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Pak Lah’s reforms aided more open elections

It was due to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s reforms and opening of democratic space that the general election went the way it did, a public forum was told.

Social Strategic Foundation executive director Datuk Dr Dennison Jayasooria and Umno supreme council member Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad said after winning the 2004 general election, the Prime Minister had opened up democratic space and made substantial changes that involved widespread consultation with the people.

“While many have run down Prime Minister Abdullah over his leadership and tried to call for his resignation, this history (in the 2008 elections) would not have been possible if not for him enabling a democratic space in the country,” Dr Jayasooria said.

He said the Prime Minister had also built on the citizens' values and expectations of transparency, accountability, good governance and fight against corruption. For this, the people gave Abdullah a resounding victory in 2004.

The just concluded election, he said, was a test card of the leadership, and the people felt that the Barisan did not stand up to the principles advocated.

Dr Jayasooria also pointed out that the Prime Minister was gracious in losing, and this was a tremendous strength in leadership.

“I don’t think other prime ministers would be able to take it in the same fashion. Graciousness in losing is a tremendous strength and something we must value in the nation as we move on,” he said.

Shahrir noted, however, that the issues affecting voters, such as unemployment, crime, rising price of goods, and quality of life, were the same issues faced by developed nations.

Shahrir said despite the Barisan winning an overwhelming victory in 2004, the Prime Minister made substantial changes in Parliament.

“For the first time we had widespread consultation on major bills, which was never done before. We had select committees whose members came from the ruling party and the Opposition, and an active Public Accounts Committee (PAC),” he said.

He said the question now was whether the Barisan could still afford the same kind of luxury.

“But I have faith in the leadership of Pak Lah. It is the man and his beliefs that made us go the way we did,” he declared.

Shahrir also said that one could not ignore the fact that the Barisan might now want to form a coalition government with PAS.

“If the DAP can work with PAS, why can’t we work with PAS. Chinese voters have given their votes to PAS. If you vote for the Opposition, we assume that you accept PAS, and it is an acceptable partner to the Barisan,” he said.

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