KUALA LUMPUR: The Barisan Nasional (BN) has no qualms about handing over power to the opposition should it lose the people’s mandate in the upcoming general election.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz gave this assurance yesterday, saying that BN will follow the rules.
“We will gladly hand over and we will not stay one second more [than we should] if we lose the mandate of the people.
“We have shown that we faithfully stick to the rules and results,” he said in his speech at the International Conference on Malaysia’s 13th general election, organised by the office of opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
His comments come amid Anwar’s call to the ruling coalition to guarantee a smooth and peaceful transition of power should Pakatan Rakyat (PR) win the most seats in the general election.
Additionally, the minister’s remarks reflect the BN’s confidence in facing the election, which is widely seen as the most hotly contested race in Malaysia’s polls history.
Nazri, the Padang Rengas member of parliament (MP), said there had been a smooth handover of power in the five states which PR won in the last general election.
“We won’t form the government by cheating or through any other improper means ... There was no unrest, no attempt to resist [handing over power] because we do not want to form the government if we don’t get the mandate of the people. Why should we?” he said.
After the 2008 election, the BN lost control of Penang, Kedah, Selangor and Perak while the PAS-led government continued to rule Kelantan.
However, the BN returned to power in Perak in 2009 following the defection of three PR assemblymen which swung the balance of power in the state.
According to Nazri, the BN had refused to accept several MPs who quit PKR into the ruling coalition’s fold even though these independent representatives were pro-BN.
“We never attempted to induce them to join us, unlike the Sept 16 fiasco [by the opposition coalition] to buy over MPs so that there can be a change of government [at the federal level].
“If you believe in electoral democracy, you don’t do that. BN won’t buy over MPs from the other side,” he said, referring to Anwar’s failed takeover of the federal government on Sept 16, 2009 by engineering the crossover of a bloc of BN MPs.
In his speech, Nazri also stressed that elections in Malaysia have always been conducted in a free and fair manner, even if the system is not perfect.
He maintained that the present government is always open to suggestions and is committed to reform in order to ensure that future elections continue to be free and fair.
“There is always room for improvement. If we didn’t believe there was room for improvement, we would not have allowed the [setting up of the] Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms,” he said.
He admitted that when there were calls for electoral reform, some people in the establishment resisted for fear that conceding to such calls would be tantamount to admitting that previous elections were not free and fair.
“The government now feels that it may not have been ideal but [the system] has worked. If not, there would not be any opposition MPs and we would not have lost five states,” he said.
Nazri, the minister in charge of law and parliamentary affairs, said the government is fully committed to implementing the recommendations by the PSC which have been approved by the Election Commission.
“The government is a willing and serious partner in implementing free and fair elections in Malaysia. The government listens. Please do not doubt us,” he said.
The BN-led federal government has in recent years come under intense fire for what civil society groups say is unfair electoral process in Malaysia.
Electoral reform coalition Bersih 2.0 has been at the forefront for advocating a slew of reforms to improve Malaysia’s election process, including cleaning up the electoral roll, using indelible ink, preventing corruption and ensuring fair access to the media.
PKR leader Sivarasa Rasiah said Nazri and like minded people must stop repeating “simplistic” comparisons in defending the integrity of Malaysia’s current electoral process.
“You cannot say that Malaysia’s electoral process is free and fair simply because PR won five states in the last election. If the process was fair, PR could have been sitting in Putrajaya since 2008,” said Sivarasa, the MP for Subang.
For more stories, go to www.fz.com, the website for freedom of expression and fairness in articulation.