Fixed term not ‘fairer’ without clean polls, says Pakatan
KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — A fixed five-year parliamentary term would not be a “fairer” system for any party without the guarantee of a clean and fair election process, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers said today.
Ipoh Timor MP Lim Kit Siang said minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had “missed the point” when the latter made the suggestion for a fixed term yesterday, pointing out that many other countries that still allow the early dissolution of Parliament do not misuse that power.
“The problem in our case is when the decision for early dissolution is camouflaged in such secrecy,” he said, referring to the current uncertainty over the date for the 13th general election.
Lim (picture) said that in other nations, adequate notice is given to all parties on the date of the polls, as well as a lengthier campaign period, to allow all election candidates enough time to woo voters.
In Malaysia, according to the recently approved recommendations by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms, campaigning for parties has been set at a minimum 10-day period. The opposition and election watchdog group Bersih 2.0 have been lobbying for a minimum 21-day campaign period.
Several dates have been bandied about over the past two years as potential polls dates for Datuk Seri Najib Razak to gain his own mandate after taking over from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2009, leading to concerns in the economy over uncertainty in policymaking.
Opposition lawmakers have complained that Najib’s purported dithering was likely designed to throw their campaign off balance while the business community said the constant speculation over election dates has created uncertainty in their trades.
“This element of surprise that they hold in their hands, they have been using it in a very unfair manner,” said Lim.
Nazri had suggested yesterday that Malaysia allow a fixed five-year mandate for those elected in a general election, much like that provided for in the newly-passed “Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011” in the United Kingdom.
The Act, which received royal assent last September and officially comes into force in 2015, stipulates that the British Parliament will “automatically” dissolve 17 working days before the polling day of a general election.
The date for polls is fixed, and must occur on the “first Thursday in May of the fifth year after the previous general election”, beginning with May 7, 2015.
Malaysia, which follows the Westminster parliamentary system, currently allows the prime minister to dissolve Parliament at any time of his choosing before his full, five-year mandate expires.
However, the PSC had in April proposed a minimum four-year mandate for governments, stipulating that Parliament can only be dissolved after it has passed its four-year mark.
“Nazri is missing the point here. A fixed term or a non-fixed term is not the most important thing,” Lim told The Malaysian Insider.
“The point here is the abuse of power... in making use of money, media and machinery to win the elections. That is the real problem here.
“So you can remove that element of surprise by allowing a fixed-term system but it does not guarantee free and fair elections. Rather, it is about whether the Election Commission... is it competent? Will elections be conducted without bias?”
PKR vice-president and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar concurred with Lim on the matter, saying that the implementation of a fixed-term Parliament would come to “naught” if elections are not free and fair.
“Agreed. It does help in levelling the playing field somewhat, reduce level of politicking and allows politicians to focus on day-to-day work.
“However, without a free and fair electoral process, everything comes to naught,” she said.