Broadening the mix of political options

Local government elections could be a testing ground for newer and smaller parties to prove themselves

Azmi Sharom, The Star

THIS entire Kajang debacle appears to be about changing the Mentri Besar. According to an interview I read, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is of the opinion that although he is a good manager, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim does not have the political savvy to deal with the type of attacks the Selangor government has been facing.

Issues which inflame heated emotions need an experienced politician (like Anwar) to deal with them, not a chief executive officer (like Khalid). Yeah, well, whatever.

It is very wearisome to me, all this political wrangling.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less about internal party politics.

What I want is a government that in my view is as good as a government can be. I won’t discuss what I mean by that because that would require a separate article by itself.

So, as long as the mentri besar does his job well, he or she can be whoever the winning party believes should lead them.

Aha, but it is not so simple, is it? Because we don’t have a presidential system of government, we don’t actually have a direct say on whom we want to be the mentri besar.

And even if I am rather blasé about the whole thing, it does not mean my fellow Selangor residents feel the same way.

The sounds that I hear are generally those in favour of Khalid staying; those in favour of Anwar taking over; and those who can live with either of them but not Azmin Ali.

I don’t really know what to think because it is not as if Pakatan Rakyat have been very open about the whole thing, have they?

There is such coyness when talking about whether there actually is going to be a change in boss. And the reasoning as to why such a thing should happen has been very vague.

Like I said, I don’t have strong feelings about the issue. But if you do, what can be done about it?

I think the only option is to make your state assemblyman know what your feelings are on this matter.

They have to know what the citizens of Selangor think and hopefully they will make their minds up accordingly; because at the end of the day it is the person who has the confidence of the state legislature who will be the MB and the state legislators are voted in by us.

This raises another point and that is the role of the Sultan of Selangor in this matter.

It is true that the Sultan has the discretion to choose the MB. However, discretion here has a very special meaning. It means that choosing an MB is one of the things that the Sultan can do without advice from the government.

This does not mean that he can pick simply anybody. His discretion is limited because he has to pick someone whom he believes has the confidence of the house.

This of course makes democratic sense because it ultimately respects the choice of the people, albeit in an indirect manner.

The people can’t choose the MB themselves, but by voting in a particular party or coalition, then there is an implied consent that their chosen group should have a say on who becomes the top honcho.

If the Sultan chooses just any person and the house disagrees with the Sultan’s choice, then they may very well hold a vote of no confidence against the MB once the house is in session.

This could lead to a sticky constitutional crisis. But, and this is a big but, all this depends on Anwar Ibrahim actually winning Kajang and Khalid Ibrahim actually resigning from his post as Mentri Besar.

Who knows what will happen.

This brings to mind another democratic question.

I am sorry if I am meandering all over the place. I think I may have overdosed on mandarin oranges.

I was wondering; if we, the people, get fed up with either Barisan or Pakatan, what choice do we have?

Not much really. I know there are many other political parties which are not the current big guns, but Malaysian politics is rather like Spanish football – two big teams and then everyone else (with apologies to Atletico Madrid fans).

What can be done to add to this mix?

I believe it is hard for smaller parties or new parties to make good because we don’t have local elections. Imagine if we had local elections, then a smaller party could prove themselves at that level.

We can see how well or badly they work and there would be recognition which then could be built upon to go to the state and then federal level of politics.

Local politics allows the smaller parties to get a taste of government at relatively low costs as campaigning in a local government area is a lot cheaper than state or federal level.

Also, it gives the people an opportunity to give them a chance and to see what they can do.

At the very least, local government elections would open up the opportunities for those who want to be directly part of the democratic process. Maybe that is what we need right now; a bit more choice.

 Azmi Sharom ([email protected]) is a law teacher.