Giving power to the voters through ‘recall elections’

Pakatan Rakyat coordinator, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, stands with Ibrahim. He voiced strong concerns about the feasibility of recall elections when Malaysia doesn’t even have a solid framework for basic elections at the municipal and government levels.

By Stephanie Sta Maria, Free Malaysia Today

Concerned about the incessant political shenanigans in the country, 100 civil society groups made a plea that the country’s budding democracy be protected and upheld.

They chastised both coalitions for undermining voters’ verdict through various unscrupulous means, including defections and changes in government without seeking a fresh mandate.

In a statement, they suggested both the coalitions undertake six basic reforms in their current capacity or in future as federal and state governments. Among them is the introduction of ‘recall elections’.

Recall elections are an electoral device that allows citizens to sack elected representatives who underperform or betray their mandate.

Already in place in America and Canada, these are an extension of the democracratic process in that it allow citizens to hold elected officials accountable during their term in office.

Locally, recall elections sit between two extremes. The first is Article 48(6) of the Federal Constitution which prevents MPs from re-contesting for five years following their resignation.

The last MP to get away with this was Datuk Shahrir Samad, who resigned from Umno and re-contested as an independent for the Johor Bahru seat in 1998.

The second extreme is the anti-hopping law, passed in Sabah (1986) and Kelantan (1990). It was declared null and void several years later on the grounds that it was unconsitutional.

It forced a parliamentarian to vacate his seat if he changed party affiliation, regardless of whether he acted in the interest of the electorate. This gave the party leadership a disciplinary whip over members who stepped out of line.