KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 — Bringing back the third vote could begin in Shah Alam, the Malay-majority capital of Selangor, its MP Khalid Samad said today amid fears of a racial imbalance in local councils that could lead to tensions.
Khalid, who is also the Federal Territories minister, said the process of electing local council members, including mayors, must not be bulldozed through.
“I’m hoping we can do local council elections in Shah Alam, in places where people are a bit more comfortable, where you cannot use the race card,” Khalid told Malay Mail.
“Whoever gets voted in still has to toe the line, whether Pakatan Harapan (PH) or under Barisan Nasional (BN),” he said, pointing out that most candidates for local council elections would likely be from political parties instead of independents.
Local council elections were held until 1963, when they ended following riots in the national capital on May 13 that spread to other cities and districts nationwide.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was reported as saying in 2015 that DAP’s push for local council elections in Penang could worsen inequality in urban areas and trigger a repeat of the May 13 race riots.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sought to allay those tensions yesterday, saying the government will not reintroduce the third vote because of the possibility of so-called communal strife between villages and cities.
Khalid said he would clarify Dr Mahathir’s reported remarks at a Cabinet meeting tomorrow.
“Maybe what he meant was immediately under his premiership, but I think we know he’s not going to be there forever. It’s still something that can be implemented if all other parties are decided on it.”
Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said yesterday that her ministry would continue its study on local council elections in a bid to restore the third vote within three years, while DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said PH’s election promises must be prioritised above local government elections that were not explicitly pledged in their 2018 manifesto.
When asked if the PH government would also test local council elections in Kuala Lumpur first, Khalid said polls in the capital city would have to be done “a bit later” because of a large residence of almost two million people.
“We let the easier places implement it first.”
Kuala Lumpur has a reportedly significant non-Malay residents’ base at 53.5 per cent (Chinese and Indian ethnicities), while Malay or Bumiputera residents make up 45.9 percent, according to the 2010 census.
The FT minister said KL Members of Parliament were currently sitting in Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) ministerial council.
“So, in a way, we have elected reps sitting in local council, compared to other local councils,” said Khalid.
Khalid explained that even though KL MPs sat in DBKL’s ministerial council, they did not handle local issues like fixing roads but appointed zone chairmen instead to do the work. In states like Selangor, he said, local councillors are appointed by state assemblymen.
“It’s an indirect way of getting elected representation,” he added.
When pointed out that politicians typically give out positions in local councils as rewards for their supporters, Khalid said it would not be much different if local councillors were elected instead because politicians would still be involved.
“In the UK’s local council elections, it’s still Labour or Conservative,” he said.
“We believe in the role of elected representatives, but we have to do some legal changes, have to legislate new rules.”