The Promise of Pakatan Rakyat
Posted September 12, 2008on:
|Early elections if Pakatan takes over|
|Wong Choon Mei | Sep 11, 08 5:39pm Malaysiakini.com|
|The Pakatan Rakyat alliance, led by opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, plans to call for early general elections if it comes into power so as to dispel worries its targeted takeover of the government might be undemocratic or unethical.
PKR vice-president R Sivarasa told Malaysiakini fresh elections would be held within six months to a year of the alliance gaining control of Parliament.
“We want to ensure free and fair elections. To do that we need to free the media, clean up the electoral roll and put the Elections Commission on a balanced footing,” the Subang MP said.
“This will easily take between six months to a year.”
Made up of the PKR, DAP and PAS, the Pakatan now holds 81 out of the 222 seats in Parliament. While its rival, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, currently has the majority, the Pakatan is confident of reversing the status quo.
It needs another 31 members of parliament to join its camp in order for it to hit the minimum simple majority required of 112 seats – a feat political observers say is not out of reach.
According to them, all it takes is for 31 backbenchers to defect to the Pakatan, or alternatively, if 30 Barisan legislators and the country’s sole independent MP opted to cross over to Anwar’s side.
The 61-year old charismatic opposition leader has already been talking with a number of disgruntled backbenchers and is confident he can gather enough support to form a new government, even though it may not happen within his targeted deadline of Sept 16.
“We definitely have sufficient numbers, but we would have to wait first as they are currently ‘enjoying Ramadan’ in Taiwan,” Anwar told reporters earlier this week, adding that he had information the MPs would not be allowed to return before Sept 16 so as to thwart his plans.
Meanwhile, analysts said early elections would inject transparency into the takeover should the Pakatan indeed succeed in their plan.
“Any new regime needs to shore up their position,” said Jacob Ramsay, political analyst for Southeast Asia at Singapore-based Control Risks Group.
“Anwar needs to get away from the perception that he is too hungry for power and to clear up perceptions that he is trying to escape from the jaws of a very unjust court case.”
The Umno-led BN, which has lambasted Anwar’s plan as undemocratic, this week sent a large team of backbenchers on a 12-day agricultural study tour of Taiwan – sparking counter-claims of dirty tactics from its rivals.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also urged his backbenchers to reject the Pakatan’s overtures, arguing that his government was the legitimate choice of voters who in the March national polls gave the Barisan the mandate to rule for another five years until 2013.
But some experts believe it may be even less ethical for MPs to stick with the same party if their constituents no longer supported the party’s agenda or politics.
“I don’t think it is a pure question of just ethics as to whether to serve wrongly in the same party or to cross over to another party to serve the country and the people better,” said Ramon Navaratnam, chairman of Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute.
“Moving over to another political party out of good conscience and with the ‘niat‘ (intention) to serve better should in fact be welcomed if the majority of constituents generally support the move because of disenchantment they have with the political party they had voted for. The peoples’ welfare should be paramount and not that of self serving political parties,” he added.
According to Malaysian law, the king has the right to accept and formalise any new government that can show proof of sufficient mandate in Parliament. Alternatively, he could order fresh general elections, provided the prime minister – either outgoing or incoming – recommends it .
“We don’t agree it is undemocratic because our federal constitution, under article 48, does not allow an MP to resign. So if they want to shift, the only way is to cross over. This rule is put in by the Barisan itself. But having said that, we also recognise the importance to reaffirm the mandate from the people,” said Sivarasa.
“We don’t mind even if the king calls for dissolution of Parliament, that’s up to him. But we would be the new caretaker government and we will go into fresh elections making sure that it is as fair and clean as possible,” he added.
Under Article 48(6), MPs are barred from taking office for five years if they resign. Because of this technicality, only MPs who wish to retire from office resign, whereas MPs who only wish to change parties would be forced to cross over.