The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) staunchly rejects the push by certain quarters in Umno to have an early general election to save kleptocrats from justice in court.
Bersih calls upon all parties to instead support a new convention of a fixed-term parliament by allowing the 14th Parliament to stand dissolved only on 15 July 2023.
Bersih is alarmed that the tabling of Budget 2023 has been brought forward by three weeks to 7 October, fuelling speculation that Parliament would be irresponsibly dissolved the very next day, to fish for votes with generous but unguaranteed offers in an undebated Budget.
Bersih condemns those who unashamedly instructed Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to seek a pardon for Najib and an early dissolution of Parliament. They have made clear that they want a new government that would seek a pardon for Najib, pressure judges and perhaps withdraw charges in other corruption cases.
If the supporters of the kleptocrats get their way, then the “two-class” (dua darjat) phenomenon would be institutionalised – government politicians would be spared from any legal consequences for breaking laws and robbing the people, as long as they can win elections.
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Institutionalised protection for kleptocrats would destroy not just the rule of law and society but also the economy, as honest businesses and investments would leave the country in droves, sinking the country into catastrophe.
Bersih calls upon Prime Minister Ismail Sabri to stand firm on his promise to not interfere in the judiciary by rejecting the call for an early general election. He must remember his mandate comes from Parliament and not from Umno.
To protect Malaysia from the kleptocrats, the prime minister must implement key reforms. First and foremost is the separation of the public prosecution’s office from the Attorney General’s Chambers, to eliminate selective prosecution by and impunity forthe attorney general, who is a political appointee and whose decision may be influenced by political considerations.
If after the the general election, the attorney general withdraws all charges against Najib in the remaining four cases, nothing can be done by any judges, and Najib would walk away as a free man after receiving a royal pardon on the SRC case.
The other pressing reforms include a political finance law that would provide sufficient public funding to political parties to reduce their dependence on slush funds, the appointment of standing select committees to scrutinise every ministry (departmental committees) and reforms in absentee voting for out-of-region and overseas voters to raise turnout rates.
As all these reforms would take months to be ready, if all stakeholders are given ample time to offer their input, the 14th Parliament should last until 15 July 2023. This would start a new constitutional convention of a fixed-term parliament.
With a fixed-term parliament, every parliament should last for its entire term, and early dissolution should be sought in only two circumstances:
- when the government loses the confidence of Parliament and
- when two-thirds of parliamentarians resolve to seek an early dissolution
With a fixed-term parliament, the election date would be largely fixed. This would contribute to political stability by discouraging political adventurism and short-term calculations. It would also allow ordinary people, especially police personnel, teachers and other civil servants involved in electoral administration, and journalists, to plan their family holidays or even wedding receptions.
We call upon the prime minister and all parties to join force to bring more institutional reforms necessary for political stability between now and 15 July 2023. – Bersih