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Party Elections 101: Yes, It Is Messy, Dirty But Necessary

PKR Parti Keadilan Rakyat Election

(PKR cannot be a one-man-show. At end of the day, it has to rely on committees, rules and procedures. Dr Molly Cheah now heads a nine-member central election committee — made up of ordinary members — who will oversee the party’s first-ever direct elections. Image source: Wikipedia)

It would have been better if PKR had bull-dozed its “first in Malaysia – one member, one vote” election process and see what had worked and what did not work and improved on the next election.

Certainly, when you are doing something new for the very first time, you cannot expect things to go smooth. So I was kind of surprised when I noticed the press release from Zaid Ibrahim’s camp.

When PKR announced that all members will be able to pick their representatives to the key posts in the party, the idea was kind of visionary.

No one else has done the same – most of us are aware that the members of a political party at the lower level will pick a representative who will then decide on behalf of its branch members on who goes to hold more important posts in the party.

Money politics is widespread and sometimes you end up electing the wrong person to the wrong post.

It is the same with all other political parties all over Malaysia with some variations here and there – both from the Barisan side and Pakatan side ((perhaps MIC will have one extra criterion – President’s blessing).

So, when PKR announced its 1 member, 1 vote system – it did sound “revolutionary”.

It also sounded fair – every member deciding who going to lead what instead of having an exclusive few that decides the fate of the party (and the nation). RPK once talked about the 191 division leaders of UMNO deciding the fate of the country.

In 2010, that meant almost 400,000 PKR members will be voting for some 8.570 candidates at the divisional level in almost 145 divisions and about 25 candidates for the central leadership council.

One thing that was not clear to everyone is how PKR planned to do it.

400,000 is a big number and the fact that these 400,000 members will be voting twice makes it mind-boggling. Yes, it sounded simple enough for some but what happened, in reality, was something far from simple. It is a logistic nightmare.

Logistic Mess Before Elections

In fact, the mess started way before the voting days – from the time to nominate who will run for which position – accusations have been flying around, rules bent to allow some in and even had cries of sabotage and backstabbing. That in itself is a big mess. So, it was not a big surprise to see the same mess during the voting days.

Free Malaysia Today reports:-

1. Kota Bharu, Kelantan: Although the ballot papers for the other positions were available, the polling did not proceed because the ballot papers for the position of Vice Chief of the Women’s Wing were not available.

2. Tumpat, Kelantan: The ballot papers have not arrived as at 12:00 noon and the ballot boxes were also not ready. Thus, many members left for Friday prayers.

3. Langkawi, Kedah: The ballot papers arrived very late and registration of new members is taking place whilst the polls are ongoing, and it seems that some of these new members are being allowed to vote.

4. Alor Setar, Kedah: The ballot papers have not arrived as at 12:00 noon and many members left for Friday prayers without voting.

And given the logistic nightmare that PKR is having with its first of its kind, one member, one vote, it is no surprise to see the pro-BN bloggers having a field day on this mess.

Problem With Anwar?

Syed (of OutSyed The Box) said:-

Much earlier, when PKR first announced that their party would employ the “one man one vote” system for party elections, I had predicted it would be the end of PKR. My reasons were slightly different but still valid.

My point earlier was that if PKR has a ‘one man one vote’ system in a multi racial party, the Chinese and the Indians in PKR will be left out in the cold.

PKR is a Malay majority party. Malays will vote for Malays, Chinese will vote Chinese and the Indians will be swinging somewhere. Since majority wins, it will become a Malay party.

The Chinese can look up the word “sidelines” in the dictionary. The Indians can check out the word ‘curry leaves’.

But this will not work in the multi racial PKR. Just wait and see.

But this most recent turn of events in PKR is not surprising. They have not even sorted out the logistics of running their elections. This is typical Anwar Ibrahim – let there be chaos. There is going to be major chair throwing over this one.

I know some of these PKR folks. Sorry guys – this is immaturity, childishness and just plain silliness. After the excitement is over, you can go home.

Maybe find some other outlets to let go your “I don’t know who I am” or “where I fit in” steam. It takes maturity some intelligence and a better understanding of reality to step up to the plate.

So what will happen at the end? I think Moses will have to appear with his magic staff and calm the tumultuous sea. Everyone will have to simmer down and Moses will lead them through the stormy waters.

Meaning if the situation gets too out of control, the Brader may suspend the elections (which are what this Press Statement demands) and just appoint whoever to whatever. End of clown story.

Counter Arguments to Syed

Whilst Syed has a valid point there, I beg to differ – he missed some points here and there too.

It is not right to put the blame squarely on Anwar Ibrahim (“Brader”) – yes, he is the main force behind PKR but it is about time, the PKR members do things on their own without having Anwar leading them by their nose (more so when Anwar is facing Sodomy 2).

For this election, PKR had formed a party election steering committee – whilst it has not been effective (some called it as being too soft) – to monitor the progress of the election (so why say “this is typical Anwar Ibrahim”).

If there are shortcomings apparent in the election process, the place to take up the shortcomings would be at the party election steering committee. Hopefully, the election procedures will be firmed up as time goes on.

Obviously, PKR was not prepared for the logistic shortcomings but having a process that is too new in Malaysia, there will be a series of trial and error before the process can be fine-tuned.

It is not like PKR been exercising the “one member, one vote” system for many years now and they are still having the same problems and shortcomings – something that Syed seems to imply.

I still recall when my previous organisation organised a family day for the very first time – it was chaos and left many fuming mad after the event. But over the years, lessons been learned and shortcomings have been rectified and family day events turned out to be the most anticipated event of the year.

Logistic shortcomings are something everyone had anticipated when PKR first announced the “one member, one vote” system. It is not like they had the access to the helicopter to help out with the logistics. It is just too bad PKR was not ready enough to confront much of the shortcomings in the very first year.

Multi-Racial Element

Then there is this talk that the “one member, one vote” system will not work in a multi-race party and Syed still implies that the Malays will only vote for the Malays, Chinese for the Chinese and the Indians for the Indians (an interesting revelation that there are some Indians masquerading as the “son of the land” in UMNO – that is a good one, bro).

That is a typical BN view of seeing things in Malaysia – everything is broken down by the colour of the skin. I believe PKR is beyond the racial division that BN component parties heavily promote and operate with. It does not work that way in reality too.

Malaysia is a multi-race society too but do the Malays only vote for the Malays, Chinese for the Chinese and the Indians for the Indians? The result of the last general election speaks for itself.

No doubt, there are some in PKR who will continue to take the racial division when it comes to voting a person to key posts but at the end of the day, what PKR need to do is vote for strong, capable leaders.

If such a strong, capable leader is Malay, I don’t see why the Chinese and the Indian members would not vote for him and vice versa. This is a party election and whatever that makes the party stronger and resilient and be ready for the general election – that would be the right way to go.

Now that Zaid Ibrahim has released the press release of the mess in the election process, it has created some uncertainty. Will PKR ignore it as being something that has been anticipated and continues to complete the election process (which is the right to do)?

Or as Syed predicts, Anwar steps in and calls off the election altogether? But if that happens, PKR’s credibility to conduct its business will be in serious jeopardy.

It also means PKR will not able to survive without Anwar still holding its hands. And I don’t think PKR or Anwar for the matter wants it so at this point.

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