Rudderless PKR : Courting PAS is a strategic error


May 25, 2016

 Rudderless PKR : Courting PAS is a strategic error

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

It appears that PKR leaders do not know what the electorate wants. The rakyat do not want wishy-washy politicians. We want firm leaders who have our interests at heart. We do not want race and religion to set us apart.

We know that we can move forward only when we have strong leaders who would not allow themselves to be stabbed in the back twice. We certainly won’t trust a political party that vacillates from one viewpoint to another or make an alliance with a known enemy.

Soon after the Sarawak state election, PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali horrified us when he expressed an intention to invite PAS back into the opposition coalition for GE14. This week, it was PKR President Wan Azizah Ismail’s turn to shock us. She suggested that PKR could talk with PAS about the upcoming by-elections in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar.

Why does PKR want to do business with PAS? Joining up with PAS and Hadi Awang is like taking a step into the unknown. Can Hadi be trusted after all his machinations against the opposition coalition and the deals he has made with UMNO-Baru?

Is Wan Azizah a stickler for punishment, or has Azmin Ali managed to convince her of PAS’ shining qualities? Is there a plot of some kind that we’re yet to uncover?

Does Wan Azizah remember how Hadi humiliated her when she was nominated for the post of Selangor MB? Hadi kept the nation waiting for one month, saying that he could not divulge the reasons for his opposition to Wan Azizah’s nomination. In the end, he said a woman could not serve as MB. He even hinted that he feared people would go to hell if they were ruled by a woman as MB or PM. Malaysia does not need politicians who are misogynists.

At the 2014 PAS muktamar in Johor, Hadi insulted two PAS assemblymen because they supported Wan Azizah’s nomination. He called them “baruah,” using a loaded Malay word for “lackey”. It’s original meaning is “pimp”.

For all we know, Hadi is still in discussion with UMNO-Baru for a unity government. Doesn’t Wan Azizah remember Hadi’s arrogance? He said he would attend Pakatan Rakyat meetings only when he felt like it.

PKR, which some people have always seen as a party of UMNO-Baru rejects, is now in danger of gaining a reputation as a party of indecision. Why is PKR afraid to take a firm stand? If it’s policies are good for the nation, it should forge ahead with them with confidence and thereby strengthen public trust in it. However, if it shows indecisiveness and teams up with PAS, whatever trust the public now has in it will be eroded.

The rakyat have waited 59 years for a leader they can trust. They will not mind waiting a few more years for the right party to present such a leader. PAS is not that party. Hadi is not that leader, and neither is anyone who plays footsie with him.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

 

To the Malaysian Opposition: Stop your crap and arrogance


May 23, 2016

To the Malaysian Opposition: Stop your crap and arrogance

by Scott Ng

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

 

The anti-Najib forces have all but lost their war, going by the sounds from Zaid Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad these days. Barisan Nasional is perhaps as powerful as it was during Mahathir’s own time, even if does not have the same finesse.

But what the Najib administration lacks in finesse it makes up with raw power, thanks to the mechanisms put in place by Mahathir to ensure challenge to his rule would never be a serious matter.

The Master Planner who crippled Malaysia

Najib’s heavy-handed approach has civil society constantly worrying that a little push will be all it takes to make a police state a reality. Truly, it is ironical that the man who laid down the seeds of our current political situation, and who handpicked Najib to succeed Abdullah Badawi, must spend the twilight of his years fighting the very culmination of his own policies. Some might want to call it poetic justice.

However, the average Malaysian has perhaps come to a point where he doesn’t care anymore. He has for so long put up with the politicians’ maneuvering, jousting, shenanigans, misdirection and blatant unconcern of the man on the street in their pursuit for power that he is now probably more tired than angry over the whole situation.

And now, as another round of politicking begins, it is not Barisan Nasional that’s embarrassing itself, but the Opposition. The Opposition’s failure to present a united front on Save Malaysia is symptomatic of its failure to be united on any issue of concern to the rakyat.

With presumably less than two years away before they vote in a general election, Malaysians are left with less of a choice than what is available to one of those poor saps in a “Saw” movie. Voter apathy will be at its worst, barring some unforeseen revival of the Opposition or some revelation from one of the international investigations on 1MDB that will be devastating to Najib and BN.

Meanwhile, of course, Najib would like nothing better than for the rakyat to take a good hard look at the children squabbling in the Opposition’s yard.

The Prime Minister can happily concentrate on winding down 1MDB and keeping his nose out of trouble while the Opposition parties seize the headlines with their internal conflicts, which at this point is mostly within PKR.

But DAP is also under fire, especially in Penang, due to the roughshod way Lim Guan Eng has run over environmental concerns and the apparent unwillingness of his government to be as transparent as it promised.

If the Opposition is indeed serious about making a challenge in the next GE, it needs to get its act together now. There is precious little time to criss cross the country to win hearts and minds.

With Mahathir declaring that his goal is to see UMNO’s defeat in GE14, the opposition parties now have a powerful ally indeed. Instead of squabbling over whether they should be involved with a 90-year-man, they should take advantage of his experience and his intimate knowledge of BN

Resurgence of Right Wing Politics


May 19, 2016

Austria’s Election Is a Warning to the West–Resurgence of Right Wing Politics

by Sylvie Kauffmann

http://www.nytimes.com

PARIS — On Monday, the Western world may well wake up to the news that, for the first time since the defeat of Nazism, a European country has democratically elected a far-right head of state. Norbert Hofer, of the Austrian Freedom Party, claimed 35 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election on April 24. Now he is heading into the second round on Sunday with the two mainstream parties having been eliminated from the runoff and the Social Democratic chancellor, Werner Faymann, having resigned.

One month later, Europeans may wake up to the news that British voters have decided, in their June 23 referendum, that their country should become the first member state to leave the European Union. Many observers fear that would be fatal to the European project itself.

