DAP still wants local elections

Written by Chua Sue-Ann, The Edge    

DAP looks set to continue to champion its calls for local government elections despite Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) newly revealed joint policy carefully wording the issue as “strengthening local democracy”.

PR’s joint policy, which was unveiled today at the coalition’s inaugural national convention here, stayed clear of mentioning “local government elections” in its policy document.

However, the policy statement did say that the three-party coalition was committed to “strengthen local government democracy and democratically enhance the competency and effectiveness of the delivery system and guarantee transparency at all levels.”

In his winding up speech, DAP National Chairman Karpal Singh maintained that direct elections of local councillors were necessary and pledged to change the minds of PR partners who were opposed to it.

“Policy documents are not made of stone and as we go along, we’ll be able to convince, in particular PAS, that local elections are still necessary. It’s a matter of time,” Karpal said.

DAP’s Subang assemblyman Hannah Yeoh also voiced support for local government elections during debates on the policy, saying that it was imperative to “return the third vote to the people”.

Yeoh said local elections would improve the efficiency and service of local councillors and urged PR party leaders opposed to the proposed local polls not to be fearful of the election’s outcomes.

“Don’t worry about racial composition and other excuses (to not hold local elections)”, she said.

While local elections had been on the election manifesto of PR parties during the last general elections, PAS has been said to be opposed to the idea.

Karpal also showed his warmer and humourous side, laughing off the perceived rift between DAP and PAS over contentious issues, including local council elections and the formation of an Islamic state.

The veteran politician told the delegates that one PR secretariat was worried that Karpal would be seated next to PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Seri Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat when both leaders gave their winding up speeches.

“What is the problem? Not only do I sit next to Nik Aziz but I am seated between Nik Aziz and (PAS President) Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang,” Karpal quipped to loud cheers.

In his winding up speech, PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim concurred that the common policy was “not 100% complete”.

“If it was, we would have nothing else to do,” Anwar said.

Addressing the younger PR members, Anwar added: “We, the elders, are giving you some space to improve upon our work but on the fundamentals we will not compromise.”

The Opposition leader maintained that the PR would not compromise when it came to democratic processes, its battle against corruption and its fight against discriminatory policies.
PKR supreme council member Datuk Zaid Ibrahim also called on DAP, PKR and PAS to help each other grow in strength rather than merely “thinking about seats”.

Zaid said he was “not worried at all” about the challenges posed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s appearance of being a reformist leader, but warned PR that its downfall would be its own weaknesses.