Too costly to hold local council elections, says Reezal Merican

PETALING JAYA: There will be no revival of local council elections due to the high costs involved, says Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican.

He also said the exercise may not see the election of councillors who will provide the best services to the people.

In a parliamentary written reply on Wednesday (Dec 8), Reezal estimated that holding elections for the country’s 151 local authorities would cost RM302mil.

“The proposal to revive local council elections was part of the Pakatan Harapan manifesto (in 2018).

“However, the Cabinet agreed on July 17 last year that this proposal need not be continued.

“The government of the day does not plan to implement local government elections.

“This is because the existing system of appointing local councillors has been running well.

“Local elections will involve a large allocation as the implementation cost will be very high.

“The cost is estimated at RM2mil for each local government council and RM302mil for all 151 local councils,” he said.

Reezal added that the figure does not include the hidden costs borne by other relevant agencies, including the police and the People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela).

“If local elections are implemented every two years, this focus on providing services to the people will be affected as too much time and energy will be devoted to the election process.

“So far, local authorities still provide the best service to the people without local elections and (holding) local elections is not a guarantee of that.

“Under the current system, councillors who do not perform well can be dropped or not reappointed after their term expires,” he said.

Meanwhile, Reezal said training will be provided to appointed councillors each year through the cooperation of the ministry’s Training Institute and Local Government Department.

“We are developing guidelines for the appointment of local councillors.

“Among others, the appointment of local councillors must meet the criteria of appointment period, academic qualifications or professional experience, and community composition such as race, gender and minorities.

“We encourage local councils to livestream their full board meetings to allow the people to jointly participate in governance.

“So far, 16 local authorities have live streamed their full board meetings,” he told Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya) in the Dewan Rakyat.

Earlier, Maria had asked if the government had any plan to hold local council elections and its intention to build a modern nation that upholds the concept of democracy and community empowerment.

The last local government elections in Malaysia took place in 1963. The elections for 1964 and 1965 were suspended with the official reason stated as Indonesia’s confrontation with Malaysia.

The suspension became permanent after Parliament passed the Local Government Act 1976, which only provided for appointed councillors.