EC wants Penang, Selangor to plead their case with Putrajaya

By G. Manimaran (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — The Election Commission (EC) said today that the Penang and Selangor state governments should persuade the federal government to amend relevant laws if they wanted to go ahead with plans to restore the third vote.
Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, the deputy EC chairman, told The Malaysian Insider today that the two Pakatan Rakyat-controlled (PR) states should bring the matter up before the National Council for Local Government instead of asking the commission to conduct the proposed local polls.
He reiterated the EC’s position that it had no power to hold local government elections because there is no enabling law to do so.
Wan Ahmad denied accusations that its refusal to hold such elections was because of undue influence from the Barisan Nasional-controlled (BN) federal government.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said yesterday that local elections, or the third vote, was 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 that 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Abdul Aziz explained that Article 113 (4) and Local Government Election Act 1960 were no longer valid due to section 15 (1) of Act 171 in the Local Government Act 1976.
“The option to hold local government elections is not closed yet. They (the Selangor and Penang governments) have to put forward a proposal to the National Council for Local Government,” Wan Ahmad told The Malaysian Insider today.
“All new policies regarding local governments including the idea of restoring elections must be discussed and approved by this council.”
He added that the EC was made to understand that the state legal adviser of Penang had offered similar opinions on the issue but the state executive council had still decided to go ahead with the decision to request the commission to hold local government elections.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has already expressed his disappointment with the EC’s decision. He said the state executive council would study the EC’s ten page reply and decide on its next course of action.
Lim has not discounted the option of taking legal action to force the third vote.
Wan Ahmad said today that it was inappropriate to accuse the EC of bias.
“We made the decision based on legal provisions…if the law is clear who can pressure us.
“If the law does not allow it even the federal government cannot hold local council elections,” he said.