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Local polls: The court may have to decide

 | September 12, 2012

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has written to the EC again to conduct local elections for the state before the issue is taken to court.

PETALING JAYA: The Election Commission (EC) has again been asked, possibly for the last time, before the issue is brought to the courts, to conduct local government elections in the DAP-helmed Pakatan Rakyat state of Penang.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng last week sent a letter to the EC chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, reminding the official election body that it was now ‘empowered’ to run the third vote for Penang and Seberang Perai municipal councils.

In the letter, dated Aug 30, Lim said that the Penang Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012 was passed in May and has been been gazetted since July 5.

Lim also drew the attention of the EC chief to Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution, which states states:” Federal or State law may authorize the Election Commission to conduct elections…”

“Therefore, the Penang state government requests the EC to run the election for local government authories for Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang and Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai,” said Lim.

In a press conference in Penang today, Penang exco (Local government and traffic management committee) Chow Kon Yeow said that Lim’s letter was the last step in the state government’s “roadmap to local elections”.

The Padang Kota assemblyman said they expect an answer from the EC within a week or two. And if the EC does not respond positively, the next step, Chow said, will be for the state to ask the courts to decide on the matter.

“If the EC says they do not want to hold this election, despite being empowered by the Federal Constitution, our next step is to bring it to the court for judicial pronouncement,” he said.

“We want the court to declare the state enactment as a good law, and not ultra vires to the constitution. Secondly, we will ask the courts to then direct the EC to conduct the elections,” he said.

Attempts by FMT to get a response from Abdul Aziz failed. However, EC public relations officer Sabri Said told FMT that it was unlikely that the EC will make any drastic change in its previous stand not to hold state elections that the Pakatan Rakyat states are trying to revive.

BN, EC not in favour

Local polls were suspended in 1965 after the Indonesian Confrontation. It has been reported that despite a promise by then prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to revive them, this did not take place. When the Local Government Act 1976 (LGA) was gazetted, all provisions relating to local government elections became null and void via Section 15 of the Act.

However, the Penang government had in February issued a gazette notification exempting local authorities from section 15 of the LGA.

On May 9, the Penang Legislative Assembly unanimously passed the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012.

The revival of Penang’s local state government elections have been described by Lim as DAP’s ‘delivery as promised’, as it was a huge part of the opposition’s campaign in 2008 general election.

Repeatedly, both the Barisan Nasional federal government and the EC have rejected the proposal by Pakatan states to have local elections.

Abdul Aziz had previously said that state governments can conduct local government elections if they so wish, but the EC will not be involved as there were no enabling law for the EC to run such elections.

Minister of Housing and Local Government Chor Chee Heung had informed Parliament that local elections were a waste of money and manpower.

Attorney-General’s Chambers also found that the Penang enactment was not valid because Section 15 of the LGA which states that laws on local government elections shall cease to have force of effect, overlaps the Local Government Elections Act 1960.


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