Awaiting local, federal elections | Selangor Times
Issue 118


Awaiting local, federal elections
Writer: Fahmi Fadzil
Published: Fri, 29 Mar 2013

THE Malaysian political scene feels like it fits right in with the work of absurdist playwright Beckett’s play entitled ‘Waiting for Godot’, where two characters – Vladimir and Estragon – wait patiently for the arrival of Godot, who never arrives.

At least at the time of writing, rumours of impending dissolution of Parliament have been spreading at least twice in the past two weeks – once when a local Malay daily tweeted a picture of the Prime Minister at the Istana Negara, and once more when again he visited the official residence of the Agong. 

Both times proved to be non-starters.

While we wait seemingly endlessly for the 13th General Election, I’d like to touch briefly on an aspect of democratic life which I feel needs to be resuscitated: local elections. 

There are very strong arguments both for (eg increasing transparency and accountability among local government servants; “no taxation without representation”principle) and against (cost of running may see only certain groups being able to participate; voter fatigue) the bringing back of these local polls, which undoubtedly deserves its own article. 

Even so, I proceed with the assumption that a significant number of people would wish to see the return of local elections in a post 13-GE Malaysia. 

To that end, I would like to highlight certain areas or aspects – some say hurdles – that need to be overcome to ensure the third vote is returned to the people.

The first is legislative reform; as we’ve seen in states like Penang which has tried to conduct local elections by passing its own Local Government Elections Enactment 2012, existing laws like the Local Government Act 1976 – specifically Section 15 – do not allow polls to be conducted at the municipal level (this is currently being challenged by the Penang State Government at the Federal Court level).

As such, said Act needs to be amended, which can only take place should there be political change in Putrajaya.

This segues nicely into the second area I’d like to discuss: political will. 

Some observers have critiqued Pakatan Rakyat’s election manifesto, saying that PR has not stated clearly its commitment to local polls. 

Such criticisms are not unwarranted, as the the matter has not been fully accepted by all component parties due to current political realities.

Even so, discussions are ongoing and bearing in mind Pakatan’s three-pronged Common Policy Framework, Buku Jingga, and progressive-reformist democratic spirit, one can be certain that with the takeover of Putrajaya the coalition is committed to laying the foundations for a return of the third vote.

The final area which requires some attention is cultural: a change in the mindset of the people towards the role of local government in relation to the state and federal governments. 

It is high time we acknowledge the different roles and responsibilities held by elected or appointed representatives, and maintain healthy expectations of what can and should be done by such representatives. 

This means we need to start seeing state assemblypersons and members of Parliament as legislators, whose primary function is to draft laws based on the experiences and responses received from their constituents; and we must recognize that local/municipal councillors are the go-to persons when it comes to local concerns such as rubbish, roads, and rodents.

Equally important is the awareness that democracy must be returned to the grassroots level, meaning that we need to keep the people interested in the democratic process of elections. 

There is little point in being able to elect one’s mayor, but so very few actually turn out to vote.

Lastly, a reality check: perhaps we may not be able to accomplish all on our wishlist for local elections. 

What is critical is seeing that change is coming, slowly and gradually, and we must work equally hard to ensure that the coming change is positive, sustainable, and lasting.


 Selangor Times



Also by Fahmi Fadzil:

New beginnings

Farewell 2012, Hello 13GE

WHAT a year it has been! Who would’ve thought that much of these past 11 months would have sped by with such ferocity?

Reconsidering elected representatives

What is the role of a member of Parliament? A state assemblyperson (ADUN)? A local councillor? 

The day after...

In my last article, I wrote about the need to imagine the hours, days, weeks, and months following the 13th General Election (a most enigmatic event, whose precise date is and will forever be a mystery... until it is called!). 

Change must come but not with violence

A few days ago, I read an article by Liew Chin Tong, the MP for Bukit Bendera, entitled “The Last Mile” (The Rocket, July 2, 2012).

Let’s keep thuggery out

I have been working for Nurul Izzah and Parti Keadilan Rakyat since October 2010.

Cleaner, freer, fairer, better

It’s been a good nine months since the epic Bersih 2.0 rally of July 2011. I still remember the days that came before that mammoth gathering - the tension, the stress, the uncertainties, and most of all: the unyielding desire of the rakyat for free and fair elections - and realize that, given the special circumstance that we are in today what with polls being weeks or months away, those thunderous days may not be repeated verbatim.

Tale of two gatherings

This past week saw several different yet, from my point of view, important gatherings of people standing up for what they believe in. I want to write a little bit about two gatherings in particular, and highlight what we may (hopefully) learn from each.

Of sacred cows and secret condos

It’s been a while since my last article appeared in Selangor Times - things have been moving a tad bit faster than usual; even now I’m writing in between completing other tasks, but no matter.

What a year!

“Buka tutup buka tutup mata, dah habis satu tahun.”

TTDI residents ready for futsal 'match'

A few Fridays ago, I received an email from my neighbourhood security-watch committee about a new project that had suddenly mushroomed in our little corner of Taman Tun Dr Ismail: a futsal court.

Neighbourhoods under siege

OF late I’ve been thinking a lot about neighbourhoods – all these places where we grew up, started our own families, and basically watched the nation go by.

Cleaner, fairer, better?

PRACTICALLY everyone who is reading this already knows about the July 9 rally organised by the Bersih 2.0 coalition. I believe that many of us were there on the streets on that historic day.

Maafkan kami

I’m not sure if you’ve been following the news, but earlier in June I was kind of in the news as I had to apologise for some things that I had tweeted in January.

Times of change

Of late, we’ve been inundated with talk about withdrawal of subsidies and subsequently the change in the price of sugar, RON95, gas, electricity, etc – some of which has happened, and some of which (for whatever economic or political reason) has not.

Sarawak, show us the way

The recent Sarawak state elections were such a learning experience for many Malaysians. Irrespective of whether we were active participants in the political battles on the ground, or just curious observers reading the news on Twitter, it is clear that Sarawak – and the rest of the country – can never be the same again.

The Malaysian resistance

These are “artistic impressions” of thoughts circumambulating the increasingly controversial Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
project. I chose to say “increasingly controversial” because we all know we need this infrastructure and thus any opposition to it appears to reject a very public need.











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