This puts him on collision course with the party’s official line, which deems the polls watchdog as illegal and insisting that the country’s election system is clean.
While many of his party members including Prime Minister Najib Razak are hellbent on demonising Bersih, the Kelantan prince said the demands made by the loose coalition of 62 NGOs should be heeded if the present administration genuinely advocates justice and fairness.
“I don’t know what their intentions are. I don’t know them personally but as a democrat… given that Umno itself had vowed to protect democracy in this country, it is a must to consider all their demands,” he told a press conference in Gua Musang on Sunday.
“It is not like they are looking to topple the government,” he added, referring to the repeated accusation by government leaders that Bersih’s planned rally was a masked coup d’etat attempt.
The Najib administration also accused Bersih 2.0 of being an opposition stooge while Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia had gone as far as accusing the NGO of being “foreign agent” in a Western conspiracy to wrest federal power.
Razaleigh, affectionately known as Ku Li, suggested that it was normal for the opposition to support the group’s demands.
“They want to put in their candidates and contest too so let the voters decide. If they decide to vote for the opposition, what can we do? That is the democratic right of the voters.”
‘How are we developed?’
Razaleigh, the Gua Musang MP, said one of Bersih’s demands – a 21-day campaign period to replace the current seven to eight day period – is reasonable.
He cited Sarawak whose interiors are hard to access making campaigning extremely difficult for the opposition given its limited election machinery compared to Umno and Barisan Nasional’s powerful resources.
He also said that it is rightful for the opposition to be given a level playing field in media coverage, which is also one of Bersih 2.0′s demands.
The government is forced to be on the defensive over its handling of the Bersih rally. The “heavy- handed” response to the July 9 peaceful gathering has compelled the authorities to go into damage control mode, with Najib himself having to deflect international criticism.
The clampdown on Bersih and opposition leaders received widespread coverage in the foreign media and brought negative international attention. Authorities used what Bersih leaders called “draconian” laws to arrest more than 1,700 Bersih supporters.
While most have been freed and some still being detained, Razaleigh criticised the use of such laws to quell dissent, saying it was a violation of human rights.
“How can we say we are developed when our mentality is not developed? Control here and control there… we can’t do this. It is against human rights,” he said.