Pakatan Harapan has Problems But Can Still Win GE14,says Saifuddin


January 29, 2018

Pakatan Harapan has Problems But Can Still Win GE14,says Saifuddin

Hence, it is difficult but by the same token, there are indications that Pakatan may fare well, perhaps enough to invoke a “hung” parliament status after the election despite the proposition of multi-cornered fights, he added.

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If he is not optimistic, who else in PKR is–A coalition which is disarray cannot govern.

(The Sun Daily) – A senior PKR leader has admitted that differences have surfaced within the Pakatan Harapan alliance but it will not affect the performance of the opposition in the next general election.

“It has not reached a level where the opposition is in total disarray. We and our supporters know who the enemy is and it is not us,” said PKR Secretary-General Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

“If there are conflicts, the alliance has come to manage it in isolation as this is a healthy process in a democracy,” he espoused. The preparations to face the overwhelming might of Barisan Nasional (BN) remains on course, Saifuddin said in an interview.

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Citing incidents in Penang which involved Penanti assemblywoman Dr Norlela Ariffin and Kebun Bunga assemblyman Cheah Kah Peng with the DAP-led state government, Saifuddin said that the disputes are isolated cases of dispute and he is confident that it can be resolved.

With elections hotly speculated to be held within the next eight weeks, Saifuddin, who is also the strategic adviser to Lim, said that the counter-attacks invoked by BN, allegedly using the might of the government machinery was expected.

It happened in 1999, 2008 and 2013 – so voters are fairly attuned to such tactics to use the enforcement side of the government to rattle the opposition.

“It happened to our leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in 1999. We expect a few fence sitters to be swayed by such tactics but not in numbers that will trouble us.”

Image result for Najib Razak and Barisan NasionalWith the political opposition in disarray, Barisan Nasional is poised to win GE-14.

Pakatan is also unaffected by the range of feel-good media reports surfacing, from the confidence of BN in regaining its two-thirds majority to the fact the economy is picking up.

Although the opposition may not have floundered under attacks by their rivals, Saifuddin admitted that Pakatan remained the undisputed underdog due to the overwhelming advantages that BN holds in the country.

For starters, BN is the second longest political entity to consecutively govern any country after one in Mexico, he said, adding that the country’s core cultural values and demographic status originated from BN’s leadership.

Hence, it is difficult but by the same token, there are indications that Pakatan may fare well, perhaps enough to invoke a “hung” parliament status after the election despite the proposition of multi-cornered fights, he added.

Malaysia has 222 parliamentary seats of which BN has 132, Pakatan 72, P AS has 13 while Sabah’s Warisan has two besides three Independents.To be a force and to hold BN accountable, Saifuddin said that the voters must buy into their moral compass to differentiate between right and wrong rather than lean on their comfort zones of race, religion or status quo.

Malaysian Politics in 2018: Getting the Harapan House in order


January 7, 2018

Malaysian Politics 2018– Getting the Harapan House in order

by Nathaniel Tan @www.malaysiakini.com

The year 2017 closed out with debates about Pakatan Harapan’s candidate for Prime Minister.

This discussion touches at the very heart of the state of the opposition today, and what its prospects for GE14 are. The question is, of course, not a small one. Over the years, a great deal of power has come to be invested in the office of the Prime Minister. Ironically, a lot of this was achieved during the tenure of Dr Mahathir Mohamed, in the decades that he governed as Prime Minister.

Since as things stand, the Prime Minister has the power to make most of the important decisions in the country – almost all by himself – it seems reasonable to expect a clear answer with regards to who a coalition would like to put forward as Prime Minister, should they win the elections.

In this, we must sadly admit a great advantage lies with BN.From day one, there has been absolutely no doubt whatsoever that BN’s candidate for Prime Minister is the incumbent, Najib Abdul Razak (photo).

Especially since the removal of his former deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, every echelon of the UMNO and BN hierarchy has been of one voice on this matter.

Love him, or hate him, there is no question in anyone’s mind that Najib Razak will become Prime Minister should BN win the elections.

While they got off to a decent enough start, the Perak government was soon wrested in 2009, and the Kajang Move (thanks to Rafizi Ramli) threw the Selangor government into disarray – breaking the back of Pakatan Rakyat, and causing a split whose reverberations continue to be felt today.

Former Menteri Besar of Selangor Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim

These conflicts speak to the very heart of governance and stability. A certain amount of growing pains can be tolerated, but when this degenerates into full-on squabbling over the highest position of power – as evidenced in the Selangor crisis – then any illusion of stability is shattered.

