Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s New Dilemma: Pakatan’s Manifesto


August 18, 2018

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s New Dilemma: Pakatan’s Manifesto

by William Case, Nottingham University Malaysian Campus

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for pakatan harapan manifesto

Malaysia’s new Pakatan Harapan government rode to power on a pledge to clean up Malaysia’s foul politics. It was wise to focus on the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional’s transgressions: Pakatan’s appeal lay less in its own glowing imagery and manifesto than in the electorate’s widespread contempt for the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which leads the now opposition Barisan Nasional coalition.

 

Pakatan’s manifesto, while helping bring it to power, now poses a dilemma. To firm its support, Pakatan must make good on its promise to cleanse political life, pressing down hard on the reformist pedal. It must show that the arrest of former Prime Minister Najib Razak was not sordid revenge but was instead the start of a renewal. As Pakatan does this, its purges and policy changes will affect the fortunes of those who, over a half-century of operation, have grown deeply entrenched. How likely now are these forces to make trouble?

Part of the answer lies in the nature of the democratic transition that Malaysia is undergoing. Analysts will debate at length how to characterise this process. But for now, in its abrupt and mass-based dynamic, it can be treated as a case of bottom-up transition (where citizens overthrow an authoritarian regime to install democracy), even if conducted peacefully within the electoral parameters of a competitive authoritarian regime.

Image result for dr mahathir

In such conditions, while the once-dominant party remains stunned, the new government will grow tempted to drive swift and far-reaching reforms. Against this, the interests of the bourgeoisie and the military are ‘inviolable’ if stability is to be preserved, and hence restraint is needed. In ‘founding elections’ typically held at the end of a transition, the parties representing these the military and bourgeoisie must be ‘helped to do well’, lest the old elites regroup, reactivate their constituencies and through military force mount an ‘authoritarian backlash’.

In Malaysia, ‘founding elections’ coincided with the transition, yielding a process that some analysts are already depicting as a spontaneous ‘democratisation-by-election’. In this situation, there was hardly time on Pakatan’s part — let alone the political wisdom and will — to ponder any need to cushion the blow dealt to UMNO. Nor in the flush of victory did Pakatan contemplate restraint in its pursuit of reforms. Rather, as headlines blared that ‘heads will roll’, the new government moved to flush out UMNO’s allies.

To this end, the new Pakatan government targeted top officials in the Attorney-General’s Chamber and the courts, in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, in the civil service and diplomatic corps, and perhaps most signally, in the sinecures that encrust the boards and management of Malaysia’s hulking government-linked corporations. At the same time, the new government has struck at the mass level, at least in the civil service, by terminating thousands of contract workers who were deployed under UMNO’s old spoils system.

Image result for zahid hamidi the Javanese UMNO President

UMNO’s Man from Pornogo

As UMNO endures rivalries and ruckuses in the wake of defeat, it may be regrouping. In recent internal elections, the party rejected the more reform-minded and tolerant leadership of Khairy Jamaluddin. It has instead installed a ‘right-wing’ president, Zahid Hamidi, recalling the old order with its high-level privileging and ethnoreligious prioritising.

In making full use of Malaysia’s expanded political space, UMNO is working in concert with the Islamic Party of Malaysia to stir the nativist grievances of dispossessed party elites and the anxieties of the wider Malay-Muslim community by criticising Pakatan’s new appointments. And at the same time, UMNO’s print media mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia, is growing ever more shrill, insisting indignantly on Malay dominance while condemning what it casts as the Democratic Action Party’s ‘racist’ hold over Pakatan.

The resonance of these appeals among ordinary Malays is demonstrated by the vigorous emotive support that the fallen Najib now attracts. These supporters contribute to a legal defence fund on his behalf even as the shrink-wrapped fashion accessories and cash seized from his Kuala Lumpur properties are paraded publicly by police in order to discredit him.

This is bolstering Najib’s position. He has been welcomed back to UMNO’s delegation in the Parliament. He sits alongside Zahid in the opposition’s front rank, and on the parliamentary session’s first day he wore all black as he helped to orchestrate a walk-out. At this point, if not yet a violent authoritarian backlash, we are likely to see a groundswell of Malay-Muslim grievance to the point that Najib’s transgressions will be forgotten. Meanwhile, Najib’s expert legal team will run circles around the government’s newly instituted and untested prosecutors.

Malaysia’s new Pakatan government confronts an excruciating dilemma. To maintain support, it must rapidly undertake far-reaching reforms. But as Pakatan proceeds, old elites, with their prerogatives at risk, will reenergise nativist grievances that may cumulate in backlash. A cruel irony is unfolding. As Pakatan now checks the pace of reforms, UMNO leaders taunt it over broken campaign promises.

William Case is Professor and Head of the School of Politics, History and International Relations at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.

4 thoughts on “Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s New Dilemma: Pakatan’s Manifesto

  1. The real problem of PH is not the cries of manifesto unfulfilled but rather primarily economic. People want immediate material improvement in their lives but PH is too busy dealing with BN messes.

    PH really must quickly come up with growth and stronger currency in a increasingly unreliable external environment. People want better job, higher wages and do not want to pay the debt Najib racked up. That is the reality of taking over power.

  2. All those waiting to see change ,sorry, you may to wit for ten years. But we must look for policy measures designed to put in place systems that can work over the next ten years.

    Measure four times but cut only once. Stay true to the Trust of the people.

  3. Sigh.. one cannot download the buku Harapan from any official channel today. What can we expect from this welayu nation on Reid and Cobbald Commission?

    Anyways. thanks to Google, found a copy posted on Amazon aws.
    I got to read thru the buku Harapan in one sitting. I don’t know how long it takes Tuan Ministers and Plan Ministers to read it. I don’t find anything controversial in there that could not be implemented in the next 14 days.

    Negotiating with China is not in the Buku Harapan.
    Neither is building a national car, nor granting Zakir Naik citizenship has been mentioned. But ..That seems to be Tun Dr’s obsession.

    Oh well..We will forget about Buku Harapan. Go please the Najib’s voters. There is no difference in electing an Azmin Ali or a 1PM as the next PM. After Tun Dr, there will be none. What matters is Tun Dr’s Harapan. After him, there is no reason for any Harapan. Malaysia will berpecah-belah.

    There is nothing to hope for this Malaysia.
    There is no dilemma. Barisan Harapan Welayu, it will be.

    Speaking of which, I wonder 1PM’s picture is still being displayed prominently in University of Nottingham. Just thought Prof William Case should have put a word or two on that.

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