Non-partisan local elections the way forward, says Ipoh NGO

Ng said that local elections should be non-partisan, as this would prevent any meddling or influence from political parties. — Reuters pic
Ng said that local elections should be non-partisan, as this would prevent any meddling or influence from political parties. — Reuters pic

IPOH, May 17 — Local non-governmental organisation Ipoh City Watch wants the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration to hold non-partisan local elections in Perak under the supervision of the Election Commission.

Its president Assoc Prof  Richard Ng said the aftermath of GE14 had presented the opportunity to reintroduce local government elections which had been suspended since 1965.

Local elections were part of Perak PH’s manifesto, where it pledged to ‘democratise’ the appointment of council members and village heads.

Ng believes that the EC should conduct local elections every four years, as they possessed the technology and expertise to manage the process.

However, he stressed that the general election and local government elections should be held differently.

“Firstly, local Government elections must be non-partisan. All eligible candidates will use a random symbol and must not show affiliation to any political parties,” Ng told Malay Mail today.

“Unlike the general election, there should be no limit to the term a mayor or councillor can hold the office as they are elected by the rate payers.”

In the early 1960s, explained Ng, the city council of George Town, the Municipal Councils of Ipoh and Malacca, and all the local councils of new villages were elected.

Today, he believes the EC can start with city and municipal councils run by PH-controlled states such as George Town, Ipoh, KL, Shah Alam, Melaka, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching.

“The EC needs to determine the criteria and mechanism for candidates’ eligibility, the campaign duration,and methods, and the amount of campaign money that can be spent by each candidate.”

“In the US, each candidate is not allowed to spend more than US$5,000 (RM19,840) and they are not allowed to receive donation of more than US$1,000. This is to prevent corruption and manipulation by corporate companies on candidate selection.

Local government elections have been removed from the Malaysian landscape since their temporary suspension in 1965, and subsequent permanent suspension in 1976.

However, in 2008, PKR representatives brought back the concept by holding village head elections in new villages around the Gopeng area.

One of those involved was current Simpang Pulai assemblyman Tan Kar Hing, who believes it would be best to rekindle the local government concept with village head elections.

“The laws will need to be amended at a federal level before we can hold council elections. It will be better to start at the village head level,” Tan said.

He also agreed that local elections should be non-partisan, as this would prevent any meddling or influence from political parties. 

In 2008, Tan said the elections were conducted without voter lists or assistance from the EC. Voters who had the respective villages listed as their identification card address were allowed to vote.

“Our view was that even if a handful voted, it would be better than the heads being appointed by a political entity,”

“Local elections allow the representatives to be answerable and accountable to the people, and this is what we must push for.”

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