Third vote not likely before next elections

By G. Manimaran
KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — Local government elections requested by the Pakatan Rakyat states of Penang and Selangor might not happen before the next general elections as it requires tabling new laws and the Election Commission creating electoral wards.
The EC will also have to consider the cost of conducting another set of elections apart from a Federal Government that is reluctant to have the polls which were suspended in 1965 at the height of the Confrontation with Indonesia.
“It is impossible for local government elections to be held before the 13th general elections,” a former official who was attached to the EC told The Malaysian Insider.
“It will take a long time as there is a need for thorough preparations including drawing the boundaries, the electoral register and other issues,” he added.
The former official said it looked simple and easy to conduct the local government vote but it included other issues such as redrawing the boundaries and ensuring a clean electoral register to avoid legal implications.
He cited the case in Selangor where the Serdang parliamentary seat involved two local authorities, Subang Jaya Municipal Council and the Kajang Municipal Council.
“Some of the residents or tax-payers in the Kajang Municipal Council are voters in Serdang and Hulu Langat which provides two seats in parliament. So these are outstanding issues that need to be solved.
“Even if the EC agrees, we cannot use the available electoral register as the local governments involves other aspects of elections … there are many things to look into,” he added.
Laws normally take a year to go through the process in Malaysia while the redrawing of constituencies also take up to two years, leaving the Pakatan Rakyat government with the reality of getting their day in court two days after giving birth.
“So the processes take their time. It is not easy,” the source added.
He admitted that the 53-year-old body had conducted local government elections some 40 years ago before it was suspended.
The source added the commission had the power through Article 113 of the Federal Constitution to conduct elections other than using officials from the parliamentary or state assemblies.
“But the power must be based on laws that do not exist now,” he said, adding that local government election laws had to be revived to restore the third vote which DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng campaigned for in Election 2008.
“The Federal Constitution and state laws have to be amended to give power to the EC to conduct the local government elections,” he added.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the local government elections proposal was not necessary as it created further politicking.
“We find that as the local government elections have been abolished a while ago, there is no need to restore it as it creates more politicking
“The candidates will use the campaigns as a key point and the local council services might not actually improve,” said the Barisan Nasional chairman.
The first local government election in Malaysia was held in then Malaya in 1951 but was suspended in 1965 with then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman promised it would be restored after the situation improved.
The EC said it would consider the request to conduct local government elections after Lim, who is Penang Chief Minister, announced on Saturday it wanted tor restore the third vote for the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) and the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP).
Selangor also made the request a day later although EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said the commission had only conducted parliamentary and state polls but did not have the experience to conduct local council elections.
Lim said Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution allowed the state government to confer powers to the EC as it was a competent authority as defined by the Local Government Elections Act 1960 and the Local Governments Act 1976.