PKR to introduce direct vote, term limits in major party reforms

By Leslie Lau, Consultant Editor and Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

PKR will hold a special congress this weekend to approve widespread reforms, which will include direct elections and a term limit for the party presidency, in an apparent attempt to position itself as a more modern and democratic party than Umno and other Barisan Nasional (BN) parties.

The Malaysian Insider understands that among the amendments to the party constitution to be put to a vote include:

  • direct elections from all members for the party presidency and the national leadership;
  • a term limit for the party president of three terms or nine years;
  • increasing the number of vice-presidents from five to seven;
  • the appointment of state chairmen to require consultation with branches and divisions;
  • allowing the appointment of not more than one-third of members of state leadership councils to ensure one race does not dominate;
  • allowing federal and state lawmakers to attend all state leadership council meetings; and
  • the affirmation of the official slogan for the party as “Justice For All”.

Currently, the party follows closely Umno’s style of electing its leaders, with only elected delegates allowed to vote for the party president and other national leaders.

“We do not want to be like Umno where only 2,500 delegates get to choose for someone who could be the prime minister,” Sim Tze Tsin, a PKR lawmaker in Penang told The Malaysian Insider.

“We want to transform ourselves into a modern, vibrant and democratic political party.”

At its recent general assembly, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak had also promised reforms including direct elections for the lynchpin of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

He had also promised a special Umno assembly at an unspecified time to push through the plan for a direct vote.

By introducing a direct vote and other reforms to PKR, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the de facto PKR leader and the proponent of the changes, is inviting direct comparisons with Umno.

PKR also hopes to pile on the pressure on Umno, which will find it difficult to push through similar changes to its constitution as party warlords who have grown accustomed to the benefits of being a delegate will certainly try to block such a step.

A number of Umno leaders, including Najib, have said that a direct vote would be the best way to curb money politics, or vote-buying, which is associated with the BN party.

Through its own constitutional amendments, PKR is also trying to curb vote-buying, according to party leaders.

By introducing the widespread reforms, Anwar and his PKR is also hoping to regain the political initiative after a number of his allies in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partner PAS lost in the Islamist party’s polls last week.