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Promoting local democracy despite roadblocks

A child casts his vote as an election observer monitors the process
Residents of a flat vote for various options on how to spend public money in a gender-responsive budgeting process in Penang.

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Opposition-controlled states like Selangor and Penang can come up with new and creative ways to promote local democracy, says Wishful Accountant.

Penang and Selangor have been hampered in their efforts to introduce elections for their local councils as current laws seem not to allow such polls and the federal government is totally against the idea.

I have an easy suggestion: don’t call it an election; maybe just call it a [democratic] shortlist or selection process.

Once the result is known, the chief minister just appoints all the victors in the process to their respective councils.

But this will not be easy as it is fraught with inherent roadblocks and official sanctions.

Who will monitor the process and who will undertake the count? Will there be an official campaigning period or does it have to be unofficial?

The Election Commission may declare that this is campaigning outside the approved period and may take action against all parties involved. We all know how easy such selective action can be and what a hard time those who are targeted will have to endure.

Campaigning materials such as posters, manifestos and flyers may be seized for the same reason.

Worse, those who are standing for this ‘selection’ may be arrested for illegal campaigning – and there goes that initiative.

All the same, to honour their commitment to local democracy, the ruling parties in Selangor and Penang should consider this idea and see where it leads.

If the authorities put a stop to it, at least they can say they tried.

Wishful Accountant, who practises his trade, is a keen customer services and rights champion who spends his own time and resources chasing banks, utility providers, highway concessionaires and local councils on various public interest issues. Occasionally, he feels compelled to comment on political and social issues.

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