And on April 24, 2017, exactly a year after Mr. Hofer’s first-round victory, the French may well wake up to the news that Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, has come out on top in the first round of France’s presidential election. That is what polls say we could expect if the election were held today.

In the meantime, it is not impossible that Donald J. Trump, however low his odds seem now, will have moved into the White House. These are not Orwellian scenarios. Signs of defiance toward the old democratic order are so numerous that the news of Mr. Hofer’s first-round victory hardly reached the front pages of European newspapers.

Remember when the election of President Kurt Waldheim in the 1980s, or the antics by the Freedom Party leader Jörg Haider in the 1990s were considered deeply disturbing? That was last century. Today, Austria’s weird politics are no longer isolated. They are part of a solid trend across Europe.

And not just Europe. The trend reaches across the Atlantic, too, with Trumpism threatening to split or take over the Republican Party.

Norbert Hofer, center, of the Austrian Freedom Party, took 35 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election. CreditChristian Bruna/European Pressphoto Agency

Far-right populist movements have joined governing coalitions in Finland and Norway. They influence the political agenda in Denmark and the Netherlands. In Germany, which seemed immune from that disease, the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany recently scored 12 percent to 24 percent of the vote in three state elections. In Croatia, the minister of culture is trying to rehabilitate the fascist ideas of the Ustashe.

Those developments have generally been seen as negative but marginal — the center was still holding. Then the “illiberal wave” swept Central Europe, following the model of the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban. Poland and Slovakia are now also ruled by populist, anti-immigration, euroskeptic parties. The election of a far-right Austrian president would add a new dimension, extending the phenomenon beyond the post-Communist space where populist governments could be seen as a transitional stage for young democracies. Austria is not new Europe. It is old Europe.

We struggle to explain the rise of the far right in its various guises. Immigration is important, but the dynamics predated the refugee crisis. The euro crisis has not helped. High unemployment is crucial in France and Austria, but not an issue in Britain. Chaos in the Arab world, following the fiasco of the American-led invasion of Iraq, fuels new Middle East wars and terrorist attacks in Europe, adding to feelings of insecurity. Globalization, the loss of middle-class jobs, the rise of inequality and anxiety over the European social model have left immense frustration. Everywhere, anger toward ruling elites and mainstream institutions is patent.

Sound familiar? Yes, this is a trans-Atlantic phenomenon. Here and there, surfing on this anger, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson or Marine Le Pen utter statements that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. By accepting daily verbal assaults on immigrants (“They bring disease”), the European Union (“like Hitler,” it wants to impose one authority over Europe), Islam (not part of Europe; Muslims should not be allowed into the United States), torture (bring it back), we are legitimizing a public discourse that may, one day, translate into political decisions.

Like most European center-right or center-left leaders, President Obama understands this. On the day after the first round of Austria’s election, he warned in a speech in Hanover, Germany, against “the creeping emergence of the kind of politics that the European project was founded to reject: an us-versus-them mentality that tries to blame our problems on the other.” “Our progress,” he pointed out, “is not inevitable.”

 

As multiple forces rip apart the liberal order, what is lacking from Washington, though, is an acknowledgment of the global and historic dimension of this phenomenon. This is not only about Europe. The symptoms that characterize the rise of Trumpism are the same as those of “the creeping emergence” Mr. Obama described. Recently, Pope Francis urged leaders to “update the idea of Europe.” Well, the broader idea of the West also badly needs an update.

On August 14, 1941, with Europe engulfed by war, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met aboard the American cruiser Augusta and drafted the Atlantic Charter. This brief statement established eight common principles on which the two leaders based “their hopes for a better future of the world.” For decades, those principles, among them “freedom from fear and want” and “improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security,” would be seen as the inspiration of the free world. These were brave, progressive goals then. Now they deserve an update.

President Obama, we are told, is working on his legacy; visits to Cuba and Hiroshima are certainly appropriate. But there is another mission to embark on with Europeans. Or the man celebrated in 2008 as the first black American to be elected president will risk going down in history as the last American leader to preside over a Western democratic order.

The Philippines and the Politics of Failure


May 16, 2016

COMMENT: Let us respect the choice of the Filipino people, although we may not agree their choice. Donald Trump too  can be chosen as the next US President over Hillary Clinton. I prefer the former Secretary of State, but Mr. Trump who is blunt and business like could be the first Republican President after 8 years of Obama’s liberal politics. So let the American voters decide on the man or the woman they want.

It is just a reflection of the times. Everywhere we look today be they be in France, Poland, Austria, Sweden and even Germany, right wing politicians are increasingly popular because voters expect leaders to be tough on law and order, ISIS terrorism,  and national security. Governments with liberal agendas have failed and that is why The Bern is giving Hillary a rough time in the primaries.

Both articles are negative about the Filipino President-elect.  Both tend to judge what Mr. Duterte on the basis of his past as Mayor of Davao City when both Asia Sentinel and Bunn Nagara know that running a country is not the same as being a city mayor.

The role of the President of the Philippines is demanding since it means defending the national interest and pursuing a foreign policy that emphasizes the Philippines’s role in  ASEAN, and managing its relationship with the United States in connection with the  South China Sea dispute, and  his country’s handling of the Sabah claim visa-a-vice Malaysia. Mr. Duterte should also worry about the need to fight rampant corruption, terrorism and piracy, and manage the economy which has benefited from the policies of President Benigno Aquino III .

Bunn Negara (above), Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, he conveniently comments–even in his personal capacity– on the politics of the Philippines.  It is easy to write about it but he is unable to proffer his views critically on what is happening in Malaysia where the Najib administration, his UMNO kleptocrats and public officials have been mismanaging the economy  since 2009. Bun Nagara should be asking Najib what kind of country he is running.

