PETALING JAYA - Local government elections will not lead to racial tension. Instead, they will improve the efficiency and accountability of the local authorities, said Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
Malaysians, he said, should have a clear worldview of politics and democracy.
"It should not be looked at from the purpose of wanting to win elections only. If there are concerns on polarisation or an urban-rural divide, we should address the issue instead of using it as an excuse to not further the process of democratisation," he said yesterday.
Earlier, Saifuddin had expressed his support for the move to hold local government elections when he tweeted: "Many Umno leaders do not want local government elections. When the PAS president protested against the move, what else, they also agreed to it. Both missed the point!
"Local government election is important. There (are) many ways to implement it. Can do it in stages etc. Not necessarily one system for all local councils."
Saifuddin said that since Merdeka, the country had used a three-tier administrative system that comprised the federal, state and local governments.
"It can only be realised to the fullest if we have elections at all three levels."
PKR vice-president and Penampang MP Darell Leiking supported the idea of having local government elections and was disappointed that some politicians still looked at matters along racial and religious lines.
"It is important to have local government elections as you want the best individuals to represent you. We want them to be selected by the people, just like the members of Parliament and the state assemblies," he said.
DAP has called for local government elections to be reintroduced but the proposal has been snubbed by its Pakatan Rakyat partner PAS, with its party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang claiming that such elections could lead to a repeat of the May 13 riots.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said he had met with Abdul Hadi before the state pursued its plan to implement the "third vote" through the courts.
"I told them (Abdul Hadi and PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali) that we intended to push this through and they agreed. I am shocked that both leaders failed to mention what was on their minds at that time. I think it's dishonest.
"I explained the state's intention, and the PAS leaders replied it was unlikely Barisan Nasional would agree to it but Penang could go ahead and try," he said after attending the Kedah and Perlis DAP state political retreat in Bukit Mertajam.
He called on PAS leaders not to equate DAP's push for local elections with the party's move for hudud.
"We consulted them all the way. On hudud, they never consulted with us, they only do it with Umno."
DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang said local government elections were an accepted democratic practice, and Malaysians had the right to question why they continued to be denied this right to choose their representatives.