The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0), together with Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) and Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM), hereby calls on Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mahathir and the leadership of Pakatan Harapan (PH) to take clear and decisive steps to bring about political stability in this country by putting in place a clear transition package based on the PH agreement before the 2018 general election.
The current feud in PKR, a major component party of the PH coalition, is causing much concern among both our citizens and the international community as it has the potential to break up the coalition and cast our nation into political disarray.
Our concern as civil society organisations that have been and are pushing for institutional and political reforms in this country is that if political stability is not restored, the reform agenda of the PH government would come to a stall, or worse, whatever achieved so far would be reversed.
As non-partisan civil society groups, our concern is strictly limited to political stability and accountability within the current term of Parliament, indicating no preference whatsoever in the next general election.
As such, we would like to propose the following concrete steps to be taken in order to restore political stability.
Clear transition plan for prime ministership
We call on Mahathir to set a date – somewhere between a year from now and the latest 9 May 2021 – to hand over power to Anwar Ibrahim, in accordance with the agreement among the PH component parties ahead of the last general election.
Though it was said that no timeframe was stated in the agreement, Mahathir himself has said on numerous occasions it would be between two to three years from PH forming the government.
To ensure a smooth transition, Anwar should be appointed deputy prime minister six months before the set date. With a clear and publicly known transition plan, it would quash rumours and conspiracy theories perpetrated by those who seek to gain from the instability and see the break-up of the coalition.
Limit the PM to two terms
This is a manifesto promise that is yet to be fulfilled and we would urge Mahathir to push for the necessary legal amendments to fulfil it before he steps down as the PM.
The rationale for setting up such a term limit is that we do not want to see future prime ministers holding power for too long, which not only risks abuses of power and corruption but also builds up frustration and antagonism of other aspirants for the top job.
Unless the first term which does not start with a new Parliament is less than two years, the term of a PM should start from the time of appointment and not at the start of a new Parliament term to ensure that the maximum term permissible is kept to two terms.
Deconcentration of power in PM
The PH manifesto also promised to reduce the concentration of executive power in the hands of the PM. The gross abuses of power by the previous prime minister has highlighted the fact that too much power is vested in the office of the PM.
Unless laws are amended and Parliament is adequately empowered, especially in the process of major appointments, there is no guarantee that future PMs would not use such power to cling on to the top job by trading patronage for loyalty from fellow leaders and the voters, causing kleptocracy to rear its ugly head again.
A flatter power structure with a PM term limit will make peace and stability easier amongst ambitious politicians by creating more chances and entry points for advancement in their political careers.
Hasten institutional reforms
Another set of manifesto promises that need to be implemented without delay are those that call for the strengthening of our key public institutions like the Electoral Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Judicial Appointments Commission, the National Audit Department, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the Attorney General’s Chambers.
Legal amendments are required to institutionalise the independence and empowerment of these institutions so that they can be effective checks and balances in our system of government.
Draconian laws that violate our fundamental rights under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution should be repealed; laws against racism, bigotry and gender bias should also be reviewed to either be amended or enacted where necessary.
Change to a more inclusive electoral system
Our current first-past-the-post electoral system coupled with our multi-ethnic society encourages a winner-takes-all mentality among our political parties, producing political discourses that are extreme and divisive.
We urge the government and all parties to embark on a national conversation about moving away from first-past-the-post towards a system with party-list proportional representation seats. This will ensure a wide representation of parties in the Parliament and eliminate their need to play up communal fear over internal division to mobilise votes.
Party-list proportional representation seats can also overcome intra-coalition quarrels over the allocation of constituency seats so common under first-past-the-post by allowing component parties to compete openly and healthily against each other via party votes, instead of resorting to sabotage and scheming.
Not only can party-list proportional representation seats enable quotas for women and other marginalised groups, the direct mandate for parties instead of candidates can also strengthen political parties and discourage party hopping. This would be in keeping with PH’s aspiration to build a more inclusive, progressive and prosperous nation.
We call on the leadership of the PH government – Mahathir, the presidential council of PH and Warisan – to take decisive actions without delay to restore the people’s confidence in this government. A clear message must be sent by all that the welfare of the nation and the reform agenda take precedence over personal or party interests.
PH has nearly four years of its remaining term to deliver its promise of reforms and prosperity for this nation. Restore political stability and govern now for the remainder of its term.
- Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0)
- Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM)
- Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim)
- The following are the endorsing NGOs of GBM:
- Tindak Malaysia
- Tamil Foundation
- Merdeka U Bhd
- Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
- Pusat Komas
- Monsoons Malaysia