Prime Minister  Najib Razak achieved the rare distinction in ASEAN and around the world for politics of race and religion, rampant corruption–The Economist recently ranked Malaysia as the second most corrupt nation in the world–and abuses of power including being caught red handed transferring public money into his personal bank account (some RM2.6 billion)  and  messing up the financial affairs of 1MDB, the national sovereign fund, which has defaulted on some of its Malaysian Government guaranteed bonds.

Like all analysts associated with the Najib Administration, he is afraid to speak the truth about Prime Minister Najib’s corruption and abuses of power. Yet he has the audacity to comment on the new Philippine administration whose President has yet to be inaugurated.–Din Merican   

The Philippines and the Politics of Failure – Asia Sentinel | Asia Sentinel

­

President Rodrigo Duterte. If this is the next leader of the Philippines, as early results from Monday’s election portend, one has to wonder how it came to this. The country seems condemned to dwell on the past in the form of both leaders and issues while its political elite – in this case the blah figure of Mar Roxas – clings to an egotistical belief in itself to the detriment of common sense.

If, as is possible with the race too close to call, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., son of the former dictator,  triumphs for Vice President over reform-minded Leni Robredo, the country would have confounded reason.

 Vice President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Duterte, an ailing and bizarrely misogynistic advocate of vigilante justice, built his reputation in the years after Davao City emerged from a dirty war between communist rebels and the government that turned the metropolis into a frightening ghost town after dark. Duterte became the avenging mayor a generation ago, apparently allowing the killing of rebels and criminals in staggering numbers. He now promises to do the same for the entire country, only targeting crooks rather than communists.

This may tap into a well spring of public anger not unlike the voters following Donald Trump in the US, but the reality is that murder with impunity has long been a hallmark of the Philippines system, with Police often backing the assassins on behalf of powerful politicians. One shudders to think what sort of hit list Duterte may have in mind.

And in an even stranger instance of impunity and mass amnesia, Bongbong Marcos is contending for the Vice Presidency (the two posts are elected separately in the Philippines, a strange constitutional anomaly that adds to an already dysfunctional political system) almost exactly 30 years after his thieving father and mother were ousted from power. Bongbong, a man whose chief accomplishment is his last name, has the once-reviled Marcoses back in the center ring, continuing a Marcos versus Aquino family battle that dates back to the 1950s.

All this is happening after six successful years of President Benigno Aquino III, whose father was murdered while President Marcos was in power and whose mother pushed the erstwhile dictator and his flashy wife out the door. Investors like what has been happening under Aquino, growth rates are robust and the country has seemed, yet again, poised to fulfill a portion of its potential.

Bad boys all

But it is the same old Philippines apparently, where politics is a blood sport among families and demagogues like Duterte can inflame the anger of the perennially disenfranchised majority.

There seem to be three main reasons for the sad news from the polls. First, the unelectable Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, darling of the Aquino camp and a dull elitist in the eyes of the public, refused to give up his guaranteed-to-fail quest for the presidency, thus splitting the “sane” vote with Grace Poe, who may be a largely unknown quantity but at least appears reasonable and fairly clean. “Everything good they did, they have ruined with their egos,” said a Filipino friend in summing up the failed political instincts of Aquino and Mar.

Second, Aquino’s Liberal Party, seemingly convinced that only it can lead the country, also massively underestimated Duterte by focusing instead on bringing down current Vice President Jejomar Binay, who became an also ran in Monday’s voting. But even the scandal-riddled Binay is at least an adult, a brilliant tactical politician who would likely have made a competent, if ethically challenged President.

The past revisited

But the factor that seems to stand out the most is the alienation of voters from power in the Philippines. These citizens, still largely ruled by a clutch of feudal families with Spanish surnames like Roxas, may vote for the name “Aquino,” as they did six years ago, because it is familiar and Corazon Aquino was widely seen as a woman of almost divine virtue. But they may also swing to the promise of vengeance for unspecified grievances as they appear to have done in the case of Duterte and as they did the last time this kind of thing happened, in 1998, when movie star and populist drunk Joseph Estrada succeeded the country’s last competent President, Fidel Ramos.

That this time around the rise of the thuggish Duterte is accompanied by the almost surreal return of the Marcos family to near the pinnacle of power, is as dismal a result as one could conjure up for the Philippines. One might think back thirty years and imagine this could have been different had the justice system functioned with enough courage and professionalism to convict the elder Marcos of one of his many apparent crimes. But Cory Aquino had no desire to see Marcos punished other than by exile and in the Philippines crime usually goes largely unpunished, especially when it is committed on a grand enough scale by a powerful family.

And now what? In the case of Estrada, the elites of Makati were so deeply embarrassed by his shenanigans with women and the bottle that they helped engineer a church-backed coup to put him in his place in 2001. That led to nine years of instability and decline under Gloria Arroyo’s scandalous presidency. With Bongbong potentially waiting in the wings under a President Duterte, just getting the military to help back yet another “People Power” may not be so simple.

Given that the Philippine ruling class – and it is a ruling class, make no mistake – sees elections as nothing more than an inconvenient distraction, we can now brace ourselves for conspiracy theories and dire scenarios. If activist and lawyer Robredo, whose late husband was a rising star in the Aquino cabinet when he died in a 2012 plane crash, hangs on to her slim lead for the No. 2 spot, it will be seen as a victory of sorts for reason and the drums will start beating for her to replace Duterte.

 It did not have to be this way and if blame has to be apportioned, it lies pretty squarely with Aquino and his bestie Mar. Now the world will again look on in disbelief at all this, wondering what the heck is wrong with the Philippines. We also wish we knew the answer to that question.

Bunn Nagara: Let Real Test Begin for The Philippines

FROM almost nowhere, a dark horse candidate sweeps past his fancied political rivals to surge towards the coveted national leadership.

