Indonesia’s New Leadership


July 23, 2014

The Guardian view on what the election of Joko Widodo will mean for Indonesia

EDITORIAL

The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 19.55 BST

Jokowi JK

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country, the third largest democracy, and the biggest Muslim nation. It made the transition from dictatorship to democratic rule after the fall of Suharto in 1998 with remarkable smoothness. For years it counted with Turkey as a leading model of democracy for the Islamic world. Now, with Turkey showing signs of a regression to authoritarianism, troubled democracies in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and only Tunisia still holding on to what now seem the very fleeting achievements of the Arab spring, Indonesia constitutes, because of its size and importance, a massive and even more relevant proof that democracy can work as well in Muslim societies as in others.

The victory of Joko Widodo in the presidential elections, although still disputed by his opponent, represents a further advance in Indonesian political life. It means that for the first time a person with no direct connections with the older, authoritarian era will occupy the country’s highest office. The departing president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was an ex-military man from the Suharto years and the son-in-law of a general involved in the massacres of communists in the 60s.

His predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is the daughter of the first head of state, Sukarno, who also ruled, under his “Guided Democracy”, in an authoritarian way. The first president after Suharto, Abdurrahman Wahid, was the scion of a leading religious family. Although these two were opposition figures, they still had connections with the largely military ruling class. The other candidate in this election, Prabowo Subianto, a former Special Forces General and a son-in-law of Suharto, was very much from that class. Joko Widodo is not. He comes from a humble background, working his way through school and then becoming a successful but middling businessman.

Indonesia managed its way out of the shipwreck of the old regime by a series of complex compromises between old and new, with the dangers of violence, separatism, parliamentary dysfunction and party proliferation very much in mind. These had destroyed Indonesian democracy in the 50s. There was no generalised purge. The problem was that too much of the old might survive, with only slightly reconstructed figures from Suharto’s “New Order” continuing to dominate, and service in the armed forces or membership of the intertwined business elite of those years continuing to be a qualification for power. The connections between old and new are by no means entirely hacked away. Prabowo may be gone, but Jokowi, as he is known, is the protege of Megawati and has as his vice-presidential running mate Jusuf Kalla, a former Chairman of Golkar, the old government party under the New Order. But there is nevertheless a sense that a new chapter has now begun in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Decisive Moment


July 21, 2014

Indonesia’s Decisive Moment

by Farish A. Noor@www.nst.com.my

TOMORROW will mark the decisive moment when Indonesians will know who will be the country’s next president. The mood in the country — already anxious and tired after a long wait and a hard-fought contest — is one of anticipation and also concern about what will happen next.

Prabowo lawan JokowiIt is interesting to note that despite the fact that both candidates have refused to concede defeat, cracks have begun to show among some of their supporters already: Abdillah Toha, one of the founding leaders of the Peoples’ Trust Party (PAN), has appealed to the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa camp to admit defeat and to accept the results, whatever the outcome may be.

Unfortunately, it is not likely that this stalemate will be resolved any time soon. For starters, the final margin between the two candidates proved to be much smaller than hoped for, by both sides.

The Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Jusuf Kalla camp had signalled that it expected, and wished for, a lead of more than 10 per cent. This has not happened, and after the quick count results came in two weeks ago, it appeared that the lead enjoyed by Jokowi-Kalla’s camp was less than five per cent. A smaller number of quick count agencies suggested that the Prabowo-Hatta camp had gained the lead, but again, with a margin of less than five per cent.

Thus, there is the likelihood that whoever wins the race by tomorrow would have done so by the narrowest of margins and, thereby, opening up the opportunity for the other side to dispute the results and, perhaps, even take the matter to court. Hopeful though many political analysts are at the moment, it seems that tomorrow will not see a final, neat, clean conclusion to what has been a messy race.

Then, there is the question of how the new President of Indonesia will be able to gain support within the Peoples Assembly, or DPR. At the moment, the parties that dominate DPR happen to be aligned with Prabowo’s Gerindra and Hatta’s PAN. The Gerindra-PAN-led alliance totally dominates DPR at the moment, and should Jokowi-Kalla manage to win, the next president of Indonesia will be faced with the challenge of having to push for laws and reforms against what may well be a hostile assembly.

But, the uncertainty does not stop there, for the Gerindra-PAN alliance may also face its own internal difficulties if some of the parties aligned with it now decide to jump ship and hop over to PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party — Struggle)-led alliance. Over the past week, voices of discontent have emerged among the ranks of Golkar, in particular (that is currently part of the Gerindra-PAN alliance), where members have called for a serious rethinking of their current position. Golkar has never been in opposition, and should it turn out that Jokowi-Kalla wins after all, some of the leaders of Golkar have called for the party to join the ruling and winning coalition.

All this is taking place amid a society that has grown bored and tired with sensational politics, and where everyone seeks a quick and neat resolution. What is worrisome, however, is that already there is talk of parties sending out thousands of members and supporters to “safeguard” (mengamankan) the election results and announcement of the new president tomorrow. When analysts note that this may well be Indonesia’s most serious challenge and test so far, they were not exaggerating. Indonesia’s fate may well be decided by tomorrow, and the rest of ASEAN will feel the impact as well.

Malaysia–the best predictors of electoral outcomes


July 14, 2014

Malaysia–the best predictors of electoral outcomes

The Cambodian People’s Party: A Deficit of Leadership


July 9, 2014

The Cambodian People’s Party: A Deficit of Leadership

http://thediplomat.com/2014/06/the-cambodian-peoples-party-a-deficit-of-leadership/

Malaysia’s Bernama in Apparent Plagiarism of JG Election Stories


July 7, 2014

Malaysia’s Bernama in Apparent Plagiarism of JG Election Stories

By Jakarta Globe on 11:15 pm Jul 06, 2014

http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/malaysias-bernama-apparent-plagiarism-jg-election-stories/

bernama-jg-screengrab1

Jakarta. Malaysia’s national news agency, Bernama, was found to have plagiarized, word for word, two articles that were published by the Jakarta Globe.

On Saturday, July 5, as part of its live coverage of the fifth and final presidential debate, the Globe published an article on its website titled “In Closing Debate, Joko Promises Bureaucratic ‘Breakthrough,’ While Prabowo Strives for ‘A Dignified Nation.’”

The following day, it was discovered that Bernama had published a similar article titled, “Joko Promises Bureaucratic ‘Breakthrough,’ While Prabowo Strives for ‘A Dignified Nation.’”

The Malaysian news agency had copied the Globe’s piece verbatim, attributing one of the many quotes in the article to this newspaper.Bernama also removed the names of Globe reporters Josua Gantan and Andrea Wijaya, the original authors of the story, replacing the byline with what is assumed to be the name of a Bernama journalist, Elmi Rizal Alias.

On the same day, Singapore-based Channel News Asia republished the plagiarized article on its website. The piece, however, had been renamed, “Indonesia Election: Jokowi, Prabowo Face Off in Final TV Debate.”

Not the first time

Upon further investigation, it was discovered that Monday’s discovery was not the first time Bernama drew “inspiration” from the Globe.On July 1, following the fourth debate, the Globe uploaded an article on its website titled “Hatta Says Indonesia Should Take Advantage of Its ‘Demographic Bonus.’”The same story was found on Bernama’s website with the slightly altered title “Indonesia Should Take Advantage  of Its ‘Demographic Bonus’ — Hatta.”

Similarly, the Malaysian news agency  only attributed one of the article’s many quotes to the Globe, and replaced the original reporter’s name — Basten Gokkon — with that of the elusive Elmi Rizal Alias.

The Globe made  numerous attempts to contact and seek clarification from Bernama on Sunday. However, the news agency was not immediately available to give comment on the matter.

bernama-jg-screengrab2-1024x774

Serious violation

Wina Armada, a member of the Indonesian Press Council and an expert in press law from the University of Indonesia, told the Globe that the incident amounted to “a serious violation of [Indonesia’s] copyright laws.”

“For a case like this, the law is such that even if the disadvantaged party does not file a police report about the incident, the police can still take action against the perpetrator,” Wina said.

“If it is true that [the Bernama reporter] has plagiarized [the Globe’s articles], according to Indonesian laws, the Malaysian journalist can be [charged and] imprisoned,” he said.Wina added that the incident was particularly regrettable as Bernama was the official news agency for the Malaysian government, under its Ministry of Communication and Multimedia.

“From a journalistic point of view, this is a serious violation of the journalistic code of ethics. This is not professional journalism,” he said. “Moreover, this is not only partial [plagiarism] — the whole [article] has been plagiarized. Plagiarism is a very basic error in journalism. If this is true, the perpetrator should not be allowed to continue his profession as a journalist.

“This should not be condoned. In journalism, upholding credibility and honesty should be number one,” Wina added.

Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law expert from the University of Indonesia, similarly told the Globe that the incident was regrettable.“They even changed the [Globe] reporters’ names,” Hikmahanto said. “Perhaps [Bernama’s] reporter ran out of news, that’s why he took news [from the Globe].”

In response to the incident, Ruhut Sitompul, a legislator and a member of the legal affairs commission at the Indonesian House of Representatives, said Bernama ought to be “sued for the matter.”“Legal action should be taken against its representative in Indonesia,” Ruhut told the Globe.

Read THIS:  http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/2014/04/indonesia-rock-governor-2014428755300344.html

Examining ISMA’s Nam Tien Ideology


June 6, 2014

Examining ISMA’s Nam Tien Ideology

UMNO protest

Nation and national soul-searching, despite the romantic connotations behind the term, is always a painful and unsettling process.

A free nation, especially one with a colonial past, will always need to recalibrate its moral position to provide an existential standing. Therefore, a liberation story that is buttressed by a ‘good triumphs evil’ narrative is needed: a new nation sprung from the buds of history, cleansed and desanitised from its past, ready to take on a new course without any entanglements of the past; a ‘New Contract’, but not a renewed contract, so to speak.

