MPs and NGO: Regain ‘people power’ through recall elections

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To strip power from politicians or any single party from changing government midstream before the general election, experts are proposing recall elections, a process that would allow mid-term polls if politicians jump ship.

Former Dewan Rakyat speaker Mohamad Ariff Yusof said Malaysian voters were disillusioned with politicians who used “backdoor tactics” to change the government, including in several states.

“They say what is the point of standing in line to vote (if the government they voted for is overthrown), so there is a growing feeling of distrust.

Eizairi Shamsudin/NST

“We need to return the power to the people. Representatives should not be allowed to decide on behalf of the people and betray voters’ trust,” he said during the online launch of “Sack or Keep?: A Simulated Recall Elections Campaign” by Bersih 2.0 today.

Ariff said the electoral process should be voter-centric, not party-centric, and recall elections would empower voters and keep politicians in check.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said Bersih’s focus was to identify all political weaknesses in the wake of the Sheraton Move, which led to the unseating of the Pakatan Harapan government.

The electoral reform group commissioned over 10 research papers to look at some of the good practices around the world, including in the UK and the US.

“Recall election law is different from anti-party hopping laws in that it is not a prohibitive law and a seat is not automatically declared vacant when an elected representative changes party allegiance or is sacked by the party,” he said.

The freedom of the MP or state assemblyman to associate with a party of his choice or become an independent is not violated in a recall election mechanism, he added.

Under the recall election mechanism, voters of the constituency will have an option to remove the elected representative in mid-term polls if they disapprove of the person’s actions.

“This would truly empower voters to hold their elected representatives accountable throughout their term of office instead of waiting every five years to vote,” Fann said.

FMT

During the online launch, Bersih 2.0 said it would kickstart the process through a Simulated Recall Election Campaign (SREL) at constituencies with defected representatives.

A minimum of 3% of registered voters would be needed to sign an online petition for the simulated recall election. The online system automatically rejects those who are not registered with the Election Commission.

Once the voters are verified, the simulated recall election will be opened online. At least 10% of registered voters from the constituency will need to take part to either sack or keep their representative.

Support from both sides needed

PKR’s Subang MP Wong Chen said politics in the country had changed after GE14 with no one dominant party.

“It’s all coalitions now. Political motivation today is about gaining power, and not about reforms,” he said, adding that Malaysians are losing hope of any reforms taking place.

FMT

“We should be united to push for recall elections,” said Wong.

Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming, who was present at the online launch, said the move should be supported by all parties, as even Umno was unhappy after their MPs joined Bersatu.

Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil said the system could also be used for MPs to gauge if their voters support a particular legislative bill.

“MPs could cast their vote (in Parliament) according to what their voters want,” he suggested.

Upko president Wilfred Madius Tangau, however, raised the question of internet connectivity.

He said Sabah has poor internet connectivity, and the government has to ensure the state has good internet access.

“We need more telecommunication towers as some suburbs do not have any connectivity. This has to be resolved (first),” he added.

Bersih executive director Yap Swee Seng told FMT that physical voting could eventually be held in areas without internet access.

“For now, the mock recall election will be held online,” he said.

PSM deputy chairman S Arulchelvan said the present electoral system made the rakyat feel like they are the “bosses just for a day”, adding that they then lose their power to politicians who are busy chasing power and money.

He acknowledged that there was no single perfect system, but it was crucial to get the conversation going to improve the present system. – FMT