Loud, brash, crude, insensitive but irrepressibly popular, his unorthodox manner and disturbing pledges threaten as much as excite. Clearly, he has touched enough raw nerves to ensure constant media focus on him and his campaign.

Defying simple and standard labelling, allegations of financial impropriety, including tax evasion, fail to faze the defiant and abrasive candidate who continues to accumulate grassroots, anti-establishment support.

The apparent success of his campaign is a test of both his political acumen and the democratic system that had enabled it.

Thailand had that moment with Thaksin Shinawatra, and the US is undergoing it with Donald Trump. One week ago the Philippines embarked on that path by electing Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte as President.

Exactly what kind of government will such a personality make? Is his bite really as bad as his bark, and is that as bad as others have said it to be?

The answers are still imprecise as the political character of the new President himself continues to evolve, not least in relation to the realities of the day.

There has been no shortage of warnings and alarm over Duterte’s pronouncements, or casual comments, on due legal process and democratic accountability. Along with many others, outgoing President Benigno Aquino III has sounded those warnings. But since Duterte’s detractors include his political opponents, the warnings lack the credibility they need.

How has a once-unfancied candidate turned voters around so much while defying virtually all conventions? Such “mysteries” will remain unresolved and unresolvable as long as the political establishment itself refuses to take stock of the underlying realities.

Duterte’s popular appeal to get tough on crime and criminals resonated with the people. If previous Presidents had been as convincing in the task, or his rivals as persuasive in promising to do it better, his candidacy might have been in the balance.

Another important aspect of Duterte’s popularity is his direct and unabashed style. His loudness and unpolished manner only helped to authenticate the apparent honesty of his content and delivery.

In contrast, the middle-class special interests that his rivals had become identified with were a disabling liability. So when Duterte championed the poor, in a society where the poor still needed championing, he came away with greater credibility than the other aspirants.

Yet another edge that he held over his rivals as a candidate was that he was an outsider. As with Trump and Thaksin, that made his attacks on a gridlocked establishment weighed down by sleaze more plausible.

In time he may develop his own brand of sleaze, especially after he concentrates power at the expense of independent critiques and accounting, but voters have decided to leave that for another day.

On polling day itself, Duterte could still have been stopped if his two closest rivals, Mar Roxas and Grace Poe, had joined forces. Aquino had said as much in a last-ditch effort to derail Duterte’s campaign.

Opinion polls had placed Duterte some 10 percentage points ahead of Roxas, and slightly more in front of Poe. With their popularity combined in a joint campaign, they could have defeated Duterte by up to 10 percentage points instead.

Philippine election campaigns are typically rich in the personal character of the candidates, with little difference in ideologies. They also bear a trademark personal scramble for votes at the expense of virtually everything else.

Among the allegations against Duterte during the campaign was his alleged link to “Joma” (Jose Maria) Sison, the former university professor and head of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

That could have worked to cut the appeal of his pro-poor message, or so his rivals seemed to have hoped. But again, the allegation failed to work.

So an almost “teflon” Duterte continued to campaign effectively and won. Once more, his defeated rivals need to reflect on how they had also been culpable in neglecting the plight of the poor.

Now that Duterte’s victory has become a fait accompli for the rest of the country, critics and opponents alike are resigned to pondering his, and also their, next moves.

There is a universal assumption that however radical a candidate may be, as incumbent he tends to mellow. Already Duterte and his team have encouraged this thought.

Soon upon becoming the “Presumptive President,” Duterte indicated that he would model his Cabinet after the politically correct line-up of arch-liberal and conservative target Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.

Trudeau’s Cabinet is described as gender-sensitive and ethnically diverse, the supposed antithesis of Duterte’s rough and chauvinistic image. The mellowing of Duterte had begun.

And what of the hardened criminals for whom Duterte was supposed to be the worst nightmare? The President-elect would now consider building maximum security prisons for them as in the US.

It is a far cry from the random mass murder of suspects and convicts he is said to have promised, or threatened. More mellowing can be expected on other fronts, along with protrayals of Duterte as a flip-flopper.

The market seems to have picked up on signs of a maturing Duterte presidency to be. Confidence is returning to the incoming political leadership after a brief period of doubt, as the peso remains strong.

Besides, how could any business community be averse to promises of heavier doses of law and order? Businesses would be ecstatic if a leader could make good on pledges to make the proverbial “trains run on time.”

On his part, Duterte is smart enough to understand that the national economy is the make-or-break factor for any leadership. Brazil, among others, is a showcase of how economic fortunes can determine the fate of leaders regardless of anything else.

However, Duterte and all that he represents is still untested on foreign relations. He has so far issued conflicting signals on how he would deal with an assertive China on disputed territory in the South China Sea.

For the Philippines, the issue concerns more than China as it also involves the US and Manila’s security treaty with Washington. Adding weight to the matter is a Duterte presidency’s inheritance of the legal tussle that the country has brought on with China.

Dealing effectively and satisfactorily with the issue demands a degree of perspicacity, nuance and sensitivity that has seemed elusive to Rody. But stumbling over it can also spell disaster for the new government.

It cannot be an issue that Duterte’s government would want out of choice, as an additional burden to having to tackle various domestic challenges at the same time. Yet it is something that no government in Manila’s position can avoid addressing.

This, and how the Philippines will now position itself on the claim to Sabah territory among descendants of the erstwhile Sulu sultanate, will test Duterte’s statesmanship to the hilt. It can be assured that such matters will be watched closely by much of the rest of the world.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

 

Sarawak 2016 Elections: Why Sarawakans reject Pakatan Harapan


May 15, 2016

Sarawak 2016 Elections:  Why Sarawakans reject Pakatan Harapan

by William Leong Jee Keen (received via e-mail)

We know why Sarawakians on  May 7. 2016 returned Barisan Nasional as State government. This is because the opposition failed to offer a viable alternative government for voters to choose. Wisdom, humility, patience, willingness to compromise, cooperation and teamwork–the essential requirements for a coalition government– were clearly lacking from the opposition leadership and the rank and file.