In politics, there aren’t many opportunities to create a first impression. Had the Selangor crisis been about clear-cut corruption, or some other type of scandal backed up by irrefutable evidence, the story could have been different.

As it is, bad excuses were made to cover up what one couldn’t help but assume was a simple power grab and a mud-fight over resources. Extrapolating from this to federal power can conjure up scary images of chaos and destructive instability.

Where UMNO -BN is strong

Even as we seek to topple UMNO and BN, it would be foolhardy not to acknowledge their strengths. Failure to do so will condemn any attempt to defeat them.

It must be noted that while not every UMNO Deputy President has become president – a fact Muhyiddin, Anwar Ibrahim and others are all too familiar with – there has not been a single individual who has become UMNO President, and thus Prime Minister, without being the Party Deputy president first.

UMNO, for all its racism, bigotry, and corruption, can point to this as a history of relative stability – not forgetting, of course, the many deputies that didn’t make it, and the harm created when they rebelled.

The opposition should perhaps look to establish a similar history of internal stability, instead of grasping clumsily at every general election.

The best front the opposition was able to put up was probably in 2013, when the opposition had what seemed to be a viable coalition representing a wide and representative cross-section of Malaysian society, with a clear and (publicly) undisputed candidate for PM.

We didn’t win, but we did do better than ever before. Instead of staying the course though, short-sightedness brought everything crashing down prematurely.

Falling between chairs

As a result, Harapan finds itself in quite an awkward position, falling perhaps, between multiple chairs. They do not have a clear, obvious choice for candidate for PM. If they did, we wouldn’t be having the controversy we have now.

Going into GE14, they’ll have to make the best of what they have, and the Mahathir-Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail combination is as good as any I suppose (although it is unclear why they would thereafter want to move Wan Azizah out of Permatang Pauh).

Observers have been right to point out that an “interim PM” arrangement is both far from ideal and fraught with potential risk. That said, the best Harapan can do, all things considered, is simply to decide on a plan, and stick to it.

In this case and at this stage, better an early commitment to an imperfect plan, than ongoing waffling over trying to find a perfect plan – one which, if not obvious by now, likely doesn’t exist. Said waffling is itself probably doing more damage to Harapan’s prospects than anything BN can do at this point.

Getting fit for future

At the end of the day, and at the beginning of a new year, we find ourselves with the cards we’ve been dealt, and we’ll have to play them the best we can for GE14, regardless.

As we look beyond the next election though, and onwards to the next generation – as aspiring statespersons should – we should perhaps be more conscious of whether we are putting the cart before the horse.

My uncles used to say that you don’t play squash to get fit, you get fit to play squash.

Perhaps the key to defeating BN some day is not to keep flinging things randomly until we find something that sticks, but to establish an alternative institution on strong principles, and to focus on strengthening that institution and its principles before obsessing about winning elections.

NATHANIEL TAN would like to wish everybody love, positivity, courage, and all the very best for 2018.

Malaysian Opposition: If you are serious, tell us who is your Prime Minister after GE-14?


June 6, 2017

Malaysian Opposition: If you  are serious, tell us who is your Prime Minister after GE-14?

By Azmi Sharom

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Wannabes for Political Opposition

Sometimes I wonder: does the opposition want to lose the next general election (GE14)?

Apart from the usual racist fear-mongering that UMNO loves to indulge in, the latest example being the distasteful and utterly low class competition asking for essays on why Lim Kit Siang is racist; their favourite weapon to use against the opposition is to say that they are divided and not able to rule.

Obviously this is not accurate. Penang, Selangor and Kelantan are all in opposition hands and they have not collapsed. In fact, Penang and Selangor are doing quite well, despite the recent shenanigans of PAS.In other words, the opposition has shown that they can rule. At least at the state level.

But recently, the claims of division appear to be accurate. Until today the opposition has not come up with a clear choice for Prime Minister. This is an important issue because when it comes to general elections, Malaysians like to be able to picture who their PM will be.

One thing is for sure, DAP and Amanah will not be putting forward a potential PM. DAP knows that most Malay voters are still paralyzed with insecurity, so much so that even if DAP was to put forward a Malay potential PM, most Malays will run screaming in terror.

The Malays will believe that anyone from DAP is really Chinese and they can’t accept a Chinese prime minister. Sad, but true. Amanah won’t do it because they are small and humble.

