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One candidate, one seat — Kua Kia Soong – January 19, 2012

In 3rd Force, Apartheid, Bumiputera Apartheid, Equality, Ethics, Malaysia, Nepotism, Uncategorized on January 24, 2012 at 9:28 am

JAN 19 — Karpal Singh, Chairman of the DAP must be commended for his recent call to Pakatan Rakyat to practice a “one candidate, one seat” policy. At last, one leader in Pakatan Rakyat has finally spoken up against this undemocratic practice of the party elite monopolising federal and state seats … a lion amongst the lambs?

When I criticised this practice a few years ago (Mkini, 18.4.2008), the “seat grabbers” tried to justify the practice by saying they COULD handle both federal and state constituencies: “All you need to do is employ more secretaries to look after the seats for you what,” was their pathetic reply. They failed to see the contradiction and fallacy in this undemocratic practice while criticising the Barisan Nasional for not carrying out democratic reform.

Democratic reforms begin at home

A Pakatan Rakyat that champions democratic reforms should practice this basic democratic principle within their parties before talking about reforming the country. “Seat grabbing” of both federal and state constituencies in the general elections suggests that the politicians involved are brilliant multi-taskers and that there are too few appropriate candidates within their parties to do otherwise.

Democracy is about people’s participation and that means creating opportunities for MORE, not fewer people to engage in the democratic process of government. Are these politicians actively seeking and nurturing such potential candidates within their party?

Whatever their claimed intention, “seat grabbing” looks like an attempt by the power holders in the party to have as many positions and privileges as they can grab, a case of careerism and opportunism gone mad! It’s damn petty bourgeois if you ask me…

The Barisan Nasional, you may have noticed, does not practice such “seat grabbing” not because they are democrats but because they have too many parties between which, to divide the spoils. Furthermore, compared to the largely petty bourgeoisie in Pakatan Rakyat, they are the bourgeoisie who have the “discreet charm” to forego such cheap thrills of monopolising federal and state seats and go for the bigger economic stakes.

A retrogressive step

It has been mentioned that, now Pakatan Rakyat has so many candidates, they should think about implementing the “one candidate, one seat” policy. In fact, when I was in the Selangor DAP state committee in 1990-95, we already implemented this policy in the early 1990s, much to the chagrin of the power elite at the centre of the DAP. At the time, they had insisted that a part-time member of parliament who kept two medical practices was indispensable in the state as well. Even then, the rank-and-file in the DAP were opposed to power holders in the party monopolising both federal and state seats.

But now, this “one candidate, one seat” policy of the Selangor DAP state committee seems to have been rolled back in recent years obviously through the persuasive arguments by the power elite in the party that these politicians are indispensable at both federal and state levels. This example shows how political reforms can be rolled back with time…

There are other reforms that have not been implemented within PR including limiting the terms of office of the party leader, a democratic reform that has been achieved by even the retrogressive MCA. Has the never-ending feudal “dear leader” syndrome any place in a democracy?

Even at the expense of feminism?

Turning to PKR, the same practice has been carried out at the expense of very basic feminist principles. I am of course referring to the abdication of the Permatang Pauh seat by the president of the party, Wan Azizah for her husband, Anwar Ibrahim’s return to the federal parliament.

I was not opposed to the idea of forcing a by-election for Anwar to return to parliament but it should have been the MB of Selangor or some other ineffectual MP who should have given way for Anwar and not Wan Azizah. Hasn’t the mentri besar or the chief minister of state enough duties on their plate to also want to claim a federal seat?

In this case, we are talking about not just an ordinary woman leader but the president of the party and a possible Prime Minister of the country in the event of Anwar being imprisoned for sodomy 2.0.

But how was it that the feminists and the principled politicians in PR did not utter any dissension? It has become a standard feminist demand that there should be a gender quota of women representation in political parties, government office and other institutions. In this case, we have a woman president of the party who had already won her seat in parliament having to make way for a man!

It’s democracy, stupid!

Why do you think this grabby practice of wanting seats in both federal and state parliaments is not practiced in other democratic countries? Do you think it is because they cannot afford to employ political secretaries to look after their constituencies?

It’s democracy, stupid! To do so would risk being laughed at by the media and the public for being such petty bourgeois careerists! Democracy is a process that emphasises broad and greater participation of the people and the nurturing of new leaders in the political system. It is about the inclusion of women and young leaders in the exercise of power and decision-making throughout society.

This principle of inclusivity is crucial. It is not about placing a few token or high-profile women who are more interested in air-brushing their public image either! The role of women leaders is to push for deeper and more extensive models of democracy and participation for other women.

Thus, selection procedures within parties must be inclusive, transparent and democratic. Various structures such as the women and youth wings should be empowered to enable them to effectively participate in this selection process. As my example of the Selangor DAP state committee is instructive, intra-party democracy and inclusivity needs to be sustained. This requires the party to have in place structures and system that will ensure that all groups are catered for at all times and reforms cannot be simply undone.

If Pakatan Rakyat fails to carry out such intra-party reform, democracy will continue to be cynically interpreted — as my former comrades in the DAP used to joke about it — “Dia mahu kerusi”.

* The writer is a director of Suaram and former Petaling Jaya Utara MP

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

[[[ *** RESPONSE *** ]]]

An intelligent article that is too pro-feminist for it’s own good. You’d think feminism was more important that mention of TERM LIMITS and NEPOTISM. Mention these Pakatan problems sometime too KKS, Pakatan is rife with it’s own form of undemocratic illness – with careerist behaviour particularly pronounced and well described here in Pakatan Rakyat.

Could MCA, MIC, Gerakan and PPP please leave BN to form a 3rd Force along with KITA, MCLM, PCM, Borneo Front, Konsensus Bebas, HRP, PSM that is not aligned to Pakatan? BN is too racist as of now. Pakatan is too ambiguous but more cosmopilitan, though likely corrupt and opaque when they entrench, even as term limitless politicians and nepotists throng the Pakatan coalition. The only safe option which the Rakyat can control to any measure, that could understand that limitless terms and nepotism is wrong, is 3rd Force.

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