Guarantee or speculation? | Selangor Times
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20·10·2017
Issue 118

 

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Guarantee or speculation?
Writer: Lee Hwok Aun
Published: Fri, 07 Dec 2012

COME Dec 31, if Planet Earth continues orbiting the sun and twirling on its axis, 2012 will run its full term.

Nothing wrong with that as regularity has its benefits. You know precisely when things start and when things end.

Order at the limits allows flux, growth and chaos to fill spaces within, without spinning out of control.

We know Malaysia’s 12th Parliament session started on April 28, 2008, and we have just been told it sat for the last time on Nov 29, 2012, but still we don’t know exactly when it ends.

We are in the dark on when general elections for the next parliament will be held. If it goes the full term until end April 2013, I won’t complain.

There is plenty of good in completing the full five years that representatives and parties were originally elected for.

But that prospect is often met with anxiety or derision, depending on political persuasion, that “delay” in dissolving the House shows weakness.

Some are frustrated at being kept waiting so long.

We widely hear that Datuk Seri Najib Razak has lacked an electoral mandate; he has been dealt a weak hand.
There’s a small ring of truth to that.

The 2008 elections were in some ways a referendum on the Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration, but Malaysia does not directly vote for the prime minister. We vote for parties or coalitions, and the leader of the coalition with the most reps becomes prime minister. Subsequent party power struggles and change of leadership do not require that we start afresh with new general elections.

Najib’s lack of a mandate is his personal issue, not a national problem. When he deals two successive federal budgets scented with pre-election potpourri, the looseness of the PM’s term of office becomes a national concern.

But a better solution will be to hold elections at fixed dates, not to hope for them to be held earlier.

A major reason elections have not been called yet, broadcast at the recently concluded Umno general assembly, is disgruntlement in the party and possible mutiny of members not selected as election candidates.

Malaysia is a democracy, not an Umno-cracy. Elections ought to be held when parliament has served a full term, full stop.

The case for fixed term parliament and a designated date for general elections has not been stronger.

We should admit that we have also wanted to get on with the elections, while momentum of social movements like Bersih and Save Malaysia Stop Lynas is strong, popular reaction to corruption exposés is high, and the scope for election fraud is possibly growing.

Imagine the health and development benefits to the nation if election dates were constitutionally fixed, say on the first Saturday of June every four years. Many countries with fixed parliament terms set it at four, not five.

We would not waste time speculating when it will happen (fun as that is, surely we can find other stimulating topics), businesses will not indefinitely defer investment decisions (until “after the elections”), parliament and government can fulfill their contracts, policies can be made and implemented with greater clarity and authority. With certainty of timing, parties can democratise their candidate selection for the next election.

When the timing of elections is entirely in the PM’s hand, selection of candidates gets clenched in his fist.

We inherited the British parliamentary system. Oh dear.

It is fantastically flawed, allowing for big gulfs between popular majority and parliamentary majority (in 2004, BN won 63% of seats with only 51% of total votes), unclear separation of powers and checks against abuse (left to tradition, conscience, and the media), and of course, discretionary power for the PM to dissolve Parliament.

But it’s what we’ve got. And it can be improved, among other things through fixed parliamentary terms.

What if a coalition is elected and then cannot get its act together?

Simple: institute clear procedures for no confidence motions against the prime minister, and for automatic general elections if a government cannot be formed within a time limit.

We have no precedent and only broad constitutional provision for the prime minister to resign if he ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat.

Fixed terms are possible and fairly common among mature parliamentary democracies.

The progenitors of our system recently grappled with such legislation.

In 2011, the United Kingdom passed the Fixed-term Parliaments Act overseeing parliamentary terms and no-confidence motions.

It is high time that Malaysia’s leaders, across the partisan divide, pursue similar system upgrades.

There’s no reason why Selangor cannot take the lead at the state level.

It will take a magnanimous act of relinquishing control. The power to call for elections is a major lever.

But it is not all about sacrifice; fixed terms can bind alliances and strike a positive chord with the public.

