PETALING JAYA: About 60% of Malaysians in an online survey want the government to revive local elections, although many are sceptical that it will lead to significant improvements in their lives.
Centre For A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) co-president Gan Ping Sieu said the 1,000 respondents surveyed online had conflicting views over the possible impact of reviving elections in local councils.
“The survey draws out people’s perception on the pros and cons of bringing back local government elections, and also throws light on the people’s political literacy level concerning the three tiers of government,” he said.
Those who support having local elections say they will lead to more effective governance of the city or municipality, ensure better responsiveness, encourage councillors to take responsibility and promote democracy in local government leadership.
The naysayers, however, said local elections would result in greater bureaucracy which would delay the decision-making process. They were also not keen on the inconvenience of multiple voting process and said local elections would not help to solve problems plaguing the country.
There were also fears that it would lead to possible threats on racial harmony and would divide the local communities.
The survey showed only 43% of the respondents were satisfied with the performance of their local authorities, with the Chinese being the most dissatisfied with only 33% giving their respective local authorities the thumbs up, followed by the Indians (45%) and Malays (47%).
Despite the low satisfaction, the public shows a significant increase in trust towards the local government from 38% in 2018 to 55% last year.
Accessibility, service efficiency and responsiveness of local governments are among the areas receiving low ratings.
The respondents were also asked to identify the areas of jurisdiction for the federal, state and local governments and only 19% showed good political literacy on the roles of various levels of governments.
The survey also indicates that only 11% of the young respondents (18 to 29 years old) are well-versed about areas of jurisdiction.
Cenbet will submit a memorandum on the survey findings to the prime minister and the housing and local government minister as input for the government’s efforts to revive local elections.
Local government elections in Malaysia were suspended following the “Konfrantasi” between Malaysia and Indonesia in 1964. The suspension was never lifted and instead made permanent through the Local Government Act 1976 where members of the local government are appointed by the respective state governments.
Minister of Housing and Local Government Zuraida Kamaruddin said discussions on reviving local elections would be held in Parliament in June.
In 2018, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad voiced his opposition to local elections as it might result in race-related conflicts in the country.