There are signs that the reforms that are offered by PM Najib could be just to serve as election baits: you need to re-elect BN to get them to do what they had failed to deliver for half a century! And upon closer scrutiny the reforms are questionable on many grounds. So: will it be worthwhile even to vote for such dubious promises?
Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform: start this month(October) and given 6 months to submit its report; deadline can be extended;
ISA and Emergency laws’ repeal: by March 2012.
For both reforms there is no commitment from the ruling BN that they will be implemented before the 13th General Elections. Look at the scenarios:
1. 13th GE come before reform implementations: ie the 13th GE will still see the government taking advantage of the non-level playing fields to win the election, while the Opposition and civil society leaders will still be threatened by the ISA and other emergency laws ie the Emergency Ordinance. But BN can go to town to say they need the new mandate to implement the reforms; Opposition will need to promise speedier and more thoroughgoing reforms to beat that;
If this happened there is also an issue if the PSC on electoral reform will continue after the dissolution of parliament; as a parliament created body it will also dissolve along with the Parliament.
2. 13th GE come after reform implementations: 13th GE will then be postponed to well over 6 months from now. Since it is a known fact there are conservative forces within UMNO who want to keep these old laws and emergency measures it will mean either that the reforms will be dropped or water downed to valueless amendments; So: the only chance to see any semblance of reform would have to be a fast job. And there will be a lot of resistance to this especially if the 13th GE were to come after the reform implementations.
Looking at these scenarios it is not easy to see how the reforms can be really sincere-they are there as a prop to something else. So those who look up to BN to bring reforms may well be disappointed at the end. Besides being disappointed the people should consider taking action in anticipation of the BN’s possible empty talks: they can make the candidates sign commitment towards doing away with the ISA and emergency laws, besides reforming the election administration. Make them the election issues so that the momentum in public opinion will make it costly for BN to go back on their words. Should the response from the BN be not so satisfactory the voters are entitled to abandon BN to try to achieve their aspiration through other parties. This is entirely within the right of the voters to do so.