This is until it realised, the ‘New Contract’ could not be sustained without hinging on the past, albeit a resented one. A void in history is too borderless for a nation-state with stoic and constitutional borders; be it geographical and psychological, and hence the national discourse is prone to relapse into ‘us-versus-them’ hostility expected of a liberating nation.

The familiarity of achieving a benchmark point of defeating evil (independence) was sought after to achieve cohesion and coherence for a dominating and identifying factor, and therein lies the highly emotive but not necessarily patriotic force of ultra-nationalism. Its digression from patriotism is because those who capitalised on such forces to place imaginative captivity on the masses are usually not patriots themselves. The civil wars and genocides in former African colonies are testaments to that.

Malaysia proves to be an interesting case-study of this “relapse” condition because of its relatively peaceful transition to Independence. The shouts of Tunku’s Merdeka, although invigorating in spirit, did not provide a clean slate for the national conscience to be built upon.

The peaceful transition also meant that there was no post-traumatic stress disorder that originated from a brother-in-arms resistance against invaders for the citizens of diverse origins to direct a common recuperation effort at. Instead, the infantile nation was torn between the political majority rural Malay psyche that the country will “return” to a not-explicitly defined pre-colonial order Malay feudalism and a ‘New Order’ that in practice by the nascent government made little effort in differentiation from the colonial structures.

In other words, there was, and is an expectation for “wrongs” – no matter what they were or are – to be corrected to return the country to a perfect equilibrium before any new projection to the future could be made. The little participation its citizens had in Malaysia’s Independence had left a void being created within the colonial shackles of mind and economics, and it is within this void, contestation of nationhood and identities occurred, as can be seen from the politics of race, language and subsequently, religion that arises.

Ironically, almost every imagination being thrown into the void during that time was retrospective in nature. The Malays longed for a revived domination of the nation’s politics untampered by British intervention, while the Chinese expected a return to the autonomy and free-handedness they enjoyed in commerce and education during colonial governance.

Unsurprisingly, the clash of such nostalgia produced an outcome of retributory nature; the New Economic Policy (NEP) in focus of “correcting” racial imbalances was born. It was a relapse towards the discourse of Malay special position and supremacy, a privilege that was guaranteed by colonial governance to placate Malay fears in the face of a changing nation, demographically, economically and culturally.

Understanding this, Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA)’s classification of the Chinese as being an invading force, the Nam Tien or “southbound invasion” in challenge of Malay or Islam’s indigenous position can be seen as just another episode of the relapse syndrome.

UMNO-ISMA-PERKASASoutheast Asia’s indigenous religion is not Islam to begin with since it is pre-dated by Hinduism. ISMA, however, had made significant efforts in revising of this fact. The fact is that, the invasion from China in usurping the physical or religious status of the locals, simply did not happened. Therefore, the claim that the Chinese are “wrongs that should be corrected” is merely a throwback in a sense. As the vitality of the NEP wears off following the decline of Mahathir’s developmental state, a substituting agenda was needed for “retributory justice” to continue in maintenance of the capitalist elite power structure, and it was in this light a militaristic revisionist account of the Chinese influx into Malaysia was created.

Although not entirely original, the conceived idea of the Chinese as being an “invading” force did have some salient features. Using an invasion analogy, the need to stress constitutional justifications of Malay and Islamic supremacy (a common strategy employed by right-wing ethnocratic organisations such as UMNO and PERKASA) was diminished.

The approach taken to externalise Chinese citizens of Malaysia had shifted the psychology of the siege mentality to one that is even more rudimentary, one that hardly sees co-existence as an amenable outcome. This is because as the logic goes, the threat is foreign and expansionist in nature and had to be repealed to preserve sovereignty.

Placing Islam in the centre of it, in full cognisance of the religious conservatism of the Malays as well as the outright secularist orientation of the Chinese was only a natural move. A frontier that is both distinctive and violent was enforced between the two communal groups.

The demonisation process, not unlike the “history textbook” treatment that was subjected to most colonial powers, was undertaken. A new struggle against foreign evil, the others, is to be embarked; a theme that has mythical origins, also made relatable for the Malaysian context by Islamic concepts like the jihad (although not in the Salafist jihadist sense).

As iterated above, soul-searching is a painful process, especially when history was kept like a gaping hole, filled in by State-controlled narratives that were insufficient in richness, complexity and inclusiveness. Dominated by retro-looking agendas (Mahathir’s Vision 2020 was a breath of fresh air but it collapsed in the face of growing inequality, communal integration and most importantly, the competence expected of a capitalistic developed nation).

ibrahim-ali-perkasaMalaysia’s perpetual search for divergent collective motives were vulnerable to be seized by the romanticism associated with puritanism and evil banishment, for it is these sentiments that fuelled a citizen’s anger against immigrant workers, free trade agreements and foreign cultures.

The inability of authoritative figures to put a stop to all of this, or the civil societies to provide an effective diversion, will only spell trouble for the already economically struggling nation. Despite years of official forward planning, and government mantras of a brighter future, the forward looking narratives have been undermined by the lack of credibility and authenticity of its proponents and implementers. It also makes its present proponents appear hypocritical.

It is dangerous for Malaysia to not have a credible and authentic forward looking narrative. But it is even more dangerous for the ‘Muslim Malay’ (however that is defined) – without this credible and authentic forward looking narrative – to ask the question “Dari mana datangnya saya?” (“Where do I come from?”), and to look to the pendatangs (immigrants) for an answer.

Nicholas Chan is a King’s College London graduate in Forensic Science. He is currently a socio-political analyst with the Penang Institute. He can be reached at: nicholaschan2003@penanginstitute.org

 

The Clash of Generations in Teluk Intan


June 3, 2013

The Clash of Generations in Teluk Intan

by Zairil Khir Johari (received via e-mail)

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/opinion/zairil-khir-johari/article/the-clash-of-generations-in-teluk-intan

Zairil Khir JohariEarlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the 44th St Gallen Symposium, an annual international conference held in a picturesque town in eastern Switzerland, having been selected as a global “Leader of Tomorrow” by the International Students Council of the University of St Gallen.

Over the three-day conference, I met many other young men and women under the age of 35 from all corners of the world, each a leader in their field. From entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to Ivy League scholars to fellow politicians, I relished the opportunity to engage them in workshops, debates and forums.

The presence of so many up-and-coming young leaders certainly proved that capability is not age specific. One impressive example that I came across was Lazar Krstic, a Yale-trained 29-year-old from Serbia who was appointed last year to his country’s Cabinet as Minister of Finance. I thought that surely such an appointment must have been an anomaly rather than the norm, until I was told the current Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs is only 27 years old. Despite being Malaysia’s youngest serving MP at 31, I suddenly felt old.

The theme of this year’s symposium was interestingly entitled “The Clash of Generations”. This is an issue that is quickly gaining relevance in Europe, a continent with a disproportionately large aging population. As a result, fissures have emerged, such as the prospect of rising healthcare costs and unsustainable pensions growth.

In Malaysia, we face an inter-generational divide as well, though the problem is not quite the same. With more than 70% of the population below the age of 40, the increasing number of Malaysians entering the workforce in the next few decades will be enough to sustain the pension payments of the older and smaller demographic of retirees.

Nevertheless, the situation in Malaysia produces a different set of issues. For example, the need to balance population growth with social mobility will require the creation of not only more jobs, but higher-paying ones. This will require our education system to keep up in terms of staying relevant to industry needs. Besides creating better opportunities, we also need to ensure the vibrancy of our workforce, and that requires us to keep our brightest young minds from leaving our country in search of greener pastures elsewhere (especially across the causeway).

Between new politics and old politics

Dyana Vs MahGerakan-BN’s Mah won this round

In Malaysia, the “clash of generations” is not only manifested in the socio-economic sphere, but also the political one. In fact, I have experienced it first-hand as the deputy campaign director of DAP’s Teluk Intan by-election campaign these last two weeks.In this case, the clash is not simply due to the age gap between our young lawyer, Dyana Sofya, and the seasoned President of Gerakan, Dato Mah Siew Keong. Instead, it is between what they each represent – between new politics and old politics.

The stark differences between the two dynamics have unfolded very clearly throughout the campaign. Take for example statements made by senior BN leaders such as Defence Minister Dato Seri Zahid Hamidi, who smugly remarked that Dyana was “… not as pretty in person as in pictures and on television”.

Far from being an isolated lapse of judgement, such an incredibly crude line of argument, as misogynistic and patronising as it sounds, continued to pepper the headlines during the entire campaign. One by one, BN ministers have trumpeted the same sexist tune.

Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Dato Abdul RahmanAbdul Rahman Dahlan Dahlan (right) insinuated that people would vote for Dyana simply because she wears lipstick, while Deputy Finance Minister Dato Ahmad Maslan compared her looks to his wife’s. Capping it off was Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Agro-based Industries, Dato Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, who suggested that it was not wrong to “gawk at her beauty”.

Besides the testosterone-induced need to flex their male egos, there has been nothing to suggest that BN leaders have realised the need to try anything other than the usual formula of character assassination, money politics, intimidation, race mongering and the wanton abuse of government machinery.

And this is in spite of the fact that BN has experienced a steady downtrend in electoral results ever since abandoning their reform agenda post-2004. Instead, it is Pakatan Rakyat that has managed to capture public imagination with policy ideas to improve socio-economic welfare, reform state institutions and fight against corruption.

In contrast to BN, DAP’s Teluk Intan campaign has been all about the new brand of constructive politics for which young Malaysians yearn. To begin with, a fresh, idealistic and educated young candidate is proffered, as opposed to our opponent’s recycled contender. Besides being young and female, she also comes across as the unlikeliest of DAP candidates – Malay, active UMNO family and UiTM-trained.

Yet despite being what a fellow columnist recently termed as an “Umno product”, Dyana is everything UMNO isn’t. Vowing to “Malaysianise” Malaysia, she has time and again proven that she will steer clear from the old UMNO-BN style of politics. Instead, she has chosen to present a parliamentary agenda that encompasses policies concerning cost of living, good governance, youth development and women empowerment – choices made after fusing empirical data from local surveys with her own policy interests.

