UMNO stands to gain from local elections in Selangor, not DAP

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on 6 February 2015

Yesterday, on 5 February 2015 in Sinar Harian, ADUN for Permatang Datuk Sulaiman Razak made several baseless accusations against the DAP.[1]

First, Sulaiman alleged that the main reason DAP is demanding elections for local authorities (LAs, or Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan or PBT in Bahasa Malaysia) is to ‘seize more urban seats’ and to ‘monopolize positions of power and decision-making which will marginalize the rights of other races.’

In reality, the party which will benefit most from local council elections in Selangor is UMNO and not DAP. In Selangor, UMNO holds 12 out of 56 DUN seats (21%) and 4 out of 22 Parliament seats (18%). Although UMNO succeeded in winning 18% of the popular vote in Selangor in GE-13, UMNO does not have a single representative in any of the local councils. With local council elections, UMNO through its popular support of 18% stands to win at least 50 out of 300 local councilor positions which at present are appointed by the State Government.

At the same time, there is a strong possibility that UMNO will dominate the Kuala Selangor, Sabak Bernam and Hulu Selangor local councils through local elections, given the strong support for UMNO in these areas.

As another example, in areas such as Petaling Jaya where UMNO did not contest any Parliament or DUN seats, local elections will give UMNO the opportunity and space to gain representation in the Petaling Jaya City Council (Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya or MBPJ).

Second, Sulaiman accused DAP of wanting to ‘taking the opportunity to become the majority in the local councils’ especially in local councils such as MBPJ, MBSA and MPAJ which have large budgets. Sulaiman’s accusation is based on the perception that urban areas are majority-non-Malay areas and that this will benefit DAP.

This allegation is also baseless. According to the 2010 population census, 10 of the 12 local councils in Selangor have a Malay majority, including Majlis Bandaraya Shah Alam (MBSA) and Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ). In Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya (MBPJ), Malay residents are a plurality. Only in Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) is there a Chinese plurality.

Does UMNO have no confidence that it can beat DAP in local elections for Malay-majority areas such as Shah Alam and Ampang?

Third, Sulaiman accused DAP of ‘intentionally creating issues to blame the Federal Government because the election of local authorities come under a Parliamentary Act in the concurrent list for Federal Government and State Government powers.’

Actually, State Governments have two ways to carry out local authority elections even if the Federal Government refuses to cooperate. The first way is to pass a state law in the State Assembly (DUN) to conduct local elections and obtain an exemption from the Local Government Act 1976. The Penang State Government took this approach but failed when the Federal Court rejected its appeal.

The second approach is to hold local elections through the Selangor State Government machinery and appoint the winners as local councilors. This method has been used by the Selangor State Government to choose Chinese village heads in Kampung Baru Sungai Jarum in Kuala Langat, Kampung Bagan in Pulau Ketam and Pandamaran in Klang. The same method can be used to select local councillors but requires more detailed planning.

Local elections in Selangor are not something new. It is stated in Selangor Pakatan Rakyat’s GE-13 manifesto as follows: Carry out decentralization through a gradual implementation of local government elections.”

If UMNO Selangor continued to oppose the election of local authorities in Selangor, is it because they have no confidence in their own ability to attract support and win local council positions, or because UMNO in Selangor does not want to serve the people through local government?