Zuraida’s position precarious, says analyst

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin.

PETALING JAYA: Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin may be endangering her position in the government with her insistence on pushing for local council elections.

Political analyst Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia told FMT she was placing herself in a precarious position because all of the parties in Perikatan Nasional are clearly against the idea.

On Tuesday, Zuraida told the Dewan Rakyat that a paper for the implementation of local elections would be ready by mid-2021 and would be presented to Parliament if approved by the Cabinet.

She said local elections could be a way to empower local councils to make decisions and increase revenue.

But several Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs rejected the idea, with Barisan Nasional’s Noh Omar pointing out that local elections were a Pakatan Harapan (PH) idea.

Under the PH administration, Zuraida, then still a PKR member, was also the housing and local government minister. She is now listed in the Dewan Rakyat as a member of PPBM, but she has said she had yet to submit an application for membership of the party.

Azmi Hassan

Azmi said the open rejection of the idea showed how unpopular the notion was with the ruling coalition and how confident Umno, PAS and GPS were of their position in PN.

“It is easy for the MPs of the three parties to shoot down the idea because even though it is coming from a minister, she is a minister who is essentially party-less.

“It does not look good for Zuraida when government backbenchers shoot it down. It wasn’t a good move to push the matter knowing how Umno and PAS, which have been vocal against it, would respond.”

Azmi said the reactions against the idea highlighted the fragile positions of Zuraida and the other former PKR leaders in PN.

“They will have to be careful with their moves,” he added.

James Chin of University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said Zuraida’s pursuit of local elections would not go anywhere as it had no support in PN.

“Being in the new government, she and the other former PKR leaders will have to drop the promises they made while they were in PH,” he said. “Whether they like it or not, they have to follow PN policies.”

He said he believed the PN parties’ opposition to local elections was due to a fear of the consequences of sharing power.

“If local councillors are elected, the power of patronage is gone.”

Mohd Izani Mohd Zain of Universiti Putra Malaysia said the idea of pushing for local elections was not a realistic one though Zuraida could not be blamed for it because the present government does not have a manifesto.

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