The contrast between the two political paradigms is not surprising, given the vastly different historical experiences that divide the two generations in question. In this context, I have always suggested that a Malaysian dichotomy exists between those above and below the age of 40.

TDMMalaysians above the age of 40 lived through a tumultuous post-war period that included the Emergency, the struggle for independence, the merger, the split and the traumatic racial riots of May 13, 1969. For those of us born after, these historical incidences do not quite shape our world-view the same way it has shaped our parents’. Instead, our experience has been shaped by 22 years of Mahathirism, Reformasi and the Bersih rallies.

This is why every general election in this country since our generation came of age as voters has seen the reform platform gaining ground, beginning with the 2004 general election when Pak Lah was elected as prime minister with an unprecedented majority on the promise to breathe fresh air into a political landscape dominated by one man for the last two decades.

Meanwhile, whatever reforms that were promised first by Pak Lah and then by his successor Najib have fizzled out as corruption, cronyism and state monopoly capitalism continue to plague the country’s economy, while the right-wing agenda has become politically dominant.

As such, it is all the more vital that Dyana Sofya wins the Teluk Intan by-election. A victory for Dyana would not only send her to Parliament, but also signal the victory of new ideas and constructive politics over BN’s outdated and arrogant politics premised upon race, religion and the total abuse of power.

And so, after two weeks of intense campaigning, Teluk Intan goes to the polls today. Although I believe we have done all we can, I cannot help but feel nervous and excited at the same time – nervous in the face of the seemingly insurmountable might of the BN machinery, and excited at the prospects that a Pakatan Rakyat victory would bring.

It is therefore my hope that, come this evening, the feisty young lady I recruited three years ago will take over from me as the 13th Malaysian Parliament’s youngest MP, and in so doing possibly also become the catalyst for much-needed change in Malaysian politics.

Post Teluk Intan: Pakatan must look hard at itself


June 2,2014

Post Teluk Intan: Pakatan must look hard at itself

by Dr. Ong Kian Ming@www.malaysiakini.com, June 21, 2014

Dyana and Mom

COMMENT: As expected, the Teluk Intan by-elections was a very closely fought affair. In the end, the turnout of 67 percent was not sufficient for the DAP to maintain this seat, losing by a razor thin majority of 238 votes.

In fact, before the results of the last polling station was returned to the DAP operations centre, our candidate, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, was still ahead by 25 votes.

Unfortunately, the last polling station, Sungai Bugis, also happened to be an UMNO stronghold which we lost by a majority of 238 votes.

It was always going to be a bold and risky strategy on the part of the DAP to field Dyana as a young, female Malay candidate. I had highlighted these risks earlier when I wrote about why Dyana should be considered as the underdog in this contest.

In this earlier statement, I outlined two possible scenarios – one more positive, and one where DAP would win or lose this seat. Unfortunately, the more negative scenario came to pass.

The Chinese support for DAP decreased by 15 percent from 85 percent in GE013 to 70 percent in this by-election which was the most pessimistic projection.  This was somewhat surprising given the positive response that the campaign was receiving from the Chinese voters including the mammoth ceramah on the final day of the campaign.

The Indian support for DAP decreased by 10 percent from 62 percent in GE 2013 to 52 percent in this by-election, again the most pessimistic projection.

Silver lining

If there was a silver lining to this campaign, it would be the slight increase in Malay support of three percent from 25 percent in GE 2013 to 28 percent in this by-election.

In six Malay majority polling stations, the DAP experienced small increases in the overall support ranging from 0.7 percent to 3.4 percent, an encouraging sign given that we were not expecting the Malay support to increase.

In analysing and interpreting these by-election results, care needs to be taken to separate the short term and more local factors at play in this by-election versus the more national and longer term issues.

At the local level, the race and place of birth of both candidates, the promise of a ministerial position for the BN candidate if elected, the fact that this by-election will not have any impact on the overall balance of politics at the national level, the usual pouring in of goodies by the BN and promises for more development that happens during a by-election, and the relative lack of interest in this contest that led to a lower turnout rate, were all contributory factors to the DAP’s defeat.

These factors may not have as big of an impact at the national level in the context of a general election.

At the national level, the possible impact of the hudud issue especially among the Chinese community, the lack of resonance of the Hindraf and Hindraf-related issues such as the resignation of P Waythamoorthy as Deputy Minister and the appeal of Pakatan Rakyat in other similar constituencies – ethnically mixed, semi-urban with many developmental needs and relatively poor internet access – are all issues which need to be pondered over by the Pakatan national leadership.

Some specific questions which need to be raised include the following: Firstly, will turnout in the next general election be as high as GE 2013 especially if voters are turned off by the problems affecting Pakatan such as the disagreement over hudud, problems in party elections, leadership issues within Pakatan in the state of Selangor, the Allah and the Malay bible issue, just to name a few?

There is no guarantee that these problems will not escalate leading up to the next general election and if so, many voters may choose not to come back to vote.  The lower turnout which partly caused DAP to lose Teluk Intan may be replicated in many other such seats.

Secondly, will Pakatan be able to develop a convincing message to other constituencies like Teluk Intan which are semi-urban and are more likely to be convinced by promises of development rather than messages to combat corruption and to get rid of race based politics in this country?

These are seats where Pakatan are either vulnerable incumbents e.g. Beruas, Bakri, Raub, Bukit Gantang, Kluang, Kuala Kedah, just to name a few or where BN are vulnerable incumbents e.g. Bentong, Cameron Highlands, Labis, Bagan Serai, just to name a few.

Rethinking strategy

A different and complementary strategy to what Pakatan has been doing at the national level may be needed in order for Pakatan to defend and win these kinds of seats.

Thirdly, will Pakatan be able to capitalise on its image as a coalition that is more appealing and attractive to the younger generation and therefore younger voters?

There is no question that Pakatan has more appealing and credible younger parliamentarians compared to the BN. But the youth vote is fickle and can easily swing to BN.

The challenge for Pakatan is to provide the necessary platform for young leaders, especially young Malay leaders, to present creative ideas and credible policies to convince the younger voters that they are better placed than BN to lead the country into the future.

We saw a glimpse of this in Dyana’s campaign in Teluk Intan. The amount of excitement and interest which she generated at the national level especially among young Malays was, dare I say, unprecedented.

Because of Dyana’s candidacy, UiTM students were talking about the DAP and notMM necessarily in a negative manner! A Malaysian student in Oxford wrote about why younger Malays are abandoning UMNO, using Dyana as an example. Marina Mahathir (right) praised Dyana for being able to think and write for herself.

At the local level, Dyana received a tremendous reception from among kids and also young people whereever she went.  While most of them were not voters, they will be voters in the near future and young leaders such as Dyana are much better positioned to win them over.

The battle for Teluk Intan may have been lost by the DAP but by attempting this move to break down racial and gender barriers, new ground has been paved.

I am confident that after this by-election, more young Malays would look at DAP as a possible avenue for political activism. I am confident that more young people would support Pakatan’s cause to move away from race-based politics. Pakatan’s challenge is to lead the way forward and not look back.

*Dr.Ong Kian Ming is the MP for Serdang.

Dyana lost narrowly in the Battle for Teluk Intan ?


June 1, 2014

Dyana lost narrowly in the Battle for Teluk Intan

by Dr. Ong Kian Ming@www.themalaysianinsider.com

As expected, the Teluk Intan by-elections was a very closely fought affair. In the end, the turnout of 67% was not sufficient for the DAP to maintain this seat, losing by a razor thin majority of 238 votes. In fact, before the results of the last polling station was returned to the DAP operations centre, our candidate, Dyana Sofya, was still ahead by 25 votes. Unfortunately, the last polling station, Sungai Bugis, also happened to be an UMNO stronghold which we lost by a majority of 263 votes.

Is this true ?

Is this true ?

It was always going to be a bold and risky strategy on the part of the DAP to field Dyana as a young, female Malay candidate. I had highlighted these risks earlier when I wrote about why Dyana should be considered as the underdog in this contest [1].  In this earlier statement, I outlined two possible scenarios – one more positive, one more scenario – under which DAP would win or lose this seat. Unfortunately, the more negative scenario came to pass.

The Chinese support for DAP decreased by 15% from 85% in GE2013 to 70% in this by-election which was the most pessimistic projection. This was somewhat surprising given the positive response that the campaign was receiving from the Chinese voters including the mammoth ceramah on the final day of the campaign. The Indian support for DAP decreased by 10% from 62% in GE2013 to 52% in this by-election, again the most pessimistic projection.

If there was a silver lining to this campaign, it would be the slight increase in Malay support of 3% from 25% in GE2013 to 28% in this by-election. In 6 Malay majority polling stations, the DAP experienced small increases in the overall support ranging from 0.7% to 3.4%, an encouraging sign given that we were not expecting the Malay support to increase.

teluk-intan-lean-towerIn analysing and interpreting these by-election results, care needs to be taken to separate the short term and more local factors at play in this by-election versus the more national and longer term issues.

At the local level, the race and place of birth of both candidates, the promise of a Ministerial position for the BN candidate if elected, the fact that this by-election will not have any impact on the overall balance of politics at the national level, the usual pouring in of goodies by the BN and promises for more development that happens during a by-election and the relative lack of interest in this contest that led to a lower turnout rate were all contributory factors to the DAP’s defeat. These factors may not have as big of an impact at the national level in the context of a general election.

At the national level, the possible impact of the hudud issue especially among the Chinese community, the lack of resonance of the Hindraf and Hindraf-related issues such as the resignation of Waythamoorthy as Deputy Minister and the appeal of Pakatan Rakyat in other similar constituencies – ethnically mixed, semi-urban with many developmental needs and relatively poor internet access – are all issues which need to be pondered over by the PR national leadership.

