09 February, 2008

Malaysia - Polling on 8th March, 2008 ?


The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has not categorically ruled out the possibility of dissolving Parliament and kicking off the 12th general election campaign during the Chinese New Year festivities.

All that he said yesterday was that it was a rumour, with the cryptic remark “A rumour is a rumour. Any time can be appropriate when I decide.”




The onus is not only on Abdullah but on the MCA, Gerakan and SUPP leaders and Ministers to impress on the Prime Minister to be sensitive and respect the 15-day Chinese New Year festivities and that the insensitivity shown by the Umno national leadership to the Deepavali public holiday last November should not be repeated again.

One hot speculation for the 12th general election is dissolution of Parliament on 13th February, Nomination on 21st February and Polling on 1st March 2008.

As 13th February is the 7th day of the Chinese Year, Abdullah as a Penangite should be reminded that this would be doubly offensive and insensitive – as it will not only be a disrespect to the Chinese New Year celebrations but also to Pai Tian Gong which falls on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year, the birthday of the Jade Emperor and a major event for the Hokkiens in Penang.

Why is Abdullah so reluctant or shy in giving a public assurance that the dissolution of Parliament would definitely be after Chap Goh Mei on 21st February 2008, if he is conscious of the need to set an example of respect and sensitivity for the diverse religions, cultures and customs to all government leaders and Malaysians?

If the dissolution of Parliament is after Chap Goh Mei, a hot set of dates being speculated are dissolution on 22nd February, Nomination on 27th February or March 1s with Polling on 8th March, 2008.

It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to decide on the date for the dissolution of Parliament, subject to two caveats:

(i) show respect and sensitivity to the diverse religions, cultures and customs in the country, which means no spoiling the spirit and mood of the 15-day Chinese New Year from the 1st day of CNY to Chap Goh Mei (7 to 21 February 2008).
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(ii) Respect the ethics of a free and fair general election and abide by the best international practices particularly of first-world developed nations in conducting elections.

A quick survey of the most recent electoral practices in first-world developed nations which Malaysia aspires to join under Vision 2020 is the common best practice where at their voters are given at least one clear month’s notice between dissolution of Parliament and polling – like United Kingdom (one month), Australia (40 days), New Zealand (54 days) and Canada (55 days).

Horror of horrors, President Robert Mugabe has given 64 days’ notice for presidential, general and local elections in Zimbabwe on March 29, 2008!

Even if Abdullah cannot best United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in terms of fair and proper notice for the holding of general election, is he to go down in history as doing even worse than Mugabe of Zimbabwe by having the shortest period for free, fair and clean election campaign for a general election among Commonwealth countries?

The least Abdullah should do is to ensure that there is at least one full month between the date of dissolution of Parliament and Polling Day. If Parliament is to be dissolved on Feb. 22, polling day should not be held earlier than March 21 – which will give Abdullah ample time to attend the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Dakar from March 13-14 for the handing over of the OIC Chairmanship from Malaysia to Senegal.

Or has Abdullah’s feng shui master advised him against holding the next general election after the middle of March?

I call on Abdullah not only to respect the 15-day Chinese New Year festivities and Pai Tian Gong but also to ensure at least a full month between dissolution and polling for the 12th general election to demonstrate that he is more democratic than his predecessor, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in the latter’s 22 years as Prime Minister.

The freedom, independence, impartiality and integrity of the Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman has become a major national controversy.

Abdullah can resolve this controversy by taking two steps:

Firstly, by giving an assurance that he will not usurp the powers of the Election Commission by restoring to the Election Commission its full freedom and powers to decide on the Polling day after the dissolution of Parliament. The dissolution of Parliament is the political decision and prerogative of the Prime Minister but the fixing of the polling date under Malaysian Constitution and laws is the decision and prerogative of an independent Election Commission.

Secondly, by publicly accepting and honouring the concept of “caretaker government” when Parliament is dissolved, with a clear-cut set of directives of do’s and don’ts of a caretaker government to Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar, State Ministers and State Excos as well as to all public servants to strictly prohibit them from abusing their caretaker government status to misuse government resources, machinery and funds for party electioneering to win votes during the general election.

From : blog Lim Kit Siang

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