EC unsure if law allows it to hold local elections

By G Manimaran (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 — The Election Commission (EC) says it is unsure if the law allows them to conduct local government elections as requested by the Penang state government.
“From what I know we only conduct elections for Parliament and state assemblies. We have no experience in conducting local government elections,” EC Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof told The Malaysian Insider today.
“As Chairman I have no experience. I have to look at the Constitution and discuss the matter with legal advisors,” he said.
The Penang Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government has decided to ask the 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 today the local election will involve two local councils: the Municipal Council of Penang Island (MPPP) and Municipal Council of Seberang Perai (MPSP).
If held, the elections will be the first in the country in more than 40 years since the federal government banned them in 1965.
The EC chairman said, however, that his office had not yet received the official request from Lim.
“I have not received any letter. I have to look at the contents first.
“I was in the office yesterday and my officers did not inform me of any letter from the Penang chief minister. The Penang EC office has also not informed me of anything.
He said that he would study the Constitution once he receives the letter to ascertain if the EC could conduct the local vote.
“It appears they are now beginning to trust the EC,” he said.
According to Lim, his letter to Abdul Aziz informed the EC it 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 EC 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.