Some specific questions which need to be raised include the following:

First, will turnout in the next general election be as high as GE2013 especially if voters are turned off by the problems affecting Pakatan Rakyat such as the disagreement over hudud, problems in party elections, leadership issues within Pakatan in the state of Selangor, the Allah and the Malay bible issue, just to name a few? There is no guarantee that these problems will not escalate leading up to the next general election and if so, many voters may choose not to come back to vote. The lower turnout which partly caused DAP to lose Teluk Intan may be replicated in many other such seats.

Second, will Pakatan Rakyat be able to develop a convincing message to other constituencies like Teluk Intan which are semi-urban and are more likely to be convinced by promises of development rather than messages to combat corruption and to get rid of race based politics in this country? These are seats where Pakatan are either vulnerable incumbents e.g. Beruas, Bakri, Raub, Bukit Gantang, Kluang, Kuala Kedah, just to name a few or where BN are vulnerable incumbents e.g. Bentong, Cameron Highlands, Labis, Bagan Serai, just to name a few. A different and complementary strategy to what Pakatan has been doing at the national level may be needed in order for PR to defend and win these kinds of seats.

Third, will Pakatan be able to capitalize on its image as a coalition that is more appealing and attractive to the younger generation and therefore younger voters? There is no question that PR has more appealing and credible younger parliamentarians compared to the BN. But the youth vote is fickle and can easily swing to the BN. The challenge for Pakatan is to provide the necessary platform for young leaders, especially young Malay leaders, to present creative ideas and credible policies to convince the younger voters that they are better placed than BN to lead the country into the future.

We saw a glimpse of this in Dyana’s campaign in Teluk Intan. The amount of excitement and interest which she generated at the national level especially among young Malays was, dare I say, unprecedented. Because of Dyana’s candidacy, UiTM students were talking about the DAP and not necessarily in a negative manner! A Malaysian student in Oxford wrote about why younger Malays are abandoning UMNO, using Dyana as an example [2].  Marina Mahathir praised Dyana’s for being able to think and write for herself [3].  At the local level, Dyana received a tremendous reception from among kids and also young people where-ever she went. While most of them were not voters, they will be voters in the near future and young leaders such as Dyana are much better positioned to win them over.

image

The battle for Teluk Intan may have been lost by the DAP but by attempting this move to break down racial and gender barriers, new ground has been paved. I am confident that after this by-election, more young Malays would look at DAP as a possible avenue for political activism. I am confident that more young people would support Pakatan’s cause to move away from race-based politics. Pakatan’s challenge is to lead the way forward and not look back. – June 1, 2014.

Notes:

1. http://ongkianming.com/2014/05/27/press-statement-why-dyana-sofya-is-the-underdog-in-teluk-intan/

2.http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/yasmin-disney/article/dyana-and-umno-why-are-young-malays-abandoning-the-party

3. http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/she-can-think-she-can-write-she-can-articulate-marina-mahathir-says-of-smar

*Dr. Ong Kian Ming is the DAP election strategist and the MP of Serdang.

 

Teluk Intan and the Divine Right of Rulers


Teluk Intan and the Divine Right of the Rulers
By John R Malott

May 27, 2014

COMMENT: In ancient days, kings claimed that they had a divine right to rule, andmallot that they were accountable only to God. They thought that they and the country were one and the same, and that everything and everyone belonged to them.

They could confiscate your lands and wealth, or they could give you property and riches. They could lock you up in the Tower, or make your dreams come true. It was all up to them. King Louis XIV, who ruled France for 72 years, famously said, “L’etat, c’est moi” – I am the country.

And so it is with Umno. Because it has ruled Malaysia continuously since independence in 1957, Umno has come to believe that it, the government, and the nation are all one and the same.

Because it is the self-proclaimed defender of the Malay race – a people whom Umno says are still constantly under threat despite 57 years of protecting their interests – Umno thinks that all Malays should support it.

UMNO is now hell-bent on serving only Malays. After all the Malays now form about 60% of the population and UMNO is going to increase the figure to 90% if not 99.99%. UMNO wants to make sure Malaysia is turned to a country just for the Malays.

UMNO is now hell-bent on serving only Malays. After all the Malays now form about 60% of the population and UMNO is going to increase the figure to 90% if not 99.99%. UMNO wants to make sure Malaysia is turned to a country just for the Malays.

If a Malay does not, then they risk being denied business and educational opportunities, tried for sedition, or even branded as a “traitor,” as Umno Wanita leader Shahrizat Abdul Jalil brazenly suggested DAP candidate Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud was one last week.

Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil, former Minister of Women Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil, former Minister of Women and Family, patronisingly labelled Dyana a “DAP puppet.” Umno vice president and Home Minister Datuk Zahid Hamidi said there was no point voting for her because she was only “slightly pretty.” And of course, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir, never one to shy away from giving his opinion, waded in to accuse Dyana’s mother of raising a traitor.

Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil, former Minister of Women Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil, former Minister of Women and Family, patronisingly labelled Dyana a “DAP puppet.” Umno vice president and Home Minister Datuk Zahid Hamidi said there was no point voting for her because she was only “slightly pretty.” And of course, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir, never one to shy away from giving his opinion, waded in to accuse Dyana’s mother of raising a traitor.

Foreigners who criticise the authoritarian ways of the Malaysian government, such as myself, are labeled “anti-Malaysia.” Some, like Australian senator Nick Xenophon, are denied entry; others, as I discovered during my recent visit to Malaysia, just two weeks after United States President Barack Obama came, are on a “watch list.”

Because Umno has been in control of the government for nearly six decades – reportedly longer than any other political party in the world – it probably is understandable that they have come to think that party and government are one and the same, and that what belongs to the government also belongs to the party.

But in a parliamentary system, the political party or coalition that won a majority of votes is asked to “form” the government. They do not “become” the government. The word “form” has a special definition in this regard: it means “to compose” or “to serve as” the government.

There is a clear recognition, which is lost on most Umno politicians, that the party is only “the government of the day.” The party does not “own” the government, its personnel, or its resources.

Abuses of gov’t resources

The election campaign in Teluk Intan has provided a number of examples of Umno’s confused mind, and how it misuses government resources for the ruling coalition’s political benefit. It is a case study in how Malaysia’s electoral system is tilted against opposition candidates.

Here are just a few examples that I have found in the past few days; I am sure Malaysiakini’s readers will find more in the days ahead.

Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan used a school for a political gathering and said, “I do not see why I cannot hold a ceramah here. I am a BN deputy minister. This is a government school.”

Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi campaigned before an official gathering of government paramilitary members, Rela, and turned it into a political party rally. He said, “I promise that if (the BN candidate) Mah (Siew Keong) wins, I shall immediately buy you new uniforms.”

Zahid also said Teluk Intan would get a constituency allocation from the government of RM1 million, but only if the voters elected Mah. He bluntly informed them, “I don’t have to tell you how much you stand to lose if you choose others.”

In that same Rela gathering, Zahid said chillingly, “In the 13th general election, 2,019 Rela members did not vote. I checked one by one, and I know who did not go out to vote. We must make sure they vote this time around.”

Communications and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek said his ministry is prepared to improve broadband facilities in Teluk Intan, but only if it is represented by a BN representative.

“If I am given the mandate, I promise I shall work hard for Teluk Intan. If I were working for myself, five hours would be enough. But I will be working 24 hours for the people of Teluk Intan,” said Dyana.

“If I am given the mandate, I promise I shall work hard for Teluk Intan. If I were working for myself, five hours would be enough. But I will be working 24 hours for the people of Teluk Intan,” said Dyana.

Bernama, the government-owned wire service, had an article that sought to label Dyana as an outsider to Teluk Intan. Far from balanced, it had five quotes calling her a carpetbagger, one neutral quote, and no one speaking in her defence.

Separation of Party and Stateimage

Malaysia is a member of the International Parliamentary Union (IPU), an organisation of 164 parliaments around the world. In 1994, the IPU adopted a Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections.

Among other points, it said that its member states, such as Malaysia, should “ensure the separation of party and state.” This, of course, is something that Umno and the Malaysian government have failed to do for years.

All this brings us back to the encounter between Shahrizat and Dyana the other day.

Shahrizat A. JalilShahrizat believed that Dyana, as a Malay and a graduate of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UiTM), is obligated to support Umno. If not, then she is a “traitor.”

Dyana brilliantly countered, saying that not all Malays support Umno. Going to UiTM does not require you to support Umno; UiTM is funded by taxpayers of all races and not just those who voted for Umno.

Shahrizat, rejected by the voters in 2008 and surrounded by the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal, still holds a prominent position in Umno as head of Wanita. She reminds me of everything that is wrong with today’s “Umno culture,” with its focus on greed and self-interest that holds Malaysia back from reaching its true potential.

But young people like Dyana give me hope for the future. She has shown me and so many others that there are many young Malaysians – Chinese and Indians and Malays – who truly believe in the Malaysian dream and want only the best for all of the country’s people, regardless of race or religion.

JOHN MALOTT is former US Ambassador to Malaysia.

Teluk Intan–Vote Wisely


May 20, 2014

May the best–the one truly committed to serving the people of Teluk Intan constituency win. Dayana is a young and refreshing candidate. But she is taking on the mighty UMNO-BN party machine.–Din Merican

Teluk Intan–Vote Wisely

Picking a Malay candidate in a Chinese majority seat is a big risk but the writer feels DAP has taken a risk that is well worth taking.

 COMMENT

Dyana and MomRecently, internet news portal Malaysia Chronicle carried an article ‘Fed up with Malay racism and bullying, Chinese in Teluk Intan may not accept Dyana despite her DAP credentials’.

According to one critic, many faithful DAP supporters would be disappointed that Hew Kuan Yau, a popular local DAP leader known as “Superman” who had been touted as an early candidate for the Teluk Intan by-election scheduled for May 31, was not chosen.

Chosen instead was a Malay candidate, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, the political secretary to veteran DAP politician Lim Kit Siang.Some people say that DAP is taking a big risk in view of the fact that in Teluk Intan there are more Chinese than Malay voters.

I agree but I think the risk is well worth taking. Let us not forget that DAP is a multi-racial party and if it wants to win power, it must prove its multi-racial and not Chinese credentials to the voters – Chinese and non-Chinese.

