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Monday, July 05, 2004


We live in a Democracy

::We are often enough told that we live in a democracy and the main reason is that we have elections, often enough. Every 4 years or thereabouts we have a general election. We had our 11th just recently, but with the uneven field and an Election Commission which says it is not so independent and then goes all out to fumble its way, we really wonder if things are all that democratic.

Apart from the general elections, there are the elections for the leadership of our political parties. UMNO's is coming up soon. UMNO is also said to be a political party which practises democracy. Why then are we hearing cries for the top two party posts to be unchallenged. Not there there are really incumbents for the posts of UMNO President and deputy President. Both of them are in reality actors; Pak Lah the acting UMNO President and Najib the acting deputy President. So in any event, who are there to be challenged. But the clamouring for no contest is still there.

It is not easy to even get nominated for the two top posts in UMNO these days. In the good old days, one only needed a proposer and a seconder. Along the way, it has become more and more difficult to be nominated, over the years a "minimum nomination system" has evolved, this system is said to ensure that only 'serious' candidates are nominated. The "minimum nomination system" goes like so ::
To contest for the UMNO presidency, a prospective candidate needs at least 30% of nominations from all the divisions. ie 58 nominations from the 191 Umno divisions nationwide.

For the deputy's post the quota is 20% (39 nominations), vice-president 10% (20) and supreme council seat 5% (10).

This is UMNO's versi of democracy at work. According to this Star report, this "minimum nomination system" has been criticised, almost from the beginning, as undemocratic and open to abuse. But the present acting UMNO President says :: "It is the decision of the general assembly, not the Supreme Council." He pointed out that he did not create the system (but someone else, who was frighten of losing too, did). So as "undemocratic" as it is the "system" stays, this is difficult to understand when it comes from our PM who has said that he is strongly committed to democracy!

The outburst from the PM was in response to a suggestion by Ku Li that the "system" be abolished to ensure transparent and democratic party elections. Ku Li, the Gua Musang MP, had also said that party leaders had nothing to fear in abolishing the "system". There are speculations that he may want to contest for the Umno presidency or deputy presidency. His followers are said to be "pressuring" him to contest.

Najib has come out strongly to support the no contest for the UMNO Presidency position. The NST quoted him as saying ::
"There should be no question that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will be the party president. The supreme council and state liaison committees have decided on this and members should support it."

Is this feudalistic speak or democratic speak? Apart for insisting that there be no contest for the 2 top posts, Najib is all in support for healthy democratic contest for other posts in UMNO. Excerpts from the NST report ::
Commenting on the increasing number of party leaders offering themselves for the three vice-president posts, Najib said it was normal and there should not be any restriction as long as the candidates had enough support from party members.
"There is nothing wrong with having many candidates in the race for the vice-presidency. In the past, we did have up to six or seven people contesting for the posts," he said. (Does Najib need being reminded taht there were also contests for the Presidency and the deputy in the past.)

On the one hand he wants no contest but on the other, he welcomes and see nothing wrong in having many contestants. Very 'schizophrenic' sounding indeed.

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