Sunday, January 25, 2015

The local council elections debate


The issue of the third vote or local council elections is being hotly debated by both sides of the political divide and is receiving mixed reactions from both those in government as well as those in the opposition.

Not everyone in Barisan Nasional agrees with the third vote and the same for Pakatan Rakyat as well. And various arguments are being put forward to support their view, the danger of another May 13 being one of them and the more controversial of the reasons given to oppose the elections.

The Penang state government is pushing for local council elections to be held and they even passed it in the Penang Legislative Assembly, which, however, was blocked by the Federal Court.

Local government elections were last held in Malaysia 50 years ago in 1965.

There are, of course, merits to having local council elections, as there are demerits. In a democratic system nothing is perfect, especially in a first-past-the-post system where not necessarily the one with majority support wins.

For example, if six candidates were to run, the candidate with only 20% of the votes would win if the other five all get less that 20% votes each. However, if only two candidates were to run, the entire scenario might change. Hence 20% would not really reflect majority support but the support of the largest minority because 80% of the voters did not support this candidate.

Hence saying that local council elections is to serve democracy is a fallacy when 80% of the people did not vote for you and yet you can still be declared the winner without majority support.

The more important issue here is that even though the state may be pushing for it, whatever the states do must comply with the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. And according to the Constitution there is no provision for the third vote unless Parliament amends the Constitution.

If the state attempts to override the Constitution then Kelantan would legally be able to implement Hudud laws in their state, which currently according to the Constitution they cannot.

Hence let us go back to the Constitution to argue our case for or against.

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