Image result for Anwar alternative prime minister and Zaid Ibrahim

Zaid Ibrahim (DAP) and Anwar Ibrahim (PKR)?

So, that leaves PKR and PPBM. There are sounds that some want Dr Mahathir Mohamad to stand for elections and be the possible next PM. PKR seems adamant that they can make Anwar Ibrahim PM if they win, even though he is in jail and there are a host of legal obstacles in their way.

And there have been very public spats about this. Namely between PKR Vice-President Rafizi Ramli and DAP’s Zaid Ibrahim.

I want to tell these politicians one thing. Don’t think you are so big and important and popular. Don’t think for one second that your public quarrels are simply each of you standing up for your principles.

Let me tell you: this kind of thing sickens the voters. Even those who would vote opposition and those who are young. While you publicly spat about who should be PM you are alienating an electorate who are hungry for change. You are in actuality hijacking the chance of victory despite having the advantage of opposing a deeply unpopular PM and government.

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The likely Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak–Inheriting  Massive Problems of his own making

Why? Because you want to play your own egotistical political games.I mean, seriously, the only choices that the opposition can come up with is an old man who laid the foundations for all the trouble we are in and another old man who is (fairly or unfairly) in jail?

There is no one else that you can all agree on? That really is pathetic and makes Barisan Nasional’s criticisms of you seem utterly valid. There is not much time left before GE14, who knows if they can get their act together.

Azmi Sharom is a law lecturer at Universiti Malaya.

This commentary was first published in Sin Chew Daily.

 

Black Swan Moments–Najib Razak’s Options


April 19, 2017

Black Swan Moments – Najib Razak’s Options

by Liew Chin Tong, MP

http://www.malaysiakini.com

In the first half of my article (Expect more black swans to appear in Malaysian politics), I explained why Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak was in a precarious position. What then are Najib’s strategies for survival? It is not that Najib doesn’t understand the precarious position he is in. He does know that Umno will not be able to win an outright mandate in the coming election.

Hence, Najib has been trying to break up the opposition as soon as the 2013 General Election was concluded.

There were even attempts by Indonesian Vice-President Yusof Kala, between June and August 2013, to broker deals between Najib and Anwar Ibrahim, which Anwar rejected.

And, since then, Najib’s strategies have included:

  • Putting Anwar Ibrahim behind bars, hence depriving the Opposition of its prime ministerial candidate and unifying figure;
  • Luring PAS into a de facto alliance with UMNO on the pretext of promoting hudud legislations; and
  • Portraying the Opposition as a DAP/Chinese-dominated alliance.

However, in his grand scheme to win by default, Najib did not anticipate:

  • The Opposition surviving despite Anwar’s imprisonment;
  • A sizable number of ousted PAS leaders forming Parti Amanah Negara in September 2015 to continue the struggle, and many in PAS still disagreeing with their top leaders’ collusion with UMNO; and
  • UMNO splitting in 2016, and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia being formed and joining Pakatan Harapan.

Broadly, even without Najib at the helm, UMNO is weaker than in the 2013 General Election for the following reasons:

First, since independence till the 2004 general election, UMNO had ruled through an extended coalition of Alliance/Barisan Nasional, and governed with substantial support from the non-Malays.

But the comfort of buffers formed by BN component parties in the Peninsula eclipsed after UMNO made a right turn – becoming more visible in its claim of Malay supremacy – in July 2005 with Hishammuddin Hussein waving the kris at the UMNO General Assembly, which led to massive defeats for its allies, the MCA, MIC and Gerakan, in both the 2008 and 2013 general elections.

UMNO dug in deeper since 2008 to push racial politics in the hope of expanding Malay support, but has achieved surprisingly little.

Second, since UMNO was incapable of expanding its support base since 2013, collaborating with PAS became an attractive option. ithopes that by colluding with PAS to polarise society into a struggle between Muslims/Malays and non-Muslims, the UMNIO-PAS de facto alliance will win enough seats between them to form the next government.

However, as an unintended consequence, such a move further alienates non-Malay voters in the Peninsula, as well as a majority of voters in Sabah and Sarawak.

Third, while Najib the man managed to command more support among Malay voters compared with UMNO the party in the 2013 election, such is no longer the case. Najib is now a burden to UMNO due to the 1MDB mega scandal, and unpopular economic policies such as the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), fuel hikes and cuts to subsidies for basic amenities like health and education.

Frustrated UMNO leaders and members led by former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad formed Bersatu and this new Malay party is making rapid inroads in areas previously inaccessible to the Opposition.