Same Pillow Different Dreams

This episode reveals although DAP, PKR and Amanah professes to be multiracial parties, each party’s concept and strategy is different. As the Malay proverb says “tidur sebantal tetapi mimpi lain-lain.” If Pakatan Harapan is to become a viable alternative government the parties must reach consensus on the approach to end racial politics. Failure to do so means, it is better for each to go its separate way for in 14th General Election.

Same Pillow Different Dreams–Egos and  Ambitions

The opposition parties have tried and failed to form a coalition many times before. Pakatan Harapan is destined to join the list of failures unless the parties are able to agree upon, implement and assure voters it has a model, strategy and road map for ending racial politics. The opposition must put into place a convincing mechanism for our plural society with its diverse ethnic communities, cultures, religions and languages to live and work in harmony, at ease and at peace with each other. It must be a model that can integrate and accommodate the different ethnic groups and religions. It must allay their collective fears for change in the future brought upon by living through the history of the past. Pakatan Rakyat before this and Pakatan Harapan until now have failed to do this.   

To remove a regime sustained by racial politics and exercising authoritarian power where elections are not held on a level playing field, the opposition must recognize the differing ethnic or religious support each brings as building blocks to the coalition are also the stumbling blocks to success.

To succeed they will need to bring their policies towards the centre avoiding extreme positions that appeal to their supporters but offend others. Each party’s leadership and rank and file need to display wisdom to accept a model for bringing the voters of different ethnicity and religions to support the cause, moderate their policies and tamper their rhetoric. They need to have humility to accept their party may not play the role of the dominant partner or its leader the supreme commander of the coalition or designated as Prime Minister. They need patience to make the coalition work, its common policies accepted and confidence in the coalition instilled in the electorate. They need to cooperate and work as a team to achieve success, there is no room for prima donnas.

Political Coalition Negotiating as an Electoral Alliance.

Pakatan Harapan negotiates seat allocation like an electoral alliance not a political coalition. An electoral alliance is an agreement made before the election amongst opposition parties to ensure a straight fight between opposition candidates and the ruling party. There is no agreement on policies and government positions. If the electoral alliance wins they may or may not form a government amongst themselves. One or more of the opposition parties may instead even put their lot with the ruling party to form the government. This is what PAS said they will do in the 14GE. The party to rule the federation or the state will be the one with the most seats. This is the reason each opposition party is jockeying for winnable seats, seeking dominance to appoint the prime minister or chief minister, federal or state ministerial posts including local councillors and village chiefs. This is the main cause for the lack of cooperation and teamwork amongst the Pakatan parties. As patience, tolerance and goodwill have human limits this negotiation system is a model for the self-destruction of Pakatan.

A political coalition on the other hand is an agreement by the political parties before election not only on the allocation of the seats but also the policies and administration of the government if it wins. There is a prior agreement on the post of the prime minister, the cabinet of the federation, the chief minister and executive members for each state, the division and allocation of government positions and including GLC directorship. If the coalition wins and one of the parties fail to win its allocation of seats or even one single seat, the power-sharing agreement is nevertheless put into effect. This ensures unity, mutual assistance and support for each party by the others in the coalition.

It is better for Pakatan to argue the seat allocation, ministerial positions and resolve the differences now than wait to negotiate when elections are called only for the coalition to collapse on nomination day.          

Model for Governing a Deeply Divided Society

Putrajaya is a distant dream

Pakatan must adopt a suitable model for the government of a plural society. We are all fully aware Malaysia is a society deeply divided by ethnicity, race, religion and language. These ethnic divisions produce ethnic political parties and ethnic voting. With the first past the post system of election and majority rule, UMNO as an ethnic party supported by the majority ethnic group, can dominate minority groups seemingly in perpetuity.

Ethnic activists and political entrepreneurs make blatant communal appeals and outbid moderate politicians, mobilizing members, polarizing society and magnifying inter-ethnic group dilemmas. Non-rational factors such as emotions, historical memories and myths exacerbate the inter-ethnic tensions. In Malaysia, access to resources lies in the heart of the inter-ethnic tensions. Property rights, jobs, scholarships, education admissions, language rights, government contracts and development allocations confer benefits to the majority ethnic group. Political power is therefore of critical importance. The ethnic group that controls political power gain access to these goods and resources thereby ensuring their social and economic welfare. Where policies and programmes to aid those living in poverty and the disadvantaged is classified by ethnic origins and not class, ethnic minorities are marginalised and discriminated. In a multi-ethnic society such as ours the struggle to control state policy produces the competing ethnic interests.

It is therefore imperative Pakatan Harapan is able to present its vision for interethnic political conciliation.    

Pakatan must apply Centripetalism and discard Consociationalism

Barisan Nasional boasts the best approach for achieving stability in our plural society is the BN way. It preaches that only by having race-based parties that are able to come to some degree of understanding and cooperation are we able to achieve a fragile unity and some measure of peace.

In the euphoria of winning five states, denying BN its two-third parliament majority in 2008 and 51% of the popular vote in 2013, some believe racial politics is ended by a Pakatan grand coalition replacing the BN grand coalition. PKR and PAS replace UMNO to represent the Malays and DAP replaces MCA, Gerakan, MIC and the others to represent the non-Malays. It is a simplistic idea and one that is wrong.

Consociationalism failed Malaysia

The BN grand coalition is held out as a form of consociationalist government. A consociationalist government is a model used in plural societies to manage ethnic conflict. It consists of a grand coalition government of elites from each political party representing exclusively his own ethnic group. It is based on the assumption that the elites recognise non-cooperation would lead to adverse consequences, that decisions are made by consensus and right of minority veto would allow the different groups to have a say on policy making and government decisions.