Let me also point out that the voter composition in Teluk Intan is 42% ethnic Chinese, 19 % Indians and 38 % Malays – in other words there is in fact a non-Chinese majority.

Politically sophisticated voters

Finally let me point out that many Chinese voters are politically sophisticated. They will not vote simply on the basis of race.If Chinese voters go by race alone, then MCA and Gerakan will still have many MPs and enjoy the support of the Chinese. The fact that Chinese are politically astute is why the DAP is counting on Dyana to win the seat. This move is a logical as well as a wise one.

I support it and I expect that most voters in Teluk Intan will also support this move.Everyone knows that during the past few elections most Chinese have voted across racial lines for a clean, efficient and genuinely multi-racial government. We know also what Chinese think of the BN government.

Everyone also knows about the time when the people of Perak had their state election results in which they had chosen the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition to govern the state, overturned by trickery and deceit.

At that time in 2009, three state legislators elected on Pakatan tickets defected to the Barisan Nasional in a move which was masterminded by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as head of Perak’s BN.

Subsequently, the Sultan of Perak refused Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin’s request to dissolve the state assembly and call for new elections.

Instead, BN with support from the three defecting assemblymen, formed the new – and in my mind – – illegitimate state government. I am sure most Malaysians including even BN supporters will agree that the BN government played dirty and should not have been allowed to rule the state.

Elections have favoured Barisan Nasional

In the recent 2013 elections, history repeated itself with a different kind of dirty trick.This time the election was stolen with more conventional methods. According to the official tally, BN won 31 seats to the Pakatan’s 28 in a closely contested race.

But on close analysis of the results, we find that BN won eight of the state seats (and two parliamentary ones) with wafer thin majorities.

State seats that BN candidates won with very small margins are Selama, Kamunting, Lubok Merbau, Manjoi, Manong, Pasir Panjang, Rungkup and Changkat Jong.

Cheating in elections

Cheating at the electoral booth can influence outcomes in close races. Such cheating takes many forms.Some of the major ways include:

  • Tampering of the electoral rolls including registering foreign nationals as registered voters; individuals registered doubly as regular and postal voters; phantom voters,
  • Biased and unreliable counting and tallying practices,
  • Questionable postal votes, and
  • Dirty tactics of election officials aimed at favouring one candidate or party.

It is important to emphasise that there is no level electoral playing field in Malaysia.

This is why – in order for the DAP candidate to win – it is necessary that all registered voters turn up to vote.

This is the only way to make sure that the election in Teluk Intan is not a close race and is not stolen by the BN.

Everyone in Teluk Intan – Chinese, Malays and Indians – must vote to ensure that we Perakians put a stop to the corrupt and dirty rule of BN.

Koon Yew Yin is an investor and philanthropist. He is the founder IJM Group, Gamuda and Mudajaya.

Four reasons for Malay weakness


May 16, 2014

FOUR REASONS FOR MALAY WEAKNESS

by Mariam Mokhtar

The key to progress lies with the Malays. The population of Malaysia is 60% Malay. Even if all of the non-Malays were to vote for the Opposition it would still be insufficient to create a change in government. Changing Malay minds and attitudes is essential if the whole nation is to move forward.–Mariam Mokhtar

Why are Malays obsessed with supremacy ? Is it brainwashing or their own insecurity?

Why are Malays obsessed with supremacy ? Is it brainwashing or their own insecurity?

The Terengganu debacle, the 2009 Perak coup and GE13 have one thing in common: Najib Tun Razak. Najib’s fingerprints are all over these important events in Malaysian history. Najib’s involvement proves that Malaysia is a kleptocracy.

UMNO Baru was founded in 1988 and has risen to become a deadly threat to the national security of a multicultural country like Malaysia. How did this cancer spread so quickly?

The political link

UMNO Baru is not a political party. It functions more like a business. It is like the grandmother of all GLCs. It has access to unlimited funds with branches all over the world. Unlike public listed companies, UMNO Baru shareholders (its supporters) and the consumers of this enterprise (the rakyat) have little say.

Money speeds up decision making. It helped the Terengganu trio who resigned from UMNO  Baru, in the infamous Perak coup in 2009 and in GE13.

The true purpose of UMNO Baru is to prolong the political life of its leaders. With political power comes the ability to squander the wealth of the nation. In 1987, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah challenged former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for alleged vote rigging in the UMNO internal elections.

The High Court declared UMNO an illegal party. The original UMNO, which is synonymous with Tunku Abdul Rahman and independence, suffered an ignominious end because of Mahathir.

Humiliated by the courts, Mahathir schemed and plotted to punish the Judiciary. Mahathir did this because they had put him in the awkward position of being the PM of Malaysia but the President of an illegal political party.

With his position as PM in jeopardy he quickly formed a new party in 1988 and called it UMNO Baru. Mahathir transferred the assets of the original UMNO to his creation UMNO Baru.

onnThe Tunku and Hussein Onn withdrew their membership from UMNO and never sought to rejoin Mahathir’s UMNO Baru. Mahathir had brought shame on the party, the Judiciary and the nation.

The Malaysians who praise Mahathir tend to ignore this shameful piece of our history. The irony is that Mahathir was considered by many Malays to be Malay enough to lead the nation but sadly the Malays who try to do things in the interest of all Malaysians are not considered Malay enough.

The Malays

“Malays need protection & Islam needs defending.” These two myths have long been peddled by UMNO Baru but the effect has been to belittle the Malays and demonise the religion.

Few Malays ever ask UMNO Baru: “Why do we need protecting? From whom or from what?” The irony is that Malays need to be protected from UMNO Baru because it is an extremist party. If for any reason Malaysia ceased to exist tomorrow the Malays would still survive but UMNO Baru would be defunct.

If UMNO Baru were to fold up tomorrow, Malaysia would thrive and the Malays would flourish. The most valuable resource of this nation is not so much the natural wealth of the country like timber, oil, oil palm and rubber. Our most valuable resource is the people.

Malaysia would not be where it is today if not for the collective efforts and sacrifices of everyone, including the non-Malays, who built the economy, risked their lives in the two World Wars, the Emergency and the Confrontation.

Islam

Islam is not just a religion for UMNO Baru leaders. It is a tool to divide the nation, to bring the opposition down and to control the Malays. Muslims are the most oppressed race in Malaysia.

Everything they do or say is under scrutiny. Even scholars and octogenarians like Kassim Ahmad are treated shabbily. Books and films are banned to stop Muslims from expanding their knowledge.

President Obama did Malaysia a disservice by praising Malaysia for being aBarack Obama moderate Muslim nation. Even as he said it, bibles were banned from hotels in Pahang and extremist groups like Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) and PERKASA were provoking the non-Muslims whilst the authorities stood idly by.

Hudud is used to distract Malaysians from more important economic issues like the GST, and the government’s inability to plan and manage a crisis. The government’s failings were dramatically exposed during the disappearance of flight MH370.

Hudud –A Barbaric Practice

Hudud is a barbaric practice and has no place in the 21st century but many Muslims refuse to say or are afraid to say in public that they do not agree with this crude practise. They are torn between believing in democracy and having faith in their religion.

How often have you been dismissed by Muslims who for lack of something constructive to say will accuse you of invoking God’s wrath? How often have Muslims told the non-Muslim to “stop meddling in our religion, we don’t meddle in yours”? These Muslims forget that children have been kidnapped and dead bodies snatched in conversion cases. Bibles have been confiscated and other insults hurled at non-Muslims and their places of worship destroyed.

Which Islamic country has become completely crime-free and rape-free after the implementation of hudud? How is corruption punished under hudud?

As always some Muslims will say to more liberal Muslims, “You are not a true Muslim,” and terminate the discussion after warning, “Have you prepared your answers for when Allah questions you at Padang Mahsyar?” (The Day of Judgement)

Aversion to change

Despite 44 years of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and various other affirmative action policies, the majority of Malays are very poor, they lag behind in education, they lack confidence, they lack English speaking skills and cannot find employment in the private sector.

UMNO Baru manages to convince the Malays that the non-Malays are responsible for their failures. Ordinary Malays are prevented from achieving their true potential but because of conditioning by Umno Baru, are averse to change.

Malays must muster the courage to confront their leaders and make them accountable for their wrongdoings. Malays should demand that Malays who get rich by corrupt means are punished instead of saying “Takpe lah. Dia orang kita juga!” (Never mind. He is one of us!)

The key to progress lies with the Malays. The population of Malaysia is 60% Malay. Even if all of the non-Malays were to vote for the Opposition it would still be insufficient to create a change in government. Changing Malay minds and attitudes is essential if the whole nation is to move forward.

 

 

An Open Letter to Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (and those in the Hudud Technical Committee)


May 14, 2014

Open Letter to Dr. Zulkefly Ahmad et.al on Hudud Technical Committee

Zaidby Dato Zaid Ibrahim

http://www.zaid.my/uncategorized/an-open-letter-to-dr-dzulkefly-ahmad-and-those-in-the-hudud-technical-committee/

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is a member of the PAS Central Working Committee. He is an articulate and pleasant man whom PAS uses regularly to show that it is a moderate party.

He wrote an open letter a few days ago addressed to all Malaysians. This letter, which was carried on The Malaysian Insider, addressed the topic of why PAS has not fundamentally changed despite developments related to its Hudud Plan.

PAS conceived the Hudud Plan to overcome restrictions to the implementation of the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code (II) Enactment 1993 by removing limitations imposed by Federal law—namely, the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965—which limit sentences that Shariah courts can legally impose on offences within its jurisdiction. The idea is that, with the removal of the limitations, PAS will be free to implement hudud, even including the amputation of limbs.

Dr Dzulkefly has taken pains to reassure Malaysians that PAS has not changed fromdr-dzul what he described as a political party full of ideals. He says that the party is still committed to the Islamic ideal of a “Benevolent State” and that PAS is a party for all Malaysians and is committed to justice for all, despite its attempt to implement the Hudud Plan.

