Congratulations to the Penang government for asking the Election Commission to hold local council elections in Penang!
It’s a long-awaited move, coming two days before the second anniversary of the Pakatan’s coming to power in Penang. It not only attempts to fulfil the Pakatan’s general election pledge but shows that the administration has listened to sentiment on the ground from civil society and public opinion that is strongly in favour of the restoration of local democracy.
It will also go a long way towards promoting greater accountability.
The state exco decided in a meeting on 3 March that local council elections should be restored and the following day, the Penang government wrote to the Election Commission asking for polls to be conducted. In doing so, the Penang government has effectively lobbed the ball into the Election Commission’s court.
Now, don’t hold your breath for the Commission to respond positively. Expect the Commission will give all kinds of reasons – legal, financial or otherwise – for not holding the elections (though I hope I am proven wrong).
The Election Commission should heed the call of the rakyat, who are demanding local council elections. So get on with it.
A less-than-enthusiastic response from the Commission shouldn’t stop the Penang government from pressing ahead creatively. If the Penang government is serious about restoring local election, then there are all kinds of ways and means that some people have already suggested to maximise public participation in the selection of local councillors. These ways should be used as a prelude to the full restoration of local government elections.