In short, UMNO under Najib is on a narrowing path that now relies on a much smaller base than ever. If Najib is still perceived as strong, it is because the Opposition is seen as weak and disunited.

What lies ahead?

The knowns are that Najib is not popular, and there is serious discontent among the Malays. But there are certainly challenges for the Opposition to overcome in order to precipitate change.

First, the Opposition needs to stand for something inspiring and visionary, and not depend solely on the anger against Najib as its forward strategy. The Opposition must stand for more than just removing Najib. The economy and the well-being of the people should be its number one priority.

Second, the coming together of Bersatu and the Pakatan Harapan parties, namely Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Parti Amanah Negara and Democratic Action Party is a reconciliation of former foes.

Who could have imagined Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim forming an alliance nearly 20 years after their very bitter fallout in 1998? But the coming together of the once political father-and-son can unleash huge energy, if handled properly. After all, both Mahathir and Anwar are positive leadership figures compared to Najib, and they each appeal to certain segments of the Malay electorate.

Third, to present a common agenda that appeals to both Mahathir’s audience and to DAP’s supporters is a big challenge. If Mahathir and Bersatu go on a racial campaign, it will depress the support of non-Malay voters and create a lose-lose situation for the entire Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Likewise, the regime’s argument against Mahathir and Bersatu is that they are associating with the DAP. The presence of the DAP can also depress the support for Bersatu and other Malay-based parties like PKR and Amanah if the opposition is unable to break out of Umno’s racial playbook, and articulate a new narrative that can rally all groups in a larger vision.

In short, Pakatan Harapan needs to ‘reset’ the national conversation to one that centres around ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ and ideas of common destiny for the nation.

Fourth, PAS, as UMNO’s ‘new friend’ as Zahid calls the party, is a reality, and the sooner a deep line is drawn between the genuine/official Opposition, Pakatan Harapan, and the pseudo ‘third force’ PAS, the clearer the situation becomes for voters. This will weaken PAS’ usefulness as an UMNO-directed spoiler in the coming election.

Fifth, the ultimate challenge for the newly re-aligned Pakatan Harapan that now  includes Bersatu will come if Najib suddenly exits the scene and takes out the raison  d’être for the opposition and dissipates much of the anger in the Malay community.

 

If this is to happen, can the opposition in its present format survive this unlikely, but not impossible, Black Swan?


This perspective is based on a public seminar given by LIEW CHIN TONG at the Institute of South-East Asian Studies (ISEAS)-Yusof Ishak Institute on April 13, 2017. Liew was formerly a Visiting Fellow at  the Institute. He is the Member of Parliament for Kluang, and a member of the central executive committee of the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

Malaysia: Racist Roots of UMNO-sponsored Redshirt Movement


April 11, 2017

Malaysia: Racist Roots of UMNO-sponsored Redshirt Movement

By: Paul Millar

 

The Malays are weak, says Dr. Mahathir.


January 10, 2017

The Malays are weak, says Dr. Mahathir. That’s rather bizarre logic

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini

“I’m a realist, I do what I can do, if I can’t do, I don’t.”

De facto Opposition Leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad

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What if I said that Malays have a lazy, rent-seeking culture, relying on political and social influence to gain wealth and unable to retain power despite all their special privileges? Would this be wrong? Would this be racist? Would this be seditious?

How about if former Prime Minister and now de facto Oopposition Leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this? Would it still be “racist”? Would this be considered some sort of truth telling? Would it make a difference when he said this last week or when he was Prime Mminister of this country?

More than a decade ago, in an UMNO General Assembly speech (which also coincided with a celebration of sorts – 21 years in office), Dr.Mahathir as UMNO President engaged in some “realist” assessment of the Malay community he had led for over two decades.

As reported by Malaysiakini, he claimed – “If today they (Malays) are colonised, there is no guarantee they will have the capacity to oppose the colonialists.” The former Premier said Malays had failed because they were lazy and sought the easy way out by reselling their shares, licences and contracts to non-Malays.

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“They cannot be patient, cannot wait a little, they want to be rich this very moment… no work is done other than to be close to people with influence and authority in order to get something. After selling and getting the cash, they come back to ask for more”,he said.

Therefore, there is a rather bizarre logic in his thinking when he said that he had no regrets about stifling dissent in young Malay people during his tenure. Bizarre because the former Prime Minister has never been afraid of using the stereotype of the Malay community as a means of galvanising support.

