Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said today that the state is prepared to hold local council elections, and that the final decision now rests with the federal government.
"In Penang, the state government has taken the necessary steps over the last few years to restore local government elections, but to no avail.
"It is now up to the federal government to take the necessary actions," he said in a statement.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that Putrajaya would not consider holding local council elections, claiming that it may lead to racial conflict and widen the urban-rural divide.
"Local council elections may produce the wrong results. The urban (areas) may be different, the rural (areas) will be different.
“There will be conflict, emphasised probably by racial differences and the like. We don’t want that to happen,” he said.
Restoring local council elections was not included in Pakatan Harapan's election manifesto, although several of its lawmakers have long advocated for it.
Civil society groups and residential associations have also called for local council elections to be reinstated to allow for better representation at the local government.
Such elections were last held in 1965.
In 2012, the Penang government had passed an enactment to hold local government elections.
Two years later, however, the Federal Court ruled that the state did not have the jurisdiction to do so.
The five-member panel said at the time that Penang could not unilaterally exempt itself from Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976, which disallows state legislatures from holding local elections.