KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 – The MCA is all set to make significant changes to its party election voting system to allow some 33,000 divisional delegates to elect the top leadership. It will hold an annual general meeting (AGM) this Saturday to amend Article 21 of the party constitution to provide for the new voting system, styled after the United States electoral college system which Umno had adopted in 2013.
When implemented, the new system will see 33,000 delegates from 188 MCA divisions nationwide directly electing the party president, deputy president, four vice-presidents and 25 Central Committee members. Under the existing voting system, the leaders are elected by 2,400 central delegates during the party election, which is held every three years during its annual general meeting (AGM).
MCA deputy secretary-general Datuk Wee Jeck Seng is confident that the new voting system would put a stop to infighting and power struggles as it would expand the voter base and make the party more democratic. He said that the party has faced so many crises in the past that people are cracking jokes about it. He also said that while a general election is only held once every five years, MCA holds elections every three years and a countless number of AGMs.
He also added that by expanding the voting rights of their members, they hope to put a stop to all those internal quarrels. The new voting system, said Wee, was part of a step-by-step process to transform MCA, adding, “We are starting by expanding the voting base. All this while, the perception is that we only talk but take no action. But now we are really doing it.”
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Last month, when announcing that MCA would amend its constitution to allow its divisional delegates to elect the top leadership, president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the party could no longer allow itself to be torn apart by party polls. He said they must show the community their resolve to change and to remain united. He also said that only then, can they win back the public’s respect.
MCA veteran leader Datuk Yap Pian Hon described the proposed amendments as “long overdue” and believed that delegates attending Saturday’s AGM would give their approval as they have already been briefed several times on the new voting system.
Political analyst and adjunct senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Dr Oh Ei Sun said about a year ago, he had the opportunity to take a look at MCA’s new voting system and found that it was based on a modified version of the US electoral college system.
The party’s top leaders, he said had been persuading its grassroots leaders over the past few years to accept the new system in order to make the party elections more democratic and appealing to all. According to Oh, initially certain grassroots leaders showed some resistence as they did not want the existing system to be altered and for obvious reasons too.
“The warlords, to be precise, didn’t want any changes as they feared that their power base would loosen if voting rights are extended to more delegates … they can’t be kingmakers anymore and may end up losing their bargaining power. Under the current voting system, anybody who wants to contest the party election must get the blessings of these warlords first,” he said.
Meanwhile, some veteran party leaders like Yap have expressed concern that the new voting system would see a large number of MCA’s inactive members being granted the right to vote in the party election. “Some of the divisions are big in terms of membership numbers but many may not be active members. In fact, it’s widely believed that nearly 70 per cent of MCA members are not active, so it’s unfair to elect them as divisional delegates,” said Yap.
(MCA’s membership is estimated at 1.07 million.)
He said the leadership has to explain further how it planned to tackle the issue of inactive members, failing which disputes may arise between the central leaders and the divisions. Yap also said that another issue that required further clarification was the minimum quorum needed to call an AGM.
“What we want to know is whether the quorum is being maintained at the current one-third of the 2,400 central delegates or is it going to be one-third of the 33,000 divisional delegates?” he said, adding that the notice for this Saturday’s AGM was silent on the quorum.
The proposal to amend MCA’s election voting system has been in the pipeline for over 10 years. Back in 2008, the then deputy president Datuk (now Tan Sri) Ong Tee Keat had proposed that MCA implement a direct election system, which would enable every member to participate in the party polls.
Later, Ong appointed the then deputy president Datuk Seri (now Tan Sri) Dr Chua Soi Lek to lead a special committee to look into his proposal but it was back-burnered in 2012 due to the need for the party leaders to close ranks and unite for the 2013 general election (GE13).
Following the party’s dismal performance in GE13, Chua appointed the then deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai as head of a special transformation committee to revive the party, including transforming its election system. However, Liow’s committee realised that the party could not implement the direct election system proposed by Ong due to organisational issues pertaining to difficulties in obtaining the full details of all its members.
It then proposed a modified version of the direct election system, similar to the one implemented by Umno, to allow some 33,000 divisional delegates to elect the top leadership. MCA will hold its 63rd AGM on Sunday, scheduled to be opened by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak. — Bernama