The BN grand coalition failed Malaysia. UMNO enjoys complete dominance and control of BN. The other parties have no influence over government decisions and policies. It has been shown in the past sixty years that consociationalism did not work for Malaysia and other South East Asian countries. It stratified ethnic identity and heightened ethnic differences. The temptation for the elites falling prey to corruption proved too much for many to resist. Interethnic accommodation deteriorated as the rule of law weakened due to the legal institutions’ inability to stand up to the strong political elites. Further, consociationalism proved to be incompatible with open, competitive democracy as a result of a perceived need to control political expression of ethnicity and management of communal relations. The consociational governments of Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia (where the 1993 constitution required a two-third vote of confidence for the investiture of a new government) and Indonesia (during the 1950’s and under the presidency of Abdulrrahman Wahid between 1999 and 2001) descended into semi-democracies or outright authoritarian regimes.            

Centripetalism is the correct tool

PKR believes to end racial politics, Pakatan must discard consociationlism. PKR sees centripetalism as the only model for managing our ethnic issues. The best way to mitigate the destructive patterns of a divided society is not to encourage the formation of ethnic political parties or to replicate existing ethnic divisions in the legislature and other government institutions, but rather to depoliticize ethnicity by requiring politicians and their supporters to accommodate each ethnic group, to seek support from across the ethnic divide and making voters based their choice on issues other than ethnicity.

Centripetalism is the approach to pull the different ethnic groups towards moderate, compromising policies. Politicians in a multi-ethnic party have to appeal to all segments instead of shopping for votes in his own community. Politicians from multi-ethnic parties make cross-ethnic appeals and demonstrate their capacity to represent groups besides their own. Under a centripetalist model politicians move to the centre of policy issues to attract voters from all ethnic groups. It emphasizes the importance of encouraging integration across ethno-political divides.

PKR leaders and representatives being members of a truly multiracial political party have proven their ability to reach out and attract votes from all ethnic groups besides their own, moderate their political rhetoric on potentially divisive issues and have learned to broaden their policy positions to make cross-ethnic appeals.

Anwar Ibrahim has called out from the depths of his prison cell for the party and Pakatan to persevere with the centripetalist model. He knows it works. In 2008, Anwar Ibrahim was able to take Lim Guan Eng into the kampongs and Malay majority constituencies to hold him out as a chief minister who can take care of Malay interest as well as Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Dayak and all Malaysians.  

Putting Centripetalism into practice

To end racial politics Pakatan must adopt centripetalism. This means Pakatan must reject the grand coalition of ethnic parties. DAP is in substance a Chinese-based party expanding into mixed non-Malay seats. By taking away the non-Malay seats from PKR and Amanah, their essential nature of being multi-racial parties is eroded. DAP’s demand, in effect, is for these parties to cede their non-Malay seats, consequently their non-Malay leadership, elected representatives, members and support base to DAP. DAP is pushing PKR and Amanah into becoming Malay political parties. By doing so, DAP is pushing Pakatan into adopting the BN failed consociationlist model.      

Adoption and implementation of the centripetalist model is not by one party or the other in Pakatan demanding for winnable seats, it is by the distribution of all Malay-majority, Chinese-majority, mixed seats across the board to each of the three parties equally subject to the peculiar demographics of the states and constituencies. This means PKR and Amanah must be allocated Chinese-majority seats and DAP Malay-majority seats. Each of the parties have to be allocated both urban as well as rural seats. In this way each of the component parties in order to win their diverse ethnic seats has to move their policies from the extreme into the centre and their leadership and grass roots shift their rhetoric from intemperance to moderation.   

Leadership and Dominance

Without in any way being disrespectful to the leadership and capabilities of Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng and all DAP leaders and members, the sad but undeniable truth is the road to end racial politics, no matter how one tries to twist and turn, must pass through the gates of the 60% Malay-Muslim majority holding the key to 114 parliamentary seats in peninsula Malaysia. Gerrymandering and malapportionment will always be there. We have to take this in our stride in the fight against racial politics and an authoritarian regime. Only a Malay-Muslim majority political party which espouses moderation, equality and multi-ethnicity can take us there.

UMNO is well aware of this and have placed great emphasis to remind Malays on the need for Malay unity to protect their race, religion and culture. To maintain their hold on Malay support, Malay leaders who dare to join multi-ethnic political parties are cut-off from the community, turned into outcasts, persecuted, imprisoned and discredited. UMNO did this to Dato Onn Jaffar, have done this to Anwar Ibrahim and will do this to the young Malay leaders, activists, academicians and student leaders. The price extracted on Malays who choose multi-ethnicity and equity is a high one. Anwar Ibrahim has broken this psychological chain used to tie the Malays to UMNO by paying the heavy price of being persecuted, loss of personal liberty and physical well-being. This precious prize so dearly won must be fully capitalized upon by Pakatan.

It is another sad and tragic truth that UMNO has tarred and feathered DAP as the bogeyman for Malays. It is obviously illogical and absolutely untrue that DAP is anti-Malay and anti-Islam. Unfortunately, ill-advised or instinctive responses to UMNO provocation, the occasional slip of the tongue by DAP leaders and the insensitive statements by overzealous grass root leaders serve to validate UMNO’s claims in the eyes of the Malays. UMNO and its media pounced on such statements to ensure Malays will not forgive and never forget such transgressions. UMNO has dehumanized DAP leaders before the Malays resulting in fear and demonization of DAP. Although DAP seeks to address this stigma by appointing Malay leaders and having elected representatives, some of whom are excellent personalities and parliamentarians, it is an uphill task. There is no chance of winning Malay hearts and minds if one cannot even get pass the door.