The reason he has had to pen such a letter is because he realises that PAS has suffered a great deal in pushing for the Hudud Plan, and by withdrawing the Plan he thinks Malaysians will forgive his party.

Dr Dzulkefly is someone I know reasonably well because we used to be in forums together in the days when I was active in politics. I remember him telling an audience in Melbourne that he was convinced PAS was a reformist party and that he—not some extremist group within the party—presented the face of the “real” PAS. Of course I knew that this was untrue. He was not the face of the real PAS and I did not contradict him then, but I will do so now.

The real PAS wants an Islamic theocracy. It wants to implement Islamic laws and hudud. Indeed, the real PAS has not changed that aspiration since its inception. Dr Dzulkefly and others like him are the veneer of a “moderate” PAS but they are the minority in the party. They do not represent the real PAS.

Dr Dzulkefly and others like him are useful to the party when it comes to attracting urban voters with Islamic aspirations, but when PAS passed a unanimous resolution to implement hudud at its most recent Congress, where was Dr Dzulkefly and the other moderates?

Dr Dzulkefly clutches at straws to defend the introduction of the Hudud Bill. He makes reference to the party’s obligation to fulfil its “mandate” to the people of Kelantan. But there was no such mandate given to PAS. PAS did not explicitly make the introduction of hudud a principal platform in its manifesto for the last General Election.

So far, PAS has used hudud only as a way to differentiate its position from UMNO, to revitalise the party from time to time, and as an outlet for conservative elements to assert themselves. Please do not drag the people of Kelantan into this political game.

Dr Dzulkefly confesses that, because the full force of Islamic punishment like hudud cannot be imposed by the Shariah Court due to Federal legal limitations, he feels deprived. He suggests that Muslims are prevented from practising their faith simply because some aspects of hudud punishment can’t be carried out.

But if what he says is true, then hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world must all feel similarly deprived because they too are practising their faith without hudud.

I’d have thought that a universal PAS man like Dr Dzulkefly would be gutted to impose Islamic laws in the country when there were also many others (Muslims and non-Muslims) in the country who were satisfied with the man-made laws promulgated during Merdeka and the formation of Malaysia.

Shouldn’t the universal man in him feel he should honour the Merdeka pact with other Malaysians, instead of just worrying about how his faith is somehow impaired without hudud?

Instead, Dr Dzulkefly says that hudud is a legitimate aspiration of PAS and its followers as part of the larger commitment to the Shariah. I have no issue with anyone having aspirations of any kind. However, the one thing that we must have in promoting our aspirations to the people is honesty in the idea itself.

If PAS is sincere in all aspects of implementing Islamic law and hudud, it should have had its Technical Committee formed 20 years ago when it first passed hudud into law. Despite its zeal, it should have thought about the effects and ramifications of hudud on the people before passing the law, instead of worrying about it now.

Does it make sense to the people of this country that PAS wanted to implement hudud in 1993 and passed a law to that effect—but then decided to form Technical Committee with UMNO to study its implementation only in 2014?

If PAS is sincere, it will tell Malaysians that the implementation of Islamic law will require fundamental Constitutional changes and a complete tearing down of our existing basic law—democracy, our freedoms and way of life as guaranteed by the Constitution will no longer be part of the system.

Dr Dzulkefly must tell us what the implications are for non-Muslims living in this Islamic state, and for Muslims too. PAS has to tell us the number of “moral enforcers” (the new Police Force) that will patrol and monitor our lives in every corner, waiting to arrest us for any possible offence (which will be many, since it will be a society free of all sin).

PAS will have to tell the people of this country that there will be a new legal system and that the civil courts (if they still exist) will be subservient to Islamic law. It must tell Malaysians that the Penal Code will be replaced with a new Islamic Code. It must tell Malaysians that even the judges, and the way we appoint them, will be different.

All judges must be Muslim. In other words, Malaysia will go back in time; from the 21st century to the 7th. We must tell the people the whole truth. It’s not being truthful if we hide the vision of this new country from the people by only using pretty phrases and slogans of justice.

I expect honesty from our leaders in whatever ideas they have. They must not hide their true plans for gaining power just by using sweet slogans. If Malaysians need a new system to replace the current one, whether legal or economic, they must be told in detail what the new system will be.

Do not couch things in vague concepts to sell political products. What is the Islamic concept of the Benevolent State in practical terms? If Islam is for all, as is always trumpeted, then why is hudud to be implemented only in Kelantan and only for Kelantanese Muslims?

Why is there a need for political calculations? Suddenly we have experts saying that even the Rulers are subject to hudud but the 1993 law did not say so. The people must know the details; and if, for whatever reason that I might not comprehend, they want to change and follow PAS in all these reforms, by all means go ahead.

Malay leaders are seldom forthright and candid in their views when dealing with the people. UMNO uses race and religion to put fear in the Malays, and in doing so it divides and polarises the country. PAS is no different, except it uses religion.

PAS sells concepts like the Islamic State, “Islam for All” and so forth, under the banner of Islamic justice and yet it conveniently excludes non-Muslims when it discusses the impact of such measures. The party touts ideas like the Benevolent State without even telling us in detail what it means in terms of governance.

Can PAS show how “Islamic governance” or “Islamic economics” (or Islamic law for that matter) in Kelantan is materially different from what was practised in the BN states for the past 23 years? How is the “Islamic version” a source of inspiration? I doubt if PAS has anything to show for this other than slogans and dress codes.

I take this opportunity to appeal to all Malaysians with this open letter. We live peacefully today because of the present system. Our economic development has been unimpeded because we have had the same system since 1957.

Our democracy, although flawed, and the principle of separation between religion and the affairs of state (a principle now under severe attack) forms the Constitutional and legal basis of our country. This must be protected at all costs.

The alternative, no matter how sweet the sound and how noble the principle, seems to be a stone’s throw from despotism and authoritarian rule.

The issue is not just a question of implementing a new criminal law. It involves the much wider question of whether we want to replace the current system, under which Muslims and non-Muslims agree by consensus to the laws that govern us all, with a new system where only Muslims decide the laws of this country.

That’s the real issue.

 

 

Anwar under attack within PKR


May 10, 2014

Anwar under attack within PKR

by Terence Netto @http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: For the first time since the formation of Parti Keadilan Rakyat 15 years and a month ago, its de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim is under attack from within his own party which was spawned by his travails.

This has never happened before, but it is happening now – on, you may have guessed, social media of course, and all because of a bad error of judgement by the man himself.

Two days ago there was a meeting in Anwar’s house in Bukit Segambut.Its aim was to head off the victory that’s looming for incumbent Azmin Ali in the contest for the Deputy President’s post in the ongoing PKR polls.

Azmin is leading in the tally of votes thus far and appears on course for victory. The other contestants in the divisive race for the deputy presidency are Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and incumbent party Secretary-General Saifuddin Nasution.

Both appear headed for defeat by Azmin in this critical fight for the party No 2 position unless, of course, one withdraws in favour of the other.

Anwar has remained neutral in this contest, ostensibly. But it is neutrality much like the United States’ in the initial years of the Second World War before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour: you know where its sympathies lay even as it adhered to a noncommittal stance. However, Anwar’s facile façade of neutrality broke when news and the purpose of the meeting leaked out.

The hosts of the meeting were Anwar and PKR President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Other attendees were Khalid and his staunch ally Elizabeth Wong, incumbent Vice-President Tian Chua, Subang MP R Sivarasa, Saifuddin, and party elder statesman, Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali.

It is not certain who mooted the idea of the meeting but sources say it seemed the handiwork of Tian Chua, a chameleon in the Deputy Presidential race: when he campaigns in front of party members whom he feels are for Azmin, he’ll affect to be in favour of the man; when in front of camps that seem to support Khalid, he leans towards the Selangor MB.

Everyone in the top hierarchy of the party can see through Tian Chua’s charade but are unperturbed by it because the man is regarded as chief broker of the Chinese vote. All three contestants in the vital race for Deputy President think it essential that they have him on their side, and that has made it easy for him to gull all three factions simultaneously.

Perverse twist

But whereas Tian Chua’s confidence in his trickster’s schemes is seen as a minor distraction in the larger scheme of things within PKR, Anwar’s ability to pull off the already spurious façade of his neutrality in the contest for the Deputy Presidency was gravely undermined by the aim of the hush-hush meeting at his house which has gotten out on to the party grapevine.

It was to persuade Khalid to pull out of the race in favour of Saifuddin so that votes going to the former in the final two weekends of the balloting could be diverted to the latter to forestall a looming Azmin victory.

The quid pro quo for a Khalid withdrawal, discussed at the meeting, was the continuation of his tenancy as MB of Selangor, a tenure that has been under threat from, first, a mutinous Azmin and then, later, from Anwar himself, who was shaping to stand in the PKR-enforced Kajang by-election until the Court of Appeal interjected to render moot not only Anwar’s candidature but projected appointment as Selangor MB.

A convoluted scenario, no doubt, but Anwar has now given the head twirling nature of his politicking a perverse twist by hosting the meeting to discuss Khalid’s withdrawal. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the attendees, Khalid was not amenable to the proposition and left the meeting in a huff.

Later, Syed Husin met up with Saifuddin to persuade him to withdraw in favour of Khalid – so serious had become what is being billed as ‘Operation Head-off Azmin’. But Syed has denied on Twitter that his purpose was to persuade Saifuddin to withdraw though he has not denied meeting up with the man.

Syed had been at loggerheads with the ambitious Azmin from earlier turf battles in the fledgling party. All these goings-on are expected to redound to Azmin’s advantage as PKR leaders and supporters use social media networks to do what they have thus far refrained from – attacking their supremo for allowing his façade of neutrality to slip badly.

Correction: Terence Netto apologises for misreporting that Saifuddin Nasution attended the meeting at Anwar’s house. He wasn’t there.

