EC can’t restore third vote, says chief

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani (Malaysian Insider)
PUTRAJAYA, March 24 —The Election Commission has claimed there is no “enabling law” allowing it to restore local government elections despite requests from the Penang and Selangor governments.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said local elections, or the third vote, had been annulled under section 15 (1) of Act 171 in the Local Government Act 1976 which states that “all provisions in any law relating to local government elections cease to have force or effect.”
The EC has formally informed Selangor and Penang that it cannot restore the third vote. It can only hold state and federal elections.
According to the EC, provisions or aspects of law governing local elections under the Local Government Election Act 1960 had been abolished and neither the commission nor the state have the authority to restore the third vote.
Local government elections were suspended in 1965 but Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said earlier this month that he would write to the EC on the possibility of holding them again in the state.
Selangor was following the lead of fellow Pakatan Rakyat-ruled state Penang, which made a formal request to the EC on March 4 for local elections to be held for both the Penang and Seberang Prai municipal councils.
The Penang government maintains under Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution, federal or state law may authorise the EC to conduct elections other than parliamentary or state elections.
Abdul Aziz explained that Article 113 (4) and Local Government Election Act 1960 were no longer valid due to section 15 (1) of Act 171 in the Local Government Act 1976.
“Act 473 (Local Government Election Act 1960) gives EC the authority to conduct local government elections. However, the EC does not have the power to enforce Act 473 because section 15 (1) of Act 171 which states that all provisions under Act 473 has been abolished.
“According to section 15 (1) and 10 in Act 171, it is clear that EC does not have the authority to conduct local government elections because the members of the local government must be determined by appointment,” he said.
However, Abdul Aziz said that while the local government is under the jurisdiction of the state, any amendments to the policy must be decided by the National Council for Local Government (MNKT)
“Based on Article 95A of the federal constitution, amendments to the policies in relation to holding local government elections must be decided by the National Council for Local Government,” he said.
He said that if MNKT does decide to hold local government elections then section 10 and 15 of Act 171 must be amended and all amendments must be accepted by all Federal states to ensure uniformity.
“Until the necessary action is taken then EC cannot enforce Act 473 to hold local government elections for Penang and Selangor,” he said.
Restoring local government elections was a campaign promise of the PR coalition — which comprise PKR, DAP and PAS — during Election 2008.
The Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government had already indicated it was not interested in restoring local council elections as it argues that they will not necessarily improve public services.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said that local government elections were abolished long ago and need not be restore as it will only create more politicking at the local level.
Local government elections were first held in 1951 before Merdeka but abolished during the Confrontation with Indonesia, which objected to the 1963 formation of Malaysia.
The then-Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman promised they would be restored after the situation improved.
The federal government under Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had in 2007 turned down a demand by the DAP to restore local elections.
Since the suspension of local elections, council seats have become a political reward to loyalists of the ruling party.