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And this extends to the other communities as well. Well by “others”, I really mean the Chinese community because as we all know the Indian community is absent from the discourse. In the same speech at the 2002 UMNO General Assembly, he also referenced the Chinese community – the very community that UMNO has always demonised as a threat to Malay hegemony but in reality, meant they were perceived as a threat against UMNO hegemony.

He said, “If we take out the Chinese and all that they have built and own, there will be no small or big towns in Malaysia, there will be no business and industry, there will be no funds for the subsidies, support and facilities for the Malays. Learn from the Chinese.”

Only Mahathir could balance such contradictions, playing the racial card against communities, including the one UMNO claims to represent. Which is why in Mahathir’s thinking there is really no reason why he should not be standing shoulder to shoulder with his former opponents in an attempt to bring down the Najib Abdul Razak regime.

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This is  truly bizzare

He really does not care what political pundits, who seek to remind people of what he did during his tenure, say because he knows that he then enjoyed the support of the majority of Malaysians and he did this using the kind of realpolitik that oppositional parties during his regime did not grasp or were uninterested in learning.

While some opposition supporters blather on about “truth and conscience” but offer no real evidence that these form the desideratum for oppositional forces in this country, the former prime minister has no problem twisting the facts on the ground or contorting social and economic realities to fit his narratives.

A clear example of this would be when in an interview, he acknowledged that discrimination was part of the system but that there were communities who thrived in spite of it – “The Chinese in Malaysia have no special rights, they experience discrimination. But they are more successful than us.”

This is exactly the system a Gerakan political operative was talking about when he mocked the opposition for subscribing to the same system as BN. And the same kind of thinking that for years sustained BN which led to the creation of the leviathan which in the Najib regime. We get the world we deserve.

Slaying sacred cows

And keep in mind that during Mahathir’s tenure, UMNO defined oppositional racial preoccupations because the slaying of UMNO sacred cows were the very definition (and still is) of any kind of egalitarian agenda that would truly “save Malaysia”. All those other so-called racial preoccupations, religious, social and economic are a direct result of the UMNO agenda and the mendacious ‘social contract’.

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Not True, Mahathir forgets easily

However, since the short-term goal of saving Malaysia means removing Najib, the real power brokers, those invested in the system – and they are not only Malays – would like to keep the gravy train moving, only with a different railroad engineer.

Unlike some oppositional voices who pontificate about “principles” or at least attempt to control the discourse, demonising those who dredge up so-called ancient history and engaging in victimhood to facilitate political expediency, the former prime minister is clear about the purpose of his alliance with the oppositional forces in this country.

As he told me when I brought up the trust deficit when it comes to opposition supporters and his new role as oppositional leader – “If Najib is there, the opposition will suffer. If Najib is there, even UMNO will suffer, the whole country will suffer. I think the opposition is not supporting me, they are interested in removing Najib. I have the same interest. It is okay to work together – only on that issue, not on other issues.”

Furthermore, he has had no problems claiming that he would slay Malay sacred cows for the benefit of the community – “I cannot predict how much longer this (affirmative action) will go on but at the moment, we are trying out… some kind of experiment… by withdrawing some of the protection in education,” he said. “We want to see whether they will be able to withstand the competition or not. Obviously if they prove themselves able to, we can think of reducing further some of the protection.”

This was always the stick component of the carrot-and-stick approach, and the former Prime Minster knew very well that affirmative action programmes had a deleterious effect on the Malay community.

Moreover, when he hinted that he would slay sacred cows, he was greeted with rapturous applause as some sort of truth sayer by the very same Umno who now endorse the Najib regime’s attempt to further consolidate power and engage with Mahathir’s sworn enemy, PAS.

But of course, now that the Malay community is fractured and the Malay opposition needs to reassure the Malay community, all those special privileges, all those affirmative action programmes, everything that the former prime minister said was holding back the Malay community, are off the table.

The only thing that discerning Malaysians have to take away from any of this is that Mahathir acknowledges that he failed to change the Malay community – “What else (can I do) … I have tried to be an example, tried to teach, scolded, cried and even prayed. (But) I have failed. I have failed to achieve the most important thing – how to change the Malays.”

When asked if there was anything he would do differently, he claimed that he wanted to be a “normal” UMNO member because he could not do anything for the Malays. Well, he is not even a member now and he is the power behind a nascent Malay power structure.

The big question is, will he fail again. More importantly, is changing the Malays really the agenda of the game for him or anyone else.