Malaysia: One Year after GE 13, lost in sea of politiking


May 6,2014

Malaysia: One Year after GE 13, lost in sea of politiking

Bridget-Welsh-2by Bridget Welsh@http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: Today marks the one year anniversary of the historic 13th General Election. This election was pivotal in the country’s history as the incumbent BN coalition held onto power, with the Opposition calls for ‘change’ unfulfilled.

Scholars have highlighted the fundamental shifts in the power of UMNO, the imbalance of the opposition parties, the rise in influence and political awakenings of East Malaysia and the electoral irregularities, among many profound structural changes.

In other ordinary ways, Malaysian politics has also changed, with greater cynicism, insecurities and anger more prominent in public life. This is across the political divide. News reports feature troubling reports of increased racial tensions, political polarisation and continued shortcomings in governance.

This article highlights some of the ongoing dynamics in contemporary Malaysian political life, which are both worrying and offer promise ahead.

Hisham, Najib, and Muhiyuddin MH370 Heroes

There is no question the last year has been a difficult one for Malaysia.  Globally, the country came under the full glare of the international spotlight in what arguably will be the story of the year – the loss of MH370. Now everyone in the world knows where Kuala Lumpur is, and the seas and oceans around it.

The persistence of this issue in international headlines for over two months is a reminder of the lack of closure for the families of loved ones on board the missing plane and the country as a whole.

Malaysia has been blessed historically by a comparative lack of crises but MH370 shows the need for better preparation and the need to learn. What is of concern in the failure to properly release even the preliminary investigation report of the tragedy is an apparent unwillingness to acknowledge mistakes and strengthen the country’s responses in future.

The context of post-GE13 contributes to this childish stubbornness to embrace improvements. Political wrangling and insecurities are dominating the terrain, with those in power obsessed in staying there and those in the opposition myopically focused on getting there.

Even one year later, the country is still electioneering, with the focus on power rather than the people. This is perhaps one of the most serious losses of GE13 – a distancing of the interests of citizens and political leaders.

Even basic needs are being ignored, as evident by the water rationing. This issue is being used in a seemingly never-ending political game of blaming and one-upmanship. When will the federal and government leaders sit down and figure out a proper solution to the country’s water shortages? The sense one gets is: when the dams freeze over.

The impression is statesmanship is sorely lacking. It is not only MH370 that is missing. Some of this is a product of Prime Minister Najib Razak doing a disappearing act when a controversial issue emerges. When he reappears – usually well after an issue has evoked tensions and frustrations – his interventions are too little too late.

Power at all cost

For its part, the opposition has continued focusing on bringing out the country’s problems, with little attention to solutions to these problems. Many of their messages are often stale, and returning to old solutions. Their main goal aims at changing the government, a refrain that only perpetuates the sense among ordinary citizens that leaders are focused on power, not people. Quality leadership is lost in the sea of politicking.

This void has been enhanced by the loss of important national leaders from political 1Malaysialife, from the tragic deaths of Karpal Singh and Irene Fernandez to the quiet voices of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and other leaders who can bridge the divided communities.

This lack of statesmanship is enhanced by the fact that both political sides are wracked in ongoing internal struggles for power.

For UMNO, united it its desire to hold onto power at any cost, Najib continues to navigate challenges inside his party, led by none other than his mentor, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

While the current premier appears to have neutralised any immediate challenge, the sense of competition for position is ongoing in UMNO, with shifts in positions a constant dynamic.

Najib has proved adept at managing the levers of this party with offers of projects, contracts and other rewards regularly used as appeasement. The reality is that Najib and his associates continue to watch their backs, distracted from governing.To accommodate the need for funds, Najib has opted to implement the Goods and Service Tax (GST), a measure that has widespread public opposition as shown in recent polls.

While some recognise the need to improve the country’s revenue position, especially given the rising debt the country is absorbing and questions arising from that debt (as shown in the 1MDB scandal), ordinary people are only seeing the impact of rising inflation on their already strained finances.

UMNO knows that the GST has the potential to be its death knell – a reason it is doing everything it can to break up the opposition through hudud and other religiously divisive issues and the use of institutions such as the Judiciary to marginalise political opponents and parties alike.

UMNO rightly fears that the GST will undercut the base of its political support, effectively betraying its base by imposing a higher cost of living and greater suffering. In their fancy cars behind guarded houses, they have lost perspective, unaware of even the price of kangkung.

Hudud returns–PAS Kelantan

If UMNO is violating its promise of rising incomes and improved welfare, the Opposition has also moved down the road of disillusionment. This is occurring with PAS’ Kelantan government’s call for hudud.

pas-keadilan-untuk-semuaIn GE13 the Opposition offered the promise of a multiracial country, a place for everyone under the Malaysian sun. The exclusionary path of Kelantan PAS has already lost the trust of non-Malays as shown with recent polling, as decades of trust building have evaporated. Many non-Muslims feel a sense of betrayal.

The party has effectively signaled that it is no longer interested in being a leader of the nation as a whole, but appears focused on securing its base in the rural heartland, especially in Kelantan where its performance under the new state leadership has been lackluster.

Its public rationale is that the move is for political power, to win support among Muslims. History has shown in that when PAS opts for a more exclusionary path, it is punished at the polls as occurred in 1986 and 2004.

By turning to religious law before better governance and the welfare of the broader community, Kelantan PAS has taken a path that is appealing to its core and distancing itself from the middle ground, especially younger voters.

More attention could be centred on deliverables, increasing jobs and welfare in the state to allow Kelantanese the means and opportunities to stay away from the crimes hudud is supposed to prevent. As shown in Egypt, the party would be better served by working on providing jobs and raising incomes, but this lesson appears not to be have been absorbed.

As in UMNO, party divisions in PAS have contributed to this undemocratic move. There appears to be ongoing positioning people in the party, especially by those that did not do well in the party polls last November.

While clearly provoked by UMNO, PAS has taken a parochial, exclusionary route that not only threatens the Opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, but has the potential to tear at the fabric of Malaysian society in a way that will only bring greater tensions and conflict.

In falling for Umno’s bait, DAP has also escalated tensions. The Opposition is now struggling to move away from zero-sum politics, as ordinary Malaysians look on in dismay or glee depending on their side of the political divide.

Kelantan PAS’s exclusionary path severely weakens the Opposition’s ability to represent the nation, as does Najib’s similarly divisive move to implement an unpopular policy that will erode his political base, sharpen class and generation divisions (as the young are the most affected), and has the potential to deepen the trend that has featured in Najib’s tenure – the continued politicisation of political institutions to maintain political power, from the Election Commission to the judiciary.

Concerns are particularly acute in that both PAS’ and UMNO’s moves place strain on the ability of institutions to govern fairly for all Malaysians. Pressures are already clearly evident. The rule of law especially is being challenged, with now multiple incidents of the police failing to uphold judicial decisions.

Wake-up call from youth

Given the worrying trajectories, is there any reason for hope? Increasingly the frustrations of citizens have featured centre stage, with the silent majority deafened from the political noise – much of it lacking decency and direction. The answer is a yes, but one couched in realism and caution.

GST Rally
The GST rally last week was full of young people urging change signals the expansion of a political awakening in Malaysia. GE13 did not mark the end of this process, but rather served as a marker for new paths and patterns of engagement.

Neither side did a good job of mobilising young Malaysians as shown in the split voting patterns among younger voters, but nevertheless the youth are finding their voice. The anti-GST rally was less about one side or another of the divide, but a loud wake-up call for fairer governance, one in which a younger generation is now leading.

Amidst the 50,000 crowd are leaders for the future, joined by a growing cohort of younger leaders in the political divide that are putting forward important issues such as education, security and the Rule of Law.

It is important to note that amidst the politicking are voices that are indeed focusing on meaningful issues and appear less obsessed about who is holding what position, be in the chief ministership of Selangor or a cabinet post.

My faith lies most with the young in Malaysia, who along with the sage wisdom of leaders who were socialised in the post-Mahathir era and national oriented civil society leaders, are speaking out and engaging important issues. They offer light in the darkness of the current political scene.

In 2008, I wrote that Malaysians were ahead of their politicians. I also wrote that change would not be a linear process. We continue to see these observations in current political life.

The opposition has the responsibility to move beyond focusing on attaining power and developing capacity to solve the nation’s problems by working together and forming a shadow cabinet. Even Cambodia’s Opposition coalition that has refused to sit in parliament due to election irregularities have one. If the opposition is going to focus on its divisions it might as well get out of the business for running for national office.

For Najib, who has yet to become the label of reformer he has portrayed himself to be, Malaysians are awaiting your reforms, meaningful changes. Your clock is ticking, and already half of the country have decided you have passed your prime. Many in the other half were on the streets last week.

Malaysians on the whole deserve better than they have at the moment, and are rightly frustrated by the exclusionary turns of their leaders, but the fact that they are speaking out and sending clear messages of dissatisfaction offer promise, even if it is less promising than many hope for.

DR BRIDGET WELSH is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University. She can be reached at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg .

 

Wan Azizah wins Kajang


March 24, 2014

Wan Azizah wins Kajang as Voters reject MCA

COMMENT

by Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com

As expected, the Opposition PKR won the Kajang by-election. It did so with a smaller majority in number of voters, 5,379, but a larger share of the overall vote, up from 56.8 percent to 59.1 percent.

image

This was an important win for the Opposition. Yet, the results did not send the decisive signal of a growing groundswell of support for Pakatan Rakyat nor did it send a signal of gains for the incumbent BN government, which ordinarily in a time of national crisis would have won stronger support.

Rather it points to minor shifts in voting behaviour that suggest both sides need to improve their strategies of engagement with voters.

Disjointed campaign

Kajang is a constituency with a long history of political activism. Close to Kuala Lumpur and one of Malaysia’s national universities, the roots of political activity run deep. In fact one of the striking features of this seat is how few fence-sitters there were, with both sides trying hard to convert the converted.

The campaign evolved from a focus on the ‘Kajang Move’ resulting from tensions over the state leadership in PKR to the sentencing of party’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim. It changed from disadvantaging the opposition to placing the government on the defensive.

