Reform agenda at risk of being sidelined by upcoming state polls, says Bersih

Bersih chairman Faisal Abdul Aziz has expressed concerns that the reform agenda promised by the unity government will be sidelined and not implemented when politicians begin focusing on elections over the next few years.

(FMT) – In his policy speech at the Bersih congress today, Faisal said next year will see a state election in Sabah, the following year in Melaka and, eventually, Johor.

“It’s not a matter of us being impatient, nor is it a matter of us being overly obsessed with reform,” he said.

“We are concerned that if we don’t push now, in four years (when the unity government’s term is over), the reform agenda will be completely buried and not implemented.”

As such, Faisal said, this year and the next are vital for the country’s democratic transition.

Bersih has been pushing the unity government to implement the promised reforms, having organised a rally outside Parliament in February to demand “100% implementation”

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s efforts to implement the reforms he promised as opposition leader have come under scrutiny since he took office in November 2022.

Both government and opposition MPs have criticised the sluggish pace of these reforms.

However, in his speech, Faisal also expressed his appreciation to Anwar and his government for their openness towards feedback.

The Bersih chairman said during their meeting in February, he told Anwar that this is the right time for the prime minister to implement the reform agenda.

Separately, Faisal said the current reality is that “democracy” is being used by politicians as a mere “stepping stone to the pinnacle of power”.

“Democratic rights are merely codified in law without the appreciation of the value of people’s rights,” he said.

“Today’s congress aims to refine the mapping of the reform agenda to empower democracy.”