Brave New World

Published: Wednesday April 29, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 29, 2015 MYT 10:56:15 AM

To limit or not to limit

There are both pros and cons on whether there should be term limits for heads of governments.

THERE are many reasons why some political systems limit the number of terms their heads of governments can hold office. I would hazard a guess that the primary one is that it is to ensure that power will not be focused too much on one person. Also, any sort of patronage will also have a natural cut-off date.

It’s not a bad system, but there are arguments against it. For one thing, if the people really like a particular person, then it seems silly not to let them continue to want him or her as their leader (although this would only apply in presidential systems and it works on the assumption that elections are clean and fair). In other words, let the democratic process take its natural path.

Also, two terms might be a bit short if a leader is particularly visionary and wants to see things through. Whichever system is used, it doesn’t really matter though because both have their pros and cons.

Well, now it seems that BN Penang want to have the limited term introduced for their Chief Minister. How very interesting. They said it will give others a chance to be CM, including women. How very CEDAW of them. (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.)

But despite the seeming enlightened reasons coming from Penang BN, I really wonder about their motives. I mean, the late Tun Lim Chong Eu served for five terms, if I am not mistaken. There wasn’t a peep from BN then about limiting the terms of the CM. Why the change of heart?

And why stop at the state level? Why not do it at the national level too? If we had this two-term limit, then the nation would only have had to bear with Tun Mahathir for eight or 10 years, not the 22 that he was in office.

I think it is an interesting idea and as a debate in the state legislature when it gets to it, I think it will be a welcome change from the usual nonsense.

This is after all a fairly complex political question and will have a big effect to Penang’s democratic system.

It’s just that the motives ring hollow when you look at history and also the way they limit themselves to the state. The party political agenda comes dripping through and it’s all rather obvious.

Speaking of party politics, I also ,saw that a PAS leader has asked PasMa not to form a political party but for its members to stay on in PAS and fight together. It was also said that when a splinter group break off due to political infighting, no good comes of it.

There is some truth to that. Semangat 46 had a short and quite sad little life. But again, looking back at history we can see that PAS itself is sort of a splinter group.

They started life as part of Umno as a religious division kind of thing. But seeing as how Umno was not heading in the direction they were comfortable with, the individuals in this division set off on their own and created PAS. And see how successful and long lived PAS is.

It seems to me that if the members of PasMa feel that their aspirations do not gel with the direction that PAS is taking and they want to set up a party, then it would simply be a matter of history repeating itself.

This is particularly true if PAS was to leave Pakatan Rakyat.

Whether a new political party which sprang from PAS would make much difference is hard to say. I doubt that the hardcore PAS voters will be swayed to change sides, in which case PasMA won’t make much of a dent in PAS stronghold areas.

Whether they could play a role in the constituencies outside traditional PAS strongholds would rather depend on whether they can be convincing enough to show their credentials (which would be Islamic credentials) and whether their political stance would be sufficiently different from PAS as to make them attractive to those who may have become disillusioned with that party. That is quite a lot to ask for from a fledgling party. If it ever happens, that is.

> Azmi Sharom ( is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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