Until this can be accomplished DAP needs to be sensitive that expansion by them, their ascendancy and assertiveness is seen as dominance in Pakatan Rakyat before and Pakatan Harapan now. It validates UMNO’s rhetoric that the Malay leaders in PKR and PAS then and Amanah now are DAP puppets who have sold their race to the Chinese. PKR and PAS leaders’ credibility before Malay eyes are severely and irreparably damaged. DAP’s victories sow the seeds of Pakatan’s defeat.

This is attested by the 13th General Elections. DAP’s record winning number of 38 parliament seats was matched by an equally impressive win of 88 seats by UMNO. DAP won all the Chinese-majority seats. UMNO won 83.5% of rural seats containing 73.76% of rural Malay votes. PKR and PAS bore the brunt of UMNO’s resurgence. Malays saw the ascendancy of DAP as a challenge to Malay supremacy. Malays fearful of DAP’s agenda as told by UMNO returned to UMNO’s fold. Voting for the other Malay based parties, PAS and PKR was not an option, because they are part of Pakatan and a vote for Pakatan is a vote for DAP. UMNO’s racial rhetoric struck the right chord with the Malays. Irrational as it may sound the fear of Chinese domination and the Malay race disappearing from the face of the earth saw Malays voting to maintain Ketuanan Melayu despite UMNO’s record of financial scandals, poor governance and corruption. Fear after all, is never rational.

For the 14GE, Hadi Awang recognising this, steered PAS out of Pakatan to work with UMNO. PKR and Amanah have kept the faith. They are however, painfully aware that unless fundamental changes are made in Pakatan to attract Malay votes, DAP’s ascendancy hangs like an albatross over their heads to win Malay support.        

Conclusion

DAP can win all the non-Malay majority seats but these are not enough to form the government. By taking all the non-Malay majority seats and achieving dominance in Pakatan Harapan, DAP is winning the battle but Pakatan will lose the war. The tragic truth of the racial tensions and ugly reality of our ethnic divide must be dealt with in a practical manner otherwise the cracks in Pakatan may lead to permanent fissure. Failure to learn from victories lead to defeat, failure to learn from defeat lead to destruction.

This article is the personal opinion of the writer. It does not reflect the party’s position and nothing is to be construed as such.

William Leong Jee Keen

14th May 2016   

 

DAP’s Dominance, Pakatan’s Downfall?


May 15, 2016

DAP’s Dominance, Pakatan’s Downfall?

Opposition parties must form a real coalition, not an electoral alliance, and moderate their positions.

COMMENT

By William Leong Jee Keen

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

AP needs to be sensitive that expansion by them, their ascendancy and assertiveness is seen as dominance in Pakatan. It validates UMNO’s rhetoric that Pakatan Malay leaders are DAP puppets who have sold out to the Chinese. PKR and PAS leaders’ credibility before Malay eyes are severely and irreparably damaged. DAP’s victories sow the seeds of Pakatan’s defeat.–William Leong

The opposition has failed to offer Sarawakians a viable alternative government for voters to choose. The essential requirements for a coalition government – wisdom, humility, patience, willingness to compromise, cooperation and teamwork – were clearly lacking in the opposition leadership and their rank and file.

Pakatan Rakyat in 2008

Pakatan Harapan –2016

Although DAP, PKR and Amanah profess to be multiracial, each party’s concept and strategy are different. As the Malay proverb says “tidur sebantal tetapi mimpi lain-lain.” If Pakatan Harapan is to become a viable alternative government, the parties must reach consensus on the approach to end racial politics. Failure is not an option. If they cannot do this, it is better for each to go their separate ways for the 14th General Election.

Anwar --The Prisoner

UMNO put him in jail and ended hope of an Alternative Government

Opposition parties have tried and failed to form a coalition many times before. Pakatan Harapan is destined to join the list of failures unless the parties are able to agree upon, implement and assure voters it has a model, strategy and road map for ending racial politics.

It must be a model that can integrate and accommodate the different ethnic groups and religions. It must allay their collective fears for change in the future brought upon by living through the history of the past. Pakatan Rakyat before this and Pakatan Harapan until now have failed to do this.

The opposition must recognise that they will need to bring their policies towards the centre avoiding extreme positions that appeal to their own supporters but offending others. They must accept a model for bringing the voters to support the cause, moderate their policies and tamper their rhetoric. They must have the humility to accept that their party might not be the dominant partner or its leader the supreme commander or prime minister-designate. They need to cooperate: there is no room for prima donnas.

Negotiating as an electoral alliance

Seat allocations for elections must be negotiated as an electoral alliance not as a political coalition. An electoral alliance ensures a straight fight between the opposition and the ruling party. There is no need to agree on policies and government positions: if the electoral alliance wins, they may or may not form a government between themselves. It is possible that one or more of them may instead put their lot with the ruling party to form the government. This is what PAS said they will do in the 14GE.

The party the most seats gets to rule: each opposition party thus jockeys for winnable seats, seeking dominance in political appointments, and the main cause of the lack of cooperation among Pakatan parties. This negotiation system is a model for self-destruction.

It is better for Pakatan to negotiate seat allocations, ministerial positions and resolve policy differences now, rather than wait until elections are called.

Agree on a political coalition before elections, not only on seats but also the policies and administration of the government if it wins, with a prior agreement on the post of the prime minister, the cabinet, the chief minister and executive council members, allocation of government positions and including GLC directorships.

If the coalition wins and one of the parties fail to win its allocation of seats or even one single seat, the power-sharing agreement is nevertheless put into effect. This ensures unity, mutual assistance and support for each party by the others in the coalition.

Governing a plural society

Pakatan must adopt a suitable model for the government of a plural society. UMNO, as an ethnic party supported by the majority ethnic group, can dominate minority groups seemingly in perpetuity. In Malaysia, access to resources lies in the heart of the inter-ethnic tensions. The ethnic group that controls political power gain access to these goods and resources. In a multi-ethnic society such as ours the struggle to control state policy produces the competing ethnic interest.

