PETALING JAYA, 9 June 2009: Sweeping changes to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s constitution, including direct elections for the top leadership and a nine-year limit on the presidency, will be voted on this Saturday, 13 June, at a special congress.
Another key amendment that will be put to a vote is a 30% quota for women leaders at the central, state and division levels, making it likely to be the first party from either the Pakatan Rakyat or the Barisan Nasional to attempt to do so.
There will also be a resolution to amend the party constitution to reduce the age limit for Angkatan Muda Keadilan (Youth wing) members from 40 to 35.
PKR communications director Jonson Chong said that having direct elections would be significant for the Malaysian political landscape.
Chong (Courtesy of Jonson Chong) The amendment, he noted, would see PKR break away from the norm, whereby party leaders are elected by a limited number of delegates.
“All party members will be given a chance to vote directly for their leaders at national and division level to make the process more democratic and also to discourage money politics,” said Chong, who is also a supreme council member, in a phone interview with The Nut Graph.
The only leaders who will not be elected are state PKR leaders, but there are changes proposed to their appointment process.
Chong said state party chiefs were currently appointed by the party president after a “loose consultation” with a few division chiefs in that state.
The proposed amendment would require the president to hold a formal meeting to consult with all division chiefs in a state.
PKR’s next internal elections are due in 2010. Chong said this gave the party a year to organise logistics for direct elections. A nationwide polling structure involving election officers at division, state and national levels is in the works.
Chong said the three-term or nine-year limit on the party presidency would not be retrospective.
Wan Azizah Hence, should current president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail stand for re-election next year and win, she could hold the office for another nine years, Chong explained.
On the Youth wing age limit, he said that candidates can stand for office as long as they are 35 and below as of 31 Dec of that election year.
“If they turn 36 while they are in office, they will be allowed to finish their term but cannot stand for re-election,” he said.
Dr Cecilia Ng said in a phone interview PKR is probably the first political party to legislate a quota for women in their party constitution.
“This is good. We have been pushing for this for a long time. Some other political parties have quotas as policy only but not in their constitutions,” she said.
Ng is visiting professor at the Women’s Development Research Centre at Universiti Sains Malaysia.
She added that even in the Ninth Malaysia Plan, government policy does not call for legislation, but merely encourages at least 30% women to be in decision-making positions in the public and private sectors.
One minor but interesting amendment to PKR’s constitution would be the proposal that the Bahasa Malaysia terms for divisions and branches be changed to “cabang” instead of “bahagian”, and “ranting” instead of “cawangan”.
Chong said this was “to go back to the roots of Malay language” and noted that these terms were also used in political parties in Indonesia.
Sivarasa Chong said a press conference by party vice-president R Sivarasa, who also heads PKR’s constitutional amendments committee, would be held tomorrow on the proposed changes and on Saturday’s congress.
Umno is also planning to amend its constitution through an extraordinary general meeting in October, possibly to remove the quota system and allow direct elections of top party leaders.
Umno president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said that the draft amendments would be circulated among Umno branches for feedback.