The outcomes of the 2008 polls, one year ahead of full term, show that calling them early in seemingly favourable conditions does not guarantee success.

2012 anticipated elections, but only 2013 guarantees they will be held, and that’s the guarantee that matters.

Let’s narrow that down to a fixed term and exact date.

 

 

 Selangor Times

 

 

Also by Lee Hwok Aun:

Voting by manifesto

I REALLY want to compare two election manifestos, but as I write only one exists.

The bounteous taking before generous giving

Sunnier days for workers?

Dr Syed Husin – Justice For All

Don’t address him YB. If there is one who deserves to be honoured by us the rakyat, it’s him. But Dr Syed Husin Ali prefers not to be called Yang Berhormat, especially outside of the parliamentary chambers where he is Senator. You will not find a whiff of false modesty in his words. 

Education blueprint falls short

At last, some official confession of how bad things really are in our schools. 

Janji Dinanti

My secondary schoolmates gathered recently for a reunion. Many of us hadn’t met in 20 years, and in some cases couldn’t match names to faces.

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Are we ready to exit the New Economic Policy?

Stop bullying tactics

Is Vision 2020 delusionary?

Looks like Vision 2020 is riding back into the limelight. With elections around the corner, as they have been for about a year, and destiny’s date now just eight years away, UMNO-BN fires a cocktail canister of pleas: so little time, so much to do, and only they will get us there, only they know how. It almost brings tears to my eyes, tears of…

Good conduct Bill for MPs?

Let’s say we table a Members of Parliament Proper Conduct Bill, and inserted sub-section 15(4) of the current Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) Amendment Bill. Why not? Both are institutions meant to pursue truth and generate debate.

Minimum wage still in infancy

It looks like we are rather conscious these days of lowly incomes and lofty inequalities.

What educational reform?

You might think, as we get closer to the promised reforms to the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA), that public authorities and education institutions would want to show some change of heart and mind. Think again.

Why settle for minimum wage?

THE lowest- paid workers in Selangor’s state agencies stand to gain from a wage boost next year. The state government’s recently announced RM1,500 minimum wage moves us in a fair and progressive direction.

Landing softly, hardly taking off

So the teaching of maths and science in English, and acronym of the year PPSMI, has been piloted to a soft landing. There’s a bit for all interested parties in the final give and take.

Malaysia should focus on education

2011 will have to go down as the year of the occupied square. The Occupy Wall Street month-long encampment at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan follows a motif painted from Tunis’ Kasbah Square to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, among the more epic places of revolutionary gathering.

Subversion and division

A subversive document lies before me. Brazenly, some Malaysians think “only those countries that undertook a systematic programme to transform the underlying structure of their economies … were able to rise from middle-income status to become high-income countries”. And these people say we should do likewise.

Whither BN’s logic?

When Nick Leeson, the infamous rogue trader, was convicted in 1995, his lines of defensce did not include “I lost money, how could I have committed fraud?” When professional cyclist Bernard Kohl was found guilty of doping in the Tour de France, he did not plead: “I didn’t win the race, how could I have cheated?”

Wither minimum wage bill?

In my last column I wrote about our rush to meet grandiose targets and end up with partial or delusional solutions. Right on cue, Datuk Seri Idris Jala disclosed on April 26 that Pemandu is expecting do deliver a modus operandi and quantum of minimum wage by the end of this year.

Country in a hurry

We are a country in a hurry: we want high-income status by 2020. We are also a KPI-driven nation: we speedily devise and monitor a litany of key performance indicators. And we are an ambitious lot: we set high targets and want fast results.

Malaysia’s "Me, too!" mentality

Murderously deforested Sarawak goes to their state polls soon. The world remains transfixed on the frenzy to cool down Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plants. And the Malaysian government refuses to impose a moratorium on its plans for nuclear energy.

The right answers or the right questions?

Did you hear a collective groan last week, emitting from the likes of Pantai Dalam, Serdang and Bangi? It's back to the semester grind for students at Universiti Malaya, Universiti Putra, Universiti Kebangsaan, and Malaysia's public universities and their now synchronised calendars.

 

 

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