Activists worry ‘Third Force’ will benefit BN

By Boo Su-Lyn, The Malaysian Insider

The influx of independent candidates in the next general election could split votes and hand victory to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) if there are multi-cornered fights, political and social activists say.

The “Third Force” initiative by the newly-set up Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) wants to offer up to 30 candidates to PKR but will go it alone if Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s party rejects the overture.

“The concerns mainly were on the three-cornered fights,” a social activist told The Malaysian Insider, after MCLM held a closed-door briefing with selected NGOs on its independent candidate initiative yesterday.

Straight fights between Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties and BN in Election 2008 led to the opposition pact’s historic victory of 82 federal seats and four more states. PKR forms PR with DAP and PAS but a series of defections have cast a shadow over its selection process.

“People do not want BN to take it (the initiative) as a platform to benefit them,” she said, requesting anonymity due to MCLM’s prohibition on talking to the press about the briefing.

Another social activist pointed out that those present at the meeting had mixed views towards the MCLM independent candidate initiative.

“Different people had different opinions. It was still not very clear how the independent candidate initiative will work,” she said.

“Will the political parties accept? If the political parties do not accept, they said they will let the people decide. What does that mean?” she asked.

The social activist, who also requested anonymity, pointed out that independent candidates would prevent PR from unseating the ruling coalition in Putrajaya.

“If there is BN, Pakatan and an independent (contesting in a federal seat), then my own vision of wanting a change of government will not happen,” she said.

“I will only support the initiative if the parties take them as candidates,” she added.

PKR leaders have remained undecided over MCLM’s plans to propose a slate of election candidates for the party, preferring to stick to its internal process.

Newly-appointed PKR legal bureau chief Latheefa Koya has described the move to force PKR to accept a list of outsiders as candidates as unfair.

Movement for Change Sarawak (MoCS) chief Francis Paul Siah, however, claimed today that three-cornered fights were inevitable.

“There were some concerns about three-cornered fights. But we also realised that three-cornered fights are something that we can’t prevent because other people may come in,” Siah told The Malaysian Insider.

“Even BN may put up independent candidates to split the vote. Other groups or individuals may also contest, like Hindraf Makkal Sakthi,” he said.

Siah voiced support of MCLM’s move to offer strong candidates who would not switch allegiance in case PR forms the next federal government.

“Yes, I support 100 per cent. It is part of MoCS’s agenda for change. It is high time people started bringing more quality candidates to Parliament. There will be careful scrutinising of candidates,” he said.

Siah added that about 40 people from various NGOs attended today’s briefing chaired by MCLM president Haris Ibrahim, a well-known lawyer and blogger.