the discussions in a snide remark thrown at their rivals Barisan Nasional. “We are not a rubber stamp organisation,” he added.
Despite his words, the Pakatan’s Common Policy Framework document this Saturday will not spell out the coalition’s stand on the matter. It will speak about democracy which DAP leaders say includes restoring local government elections which was suspended in the 1960s.
Since then, local government councillors have been appointed directly by the state government and this has since been turned into a political reward for ruling party officials. The restoration of local elections is one of the demands made by electoral reforms coalition Bersih, which also comprise Pakatan parties.
In November 2007, the group organised the largest street demonstration in Kuala Lumpur in a decade, mobilising some 60,000 protesters to demand for free and fair elections.
The coalition’s effort in mobilising support contributed to Barisan’s worst electoral performance in Election 2008, which was held just four months later.
With that in mind, restoring local government elections is one promise of democratic reforms that Pakatan must spell out and keep when it captures Putrajaya.
Their first step towards that is this Saturday. Unless the road to Putrajaya is just a boulevard of broken promises. And democracy is just another word to get support.