The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) staunchly rejects the push by certain quarters in UMNO to have an early 15th General Election (GE15) to save kleptocrats from justice in court. BERSIH calls upon all parties to instead support a new convention of ‘fixed term parliament’ by allowing the 14th Parliament to stand dissolved only on 15 July 2023.
BERSIH is alarmed that the tabling of Budget 2023 has been brought forward by three weeks to 7th October, fuelling speculation that Parliament would be irresponsibly dissolved the very next day, to fish votes with generous but unguaranteed offers in an undebated budget.
BERSIH condemns those who unashamedly instructed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri to seek pardon for Najib and early dissolution of Parliament. They have made clear that they want a new Government that seeks pardon for Najib, pressures judges and perhaps withdraws charges in other corruption cases.
If the supporters of Kleptocrats get their way, then the “two-class” (dua darjat) phenomenon would be institutionalised – government politicians would be spared from any legal consequences for breaking laws and robbing the people, as long as they can win elections.
Institutionalised protection for kleptocrats would destroy not just the rule of law and society, but also the economy as honest businesses and investments would leave the country in droves, sinking the country into catastrophe.
BERSIH calls upon Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri to stand firm on his promise to not interfere in judiciary by rejecting the call for early GE15. He must remember his mandate comes from the Parliament, and not from UMNO.
To protect Malaysia from kleptocrats, the Prime Minister must implement key reforms. First and foremost is the separation of Public Prosecution Office from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), to eliminate selective prosecution and impunity by Attorney General who is a political appointee and whose decision may be influenced by political considerations.
If after GE15, the Attorney General withdraws all charges against Najib in the remaining four cases, nothing can be done by any judges, and Najib would walk away as a freeman after receiving royal pardon on SRC.
The other pressing reforms include a political finance law that would provide sufficient public funding to political parties to reduce their dependence on slush funds, appointment of standing select committees to scrutinize every ministry (“departmental committees”) and reform in absentee voting for out-of-region and overseas voters to raise turnout rates.
As all these reforms would take months to be ready, if all stakeholders are given ample time to offer their inputs, the 14th Parliament should last until 15 July 2023. This would start a new constitutional convention of ‘fixed term parliament’.
With ‘fixed term parliament’, every parliament should last for its entire term, and early dissolution should be sought in only two circumstances: (a) when the government loses confidence of Parliament; and (b) when two-third of parliamentarians resolve to seek early dissolution.
With ‘fixed term parliament’, election date would be largely fixed. This would contribute to political stability by discouraging political adventurism and short-term calculations. It also allows ordinary people, especially police personnel, teachers and other civil servants involved in electoral administration, and journalists, to plan their family holidays or even wedding reception.
We call upon the Prime Minister and all parties to join force to bring more institutional reforms necessary for political stability between now and 15 July 2023.
The Steering Committee of BERSIH