I wrote this just after the bruising Lunas by-election in 2000 and this article was first published on Dec 9, 2000 in Malaysiakini.com. It was also published in the Sun Newspaper with similar title.
By-elections totally unnecessary
The battle between the Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternatif over the Lunas state assembly seat has finally come to an end.
The whole by-election campaign, which started immediately after the death of Dr Joe Fernandez, has drained both the Barisan Nasional and the opposition.
A lot time and money were spent during the by-elections by candidates, supporters and their senior party leaders. Dirty campaign tactics, name calling, lies and maybe even indirect vote buying made the situation worse.
I believe the majority of citizens in this country would not want this unhealthy situation to continue every now and again.
The Works Minister, S Samy Vellu even camped there for a couple of weeks while some other ministers and also Kelantan and Terengganu state leaders made regular visits to Lunas.
I believe they, both Barisan Nasional and opposition party leaders who assume government posts, should concentrate on their jobs rather than spending their time campaigning for by-elections.
They are not elected by people to campaign for by-elections and neglect their official duties for weeks.
It is about time we re-think if there is a need for by-elections should the incumbent pass away or is disqualified due to other reasons.
Generally the trend shows that the constituents actually vote for the party and not the candidate, therefore the party who wins in the general elections shall retain the seat, state or parliament, should the incumbent assemblyman or member of parliament becomes unavailable.
The incumbent's party shall decide on another candidate to assume the seat.
The opposition parties would of course love to continue having by-elections as they believe that their chances of winning are brighter. But they have to remember that they may also lose their own opposition-held seats in by-elections.
Therefore it is a no-win situation for either side which begs the question - why should we have by-elections in the first place?
2008 now, and we have another by-election in Permatang Pauh, only that the situation is slightly different where the opposition leader gave up the seat for her 'Prime Minister in waiting' husband. Millions of ringgit will be wasted organising the elections alone. This does not include the anticipated huge amount to be spent by both political parties. The nation will also come to stand still for almost two weeks. Resident around the constituency would benefit economically though.
I would still stand by the statement that By Elections are totally unnecessary and the money and time could be well spent where it's needed most and certainly not for the purpose accomodating whims and fancies of some politician or political parties.