PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 has welcomed the government’s promise to revive municipal elections within three years, but warned it not to repeat the mistakes of the previous Barisan Nasional administration for failing to bring back the “third vote”.
“It should show to the voters that it is different from the BN government, which chose political patronage over empowering the people.
“The current government should display its political commitment to strengthening local democracy in the country by returning the third vote to the people,” the coalition said in a statement today.
Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin recently announced that local council elections would be implemented within three years, with a detailed study into the matter to be carried out in the next six months.
Bersih urged Zuraida to consult with all stakeholders, including NGOs, over the six-month study period to gather the relevant input regarding the design and implementation of the local government elections.
Local elections were suspended in 1965 during Malaysia’s confrontation with Indonesia, when the government felt a need to have more control of local councils for security reasons.
Bersih said the appointment of local councillors by the state government had given rise to “massive political patronage and corruption for decades”, as they were not accountable to the public but only to their political masters.
It said direct election of mayors would give a powerful mandate to carry out reforms of institutions in big cities.
“In cities with directly elected mayors, elected local councils are still needed as the legislative branch to provide the check and balance of the executive.
“In smaller local jurisdictions where a directly elected mayor may not be necessary, a local council as the legislative branch must be elected, and it will indirectly elect council presidents and their Cabinets, as how the parliamentary system is practised at the federal and state levels.”