Penang leaders mull over snap polls amid graft charges against chief minister

Democratic Action Party (DAP) leaders, together with secretary- general Lim Guan Eng (front row, third from right), at their leadership meeting on July 1, 2016.
Democratic Action Party (DAP) leaders, together with secretary- general Lim Guan Eng (front row, third from right), at their leadership meeting on July 1, 2016. PHOTO: TRINNA LEONG
A crowd wearing red, blue, green and yellow T-shirts joined Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in a solidarity march on July 3, 2016.
A crowd wearing red, blue, green and yellow T-shirts joined Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in a solidarity march on July 3, 2016. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

GEORGE TOWN - Penang leaders are mulling over snap elections in the state as a way to underline public support for the ruling Democratic Action Party (DAP) and its allies despite corruption charges brought against Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Mr Lim's DAP and the state executive council have unanimously voted for him to remain in office pending the outcome of the case.

However, the party and its Pakatan Harapan allies believe that victory in a statewide election would blunt what they say is a politically motivated campaign by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's Barisan Nasional (BN) to sully the image of the state administration, reported The Malay Mail Online.

"We are discussing it as an option because by having state elections, we can let the people decide if they still want the Pakatan Harapan state government, in the light of these false allegations against the chief minister," said a DAP leader, on condition of anonymity.

Penang deputy chief ministers Mohd Rashid Hasnon and P. Ramasamy said the issue was discussed, but no decision was taken. Mr Ramasamy added that there may even not be a need for snap state elections if Datuk Seri Najib decides to call nationwide polls next year.

However, some political observers warned that snap elections are unnecessary and could backfire on Pakatan Harapan.

Associate Professor Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, from the College of Law, Government and International Studies in Universiti Utara Malaysia, said: "People will react to it because most people believe the general elections are coming soon so, if the state assembly decides to dissolve before Parliament, this means the perception may be that the state is guilty of the accusations against it."

But University of Tasmania Asia Institute director James Chin disagreed, saying the charges against Mr Lim had angered voters and an early election would likely see DAP score a stunning victory.

"A snap election is the only way Penangites can send a political message to Najib, that they are unhappy," he added.

Mr Lim has been charged with abuse of power and corruption over his alleged approval for a rezoning application to convert agricultural land into a residential zone by a company, Magnificent Emblem, which has been linked to his purchase of a house from the director of the company at below market value.