What? Just after Penang gave up its intention to have early polls, Terengganu may soon call one because a vote of no confidence against the Menteri Besar Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman may be passed?
Why must we have separate elections for different states? Why can’t we have only one election for the Parliament and all state assemblies? Why can’t we save the billions used to organise and contest in elections for some better use?
If you ask the questions above, the simple answer is that you are so accustomed to Malaysian politics that you don’t recognise its anomaly.
In normal parliamentary democracies, unless there are legal provisions for fixed-term parliament or obstacles to early dissolution, dissolving legislature before its full term is a legitimate option for the ruling party/coalition and often exercised.
In fact, every general election in Malaya/Malaysia since 1959 was called before the parliament’s term ended.
Technically, even when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had the Parliament dissolved on April 3, 2013, even though it was more than five years after the date of 12th General Election (March 8, 2008), the dissolution was still premature, because the parliament’s term would only expire on April 28, the fifth anniversary of parliamentarians’ swearing in.
So, did you ever complain in the past that elections were held prematurely resulting in waste of public funds?
No? So, what can you accept Prime Minister prematurely dissolving the Parliament but not the Menteri Besar/Chief Minister doing the same, or the State Assembly forcing one by passing a motion of no-confidence against the chief executive?
Is it because you believe – consciously or not – that Chief Ministers/Menteris Besar are Prime Minister’s subordinates and should follow the latter’s act?
If yes, that’s why Malaysia is abnormal.
Malaya/Malaysia has not only been ruled by the same coalition (expanded over time) for 61/53 years, but the same coalition also simultaneously rules almost all the states, the only exceptions are Kelantan (1959-1973, 1990-now), Terengganu (1959-1961, 1999-2004), Penang (1969-1973, 2008-now), Selangor (2008-now), Sabah (1985-1986, 1990-1994), Kedah (2008-2013), Perak (2008-2009) and Sarawak (1966).
We suffer not only from inadequate separation of power between the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary branches, but also from inadequate division of power between the federal and state governments.
That BN is ruling both the Federation and most of the states is both the cause and the consequence of simultaneous federal-state elections.
When elections are called at the same time, they capture the same electoral mode, making it more likely than not for the voters to vote in the same parties at both federal and state levels. This means parties can either win big or lose big, like a gamble.
So far, BN likes the gamble of simultaneous elections because it believes it has strong machinery and plenty of goodies to buy them good luck.
The opposition parties play along and dissolve assemblies in the states they rule, in the fear that holding separate elections will give the BN the choice to channel all its resources to capture the opposition-held states.
What do we lose and what do we get? We are deprived opportunities for “mid-term elections”.
Votes are not always cast for their expressed goals. In democracies, people may use the election for sub-national governments (such as states) to reward or (more often) punish the national government.
Without separate federal-state elections, we have only “mid-term elections” in the form of by-elections, when some incumbents resign, is disqualified by court’s conviction or passes on.
And general elections become a win-big-or-lose-big gigantic gamble – BN may well be the one which dies by the sword. And then we complain about politics tearing society apart and stressing us up.
If you want to see some changes in our politics, pray hard that Terengganu will have early polls to start a “new normal”.
When we have staggered elections, our political system gets more decentralised, no battle is the last battle, and you may be surprised to discover that our society may become less “politicised”.
Wong Chin Huat