KOTA KINABALU April 17, 2012: An ad hoc committee has been formed to promote the idea of a ‘one-to-one contest’ between the Barisan Nasional and main opposition parties in the coming 13th general elections.
Dubbed Democracy Sabah, or DESAH in short, the group, headed by former State Secretary Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, believes that promoting straight contests in the elections was a step towards promoting a two-party system in a state where crowded fields are seen in most elections.
“This is what we gather through interactions with the ordinary people on the streets. They told us that judging from what had transpired in (the political arena in) West Malaysia, they would like to see a one-to-one contest.
“We formed this party to promote the idea to the political parties in the state although we realise that not many will agree to it. This country is highly politicised in terms of religion and race and we feel that it is not the correct political direction as far as the whole nation is concerned. It is unhealthy.
“So we are proposing a two-party system as we believe this is a better alternative that is not based on religious or racial grounds. Therefore, in the coming general elections, it is better to go for non-religious and non-racial politics and concentrate on a one-to-one contest,” he said when speaking to the media during DESAH soft launch at Penampang New Township here yesterday.
Sipaun added that too many candidates would only confuse the voters, and that the results, in some occasions, could be lopsided.
“It is noted with deep concern that the numerous negative trends in elections, especially multi-cornered contests, have allowed candidates who are not supported by a majority of voters to be elected. This tends to lead to the existence of a legislature consisting of members not truly representing the majority of voters, thus impairing the check and balance mechanism,” he said.
Stressing that they were non-partisan and non-profit grouping, the former Suhakam vice chairman said that their immediate target was to work towards ensuring straight fights and at least one-third of the 25 parliamentary seats in Sabah between BN and their rivals.
“It can be a free-for-all for the remaining seats as we do not think we have the time to cover all constituencies,” he said, adding that that the 60 state seats would be left to the parties to iron out themselves.
DESAH is expected to function from now and ends soon after the date of the soon-to-be-called general election.
Sipaun said he had spoken to leaders from the opposition who agreed to the idea but they seemed to have difficulties convincing their members at the grassroots.
He said their civil society is offering to provide parties with pre-selection of potential candidates through debate and door-to-door poll on 1,000 randomly selected voters in the rolls of any particular constituency.
“It is do-able, economical and professional method for the choice of candidates,’’ he said, adding that parties participating in the pre-selection process would enjoy the backing from the public and also community leaders who are frustrated with Sabah’s multi-cornered fights in the last two general elections.
Their objective also covers the call to conduct and organise mock and trial elections in selected constituencies among contending candidates to gauge their popularity.
“This exercise can assist to deter fraud and promote clean, free and fair elections that protect voters’ rights. The mock trial elections could also be a platform for political parties to determine who are the winnable candidates,” he said.
Asked which opposition parties DESAH was looking at, he said local-based Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and State Reform Party (STAR), as well as national-based PKR and DAP.
Both the national and local based opposition parties in the state have been perceived to be at loggerheads over seat sharing in the state though leaders have been publicly calling for seat talks.
DESAH is also hoping to organise debates between the contending candidates to enable voters to learn their capabilities, abilities and leadership quality, and also conduct and organise efficient and effective dissemination of information through website, social media, forum, print and electronic media.