There was an element of stepping back in time to a period where outrage over a politically motivated conviction moved voters. Based on focus group discussions and interviews, the sentencing of Anwar over a decade ago was the number one issue that influenced voting behaviour.

In this rerun, there was less anger and more resignation. The majority of voters nevertheless sent a clear signal that the methods used by the BN towards the opposition were not acceptable.

Despite the core issue, the two-month campaign was filled the conflicting and confusing messaging. The mantra of ‘Wan Azizah to Putrajaya’ just did not make sense to many voters, who were not sure whether she was running for the state leadership or national power. It was also not clear if they were voting for her or her husband, Anwar.

If confusion clouded the votes for Pakatan, then contradictions were paramount in the BN messaging. BN moved from highlighting division in the Opposition to promoting a racially divisive message calling for the Chinese to vote along ethnic lines.

The messaging was all over the place, as both the BN and Pakatan used every play in the book to win voters with limited results. Neither side evoked the ‘spirit’ as it was not clear who was more tired – the campaigners or the voters.

Indeed, both sides relied on the old playbook in their campaigning. BR1M 3.0, transportation allowances and ‘gifts’ of food were the dominant mode of BN engagement, with efforts focused on maintaining their political base – although comparatively less money was spent on this ‘buy’-election than others.

This vote buying was buttressed by grassroots mobilisation of both the UMNO and MCA political base with appeals along racial lines. MCA was more explicit in its call to vote for a Chinese representative, although race and religion were a major undertone on all sides.

For Pakatan, the ‘Putrajaya’ song was replayed but it seemed out of tune with this by-election. With political infighting within the opposition over the Selangor government and jockeying for positions within PKR for its May party polls close to the surface, the dance steps to the music seemed unclear, with the campaign itself highly decentralised, uneven and disjointed.

In terms of coordination, there was a flashback to the Hulu Selangor by-election, where PKR contenders did not appear to be helping each other. The overall focus seemed on winning power rather than representing people, with a campaign heavily personality based.

The opposition appeared to be replaying Reformasi 2.0 without a clear programme and plan on what the revised reform programme would be.

Lackluster turnout

The end result is that the campaign relied on negative messaging on both sides, alienating those in the middle. The level of inspiration was overall missing. Those aligned came out to vote, with those less connected staying at home.

Beyond the messaging and campaigning, four factors help us understand why fewer voters came to the polls. Foremost is the impact of MH370 which overshadowed the campaign. For many Malaysians this crisis, this period of loss for the families and commitment to finding the plane was far more important that the continued saga of BN-Pakatan political contestation.

Frankly, many voters could not be bothered with what some saw as the persistent petty squabbling of politicians. Elites across the political spectrum do not appreciate that many in the public are tired of the fighting and focus on winning power rather than governance. MH370 brought this home, eclipsing the campaign.

An estimated quarter of voters lived outside of Kajang, disproportionately Chinese and younger voters. With the Ching Ming festival beginning next weekend, many Chinese voters did not return for the polls. The timing of the by-election appeared to be set carefully to make it less viable for more opposition-inclined voters to come back and vote.

Along with timing, the incentive to vote was not as strong. This involved, for some voters, financial incentives, with fewer goodies distributed. But the main deterrent was that this vote was a ‘sure win’ for the Opposition and many voters did not think their vote was needed.

Finally, this election was not seen as making a difference. While the opposition touted the election’s symbolic value, there was little doubt who would win and whether it would matter.

In addition, many voters are losing faith in elections – not helped by yet another ‘blackout’ during counting in this by-election reported in Sungai Chua. Doubts were also centred on what would happen after the elections with regard to the Selangor government.

The impact on political power at the national or state level was not clear. The reasons to come out to vote beyond Anwar did not resonate with voters. It is thus no wonder that 16 percent less turnout was recorded.

Shifts in voting behaviour        

In spite of this, there are important shifts in the voting behaviour. The results were affected by the straight-fight (no independent candidates) dynamic, but not completely so.

There are small changes to the status quo in voting. Already reported are swings among Chinese and Malay voters, ranging from seven to 10 percent.

Let’s take the Chinese voters first. This swing towards BN needs to be treated with caution as it is the Chinese youth primarily who did not return to vote, and if they had, the outcome would have looked very similar to the 2013 results. At best, the MCA held onto its political base, especially older and female voters.

Its focus on local issues kept many of its loyal voters, and its appeal to racial representation reinforced traditional affinities. A closer look shows that the MCA gains were not substantive, although to keep its base in the current context showed some resilience among its voters where they have had decades of grassroots support.

What stands out however is that MCA continues to have very minor level of support among the constituency it claims to represent, reinforcing its persistent legitimacy crisis and weakness within the UMNO-led government.

The Malay swing towards the Opposition is more meaningful. There were fewer Malay voters living outside the constituency, and interviews pointed to some shifts in loyalties. These were concentrated among Malay women and younger Malay voters.

The connection to PKR’s Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and the sympathy she invoked resonated, along with increasing frustration with higher costs of living. For the first time since 1999, a plurality of Malays appeared to have voted for the opposition in this constituency, revealing a decline in support in the Umno base.

Part of this can be explained by the UMNO campaign, less spending and the fact that the PKR candidate was a Malay. The results, however, reveal the main challenge ahead for UMNO lies with the disconnect between its promises and governance in the post-GE13 environment, especially in managing the economy.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s political legitimacy is dwindling as it appears that he is losing ground among the group his party touts itself to represent.

While race still is the dominant paradigm to interpret the results, the meaningful fault lines in this election were generation and gender divides. PKR did capture the majority of youth, as it did in 2008 and 1999, with the BN relying heavily on older voters. BN on its part continued to win over women, although not to the same extent as before, especially among younger women.

With two women in the campaign, the mobilisation of women was evident,  and this helps us to understand the persistent Chinese base for Malaysian Chinese Association disproportionately female and connected with Chew Mei Fun’s style) and the decline of support for BN among Malays, who are more connected to Wan Azizah.

If there are any implications evident in this by-election from voting behavior, it is that women and youth still hold the future trajectory of electoral victory for either side.

Rocky path ahead    

This by-election is just one of the many battles for Malaysia’s continued polarised political contestation. This ‘sure win’ will be followed by what will likely be a decisive victory for BN in Balingian, Sarawak. What makes Kajang more impactful is its multiethnic composition and the effects on the opposition leadership.

For Najib’s government, the post-GE13 climate is much harder to navigate as the policies of cutting back subsidies and the resultant higher cost of living are hurting its base particularly hard.

The prominent use of racial politics narrows its ability to reach out to the non-Malays. Najib as a leader has been weakened and has less electoral appeal. Infighting within his own party continues to percolate, as the PM continues to face discontent within UMNO. The by-election results, especially the changes in Malay votes, will place additional pressure on Najib.

For the opposition, the battle will be inside Pakatan. The fulcrum will move back to the reasons for the ‘Kajang Move’ in the first place and disagreements over leadership. The struggle for power in Selangor will continue and infighting within the opposition will persist until it is resolved, likely with the PKR May polls.

Voters will have to deal with both sides focusing on internal politicking rather than governance. Kajang may seem sweet for both sides giving it a reduced majority and victory respectively, but the bitterness is coming.

Given the distractions from attention to the problems of ordinary citizens, both sides need to keep in mind that the real bitterness they have to worry about is further alienation from a public who would like less focus on politics and more attention to people.


Bridget-Welsh-2

DR BRIDGET WELSH is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University. She can be reached at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg.

The Road to Kajang:PKR’s Torch Bearer soldiers on


March 10, 2014

wan azizah 1

The Road to Kajang:PKR’s Torch Bearer soldiers on

by Nigel Aw@www.malaysiakini.com

PKR today announced party President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as its new candidate for the Kajang by-election.

Wan Azizah will replace her husband Anwar Ibrahim, the PKR de facto leader, who was initially the party’s candidate for the by-election, but is now disqualified from contesting following his five-year jail sentence for sodomy handed on Friday.

This was announced by Anwar at a press conference in Kajang this afternoon, who temporarily remains a free man after being granted a stay of execution by the Court of Appeal.

AS the Judiciary was manipulated by UMNO to prevent me from contesting, therefore PKR, in consultation with DAP and PAS, would like to announce the candidate (for Kajang) is Wan Azizah Wan Ismail,” said Anwar.

The announcement was preceded by a solemn message for the families of 239 passengers on flight MH370 that went missing over the Vietnamese coast yesterday.

Speaking up for women

In her acceptance speech, Wan Azizah said her nomination was fitting of International Women’s Day which was yesterday.

“I am thankful for the trust and responsibility given to me and it is fitting for International Women’s Day.”I call on all the rakyat to join me in sending a strong message that we cannot continue to be oppressed by injustices,” she said.

Wan Azizah denied being a seat warmer for Anwar, stressing that she represented the values of the party as well as women

Prior to the general election, it was speculated that Wan Azizah may contest a state seat in Selangor but this eventually fizzled out.

After the Court of Appeal sentenced Anwar to five years in jail on Friday, he had announced that 12 names were being short listed as his replacement in Kajang.

‘Pakatan endorses Wan Azizah’

Among the front runner was rumoured to be PKR Secretary-General Saifuddin Nasution, who was also present at the press conference.

Asked why Saifuddin was ultimately not nominated, Anwar said: “I was keen to have Saifuddin but he was reluctant and wanted to (continue as PKR) Secretary-General.

“And in light of the current circumstances, Azizah was the suitable candidate – he (Saifuddin) was firm and adamant about that,” he said.

Nomination day for the Kajang polls is fixed on March 11 and polling day will happen on March 23.

PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali was notably absent at the announcement. Also at the press conference were DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and PAS’ central committee member Dr Hatta Ramli.

The duo endorsed Wan Azizah’s candidacy and expressed hope she can defeat BN’s Chew Mei Fun by a larger majority, and if possible cost the ruling coalition its deposit.

They also expressed condolences to relatives of passengers on flight MH370 and urge the government to provide accurate information to the public.