It is therefore imperative that Pakatan Harapan is able to present its vision for interethnic political conciliation.It is a simplistic and wrong to believe that racial politics will be ended by a Pakatan grand coalition replacing the BN grand coalition, PKR and PAS replacing UMNO and DAP replacing MCA, Gerakan, MIC and the others.

The model of the BN grand coalition has failed Malaysia. UMNO enjoys dominance and control of BN. The other parties have no influence.

PKR believes that the best way to mitigate the destructive patterns of a divided society is not to encourage the formation of ethnic political parties or to replicate existing ethnic divisions but to depoliticise ethnicity by requiring politicians and their supporters to accommodate each ethnic group, to seek support from across the ethnic divide and making voters based their choice on issues other than ethnicity.

Politicians from multi-ethnic parties make cross-ethnic appeals and demonstrate their capacity to represent groups besides their own. PKR leaders and representatives have proven their ability to reach out and attract votes from all ethnic groups besides their own, to moderate their political rhetoric on potentially divisive issues and have learned to broaden their policy positions to make cross-ethnic appeals.

Anwar Ibrahim has called out for the party and Pakatan to persevere with the centripetalist model. He knows it works. In 2008, Anwar Ibrahim was able to take Lim Guan Eng into the kampongs and Malay majority constituencies to hold him out as a chief minister who can take care of Malay interest as well as Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Dayak and all Malaysians.

To end racial politics Pakatan must adopt centripetalism and reject the grand coalition of ethnic parties. DAP is in substance a Chinese-based party expanding into mixed non-Malay seats. By taking away the non-Malay seats from PKR and Amanah, their essential nature of being multi-racial parties is eroded.

DAP’s demand, in effect, is for these parties to cede their non-Malayseats, consequently their non-Malay leadership, electedrepresentatives, members and support base to DAP.

DAP is pushing PKR and Amanah into becoming Malay political parties. By doing so, DAP is pushing Pakatan into adopting the failed BN model. All seats across the board should be allocated to each of the three parties equally, subject to the peculiar demographics of the states and constituencies. This means PKR and Amanah must also be allocated Chinese-majority seats and DAP Malay-majority seats, each party allocated both urban and rural seats.

In this way the component parties must move their policies from the extreme to the centre and their leadership and grass roots shift their rhetoric from intemperance to moderation.

Leadership and dominance

Without being disrespectful to the leadership and capabilities of Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng and all DAP leaders and members, the sad but undeniable truth is that the road to end racial politics, no matter how one tries to twist and turn, must pass through the gates of the 60 percent Malay-Muslim majority holding the key to 114 parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia.

Gerrymandering and malapportionment will always be there. We have to take this in our stride in the fight against racial politics and an authoritarian regime. Only a Malay-Muslim majority political party which espouses moderation, equality and multi-ethnicity can take us there.

UMNO is well aware of this and have placed great emphasis to remind Malays on the need for Malay unity to protect their race, religion and culture. To maintain their hold on Malay support, Malay leaders who dare to join multi-ethnic political parties are cut-off from the community, turned into outcasts, persecuted, imprisoned and discredited.

UMNO did this to Dato Onn Jaffar, have done this to Anwar Ibrahim and will do this to the young Malay leaders, activists, academicians and student leaders. The price extracted on Malays who choose multi-ethnicity and equity is a high one.

Anwar Ibrahim has broken this psychological chain used to tie the Malays to Umno by paying the heavy price of being persecuted, loss of personal liberty and physical well-being. This precious prize so dearly won must be fully capitalised upon by Pakatan.

UMNO has tarred and feathered DAP as the bogeyman for Malays. Unfortunately, ill-advised or instinctive responses to Umno provocation, occasional slips of the tongue by DAP leaders and insensitive statements by overzealous grassroot leaders serve to validate Umno’s claims.

Although DAP seeks to address this stigma by appointing Malay leaders and having elected representatives, it is an uphill task. There is no chance of winning Malay hearts and minds if one cannot even get past the door.

DAP needs to be sensitive that expansion by them, their ascendancy and assertiveness is seen as dominance in Pakatan. It validates UMNO’s rhetoric that Pakatan Malay leaders are DAP puppets who have sold out to the Chinese. PKR and PAS leaders’ credibility before Malay eyes are severely and irreparably damaged. DAP’s victories sow the seeds of Pakatan’s defeat.

This is attested by the 13th General Elections. DAP won all the Chinese-majority seats. UMNO won 83.5 percent of rural seats, containing 73.76 percent of rural Malay votes. PKR and PAS bore the brunt of UMNO’s resurgence.

Malays saw the ascendancy of DAP as a challenge to Malay supremacy. Malays fearful of DAP’s agenda as told by Umno returned to UMNO’s fold. Voting for the other Malay based parties, PAS and PKR was not an option, because they are part of Pakatan and a vote for Pakatan is a vote for DAP.

UMNO’s racial rhetoric struck the right chord with the Malays.Irrational as it may sound the fear of Chinese domination and the Malay race disappearing from the face of the earth saw Malays voting to maintain Ketuanan Melayu despite UMNO’s record of financial scandals, poor governance and corruption. Fear after all, is never rational.

For the 14 GE, Hadi Awang, recognising this, steered PAS out of Pakatan to work with UMNO. PKR and Amanah have kept the faith. They are however, painfully aware that unless fundamental changes are made in Pakatan to attract Malay votes, DAP’s ascendancy hangs like an albatross over their heads to win Malay support.

DAP can win all the non-Malay majority seats but these are not enough to form the government. By achieving dominance in Pakatan Harapan, the DAP is winning the battle but Pakatan will lose the war. The racial tensions and ugly reality of our ethnic divisