More by-elections?

(The Straits Times) KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 – After the recent series of by-elections, Malaysians will most likely face two more soon. Speculation is rife that two state assemblymen in Selangor and Penang – both under the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance – will resign over allegations relating to corruption and morality.

Penang’s Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin and Selangor’s Elizabeth Wong are also members of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

Observers feel that PR will most likely call for by-elections as it has to live up to its image of being a ‘clean and transparent’ government.

The coalition also strives hard to give the impression that its lawmakers have better moral values than Barisan Nasional’s representatives.

But PKR leaders are tight-lipped about the fate of the two seats.

“What are the two areas? Who made the announcement? Please don’t speculate,” said PKR vice-president Azmin Ali, when asked by reporters about the two lawmakers.

Fairus, who is state assemblyman for Penanti, a seat in Penang, recently resigned from his Penang deputy chief minister I post as he is under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. The commission submitted its investigations to the prosecution division recently.

Fairus was alleged to be working hand-in-glove with several quarries to cover up some illegal activities. If he is charged and convicted, he will automatically lose his seat.

BN has been following Fairus’ case closely. Its Gerakan component in Penang has been asking the state government under the Democratic Action Party if action would be taken against the Penanti lawmaker.

Datuk Seri Anwar will announce the new deputy chief minister I on Wednesday.

In Selangor, state Cabinet minister Wong tendered her resignation from her state executive councillor and elected representative posts in February, following circulation of her nude pictures on the Internet.

Her voters in Bukit Lanjan, however, have been asking her to retract her resignation.

“We do not want a by-election. The constituents elected her and most of the residents here support her,” said Mah Weng Kwai, a resident in her constituency.

“She is the victim and the offender should be brought to book. She should not have taken leave.”

Wong has been on long leave since the scandal over her nude pictures broke.

Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim is expected to announce on Wednesday whether her resignation will be accepted.

Political analyst Ong Kian Ming told The Straits Times: “From a strategic perspective, it makes sense for PR to have by-elections in both these seats so that it can start off on a ‘clean page’, so to speak.

“But because of by-election fatigue, the timing and process of having these by-elections is uncertain, at this point in time.”

There have been five by-elections so far after last year’s polls, with PR winning four of them.

Three of the by-elections took place when the elected representatives died of heart attacks, while the other two were due to resignations of assemblymen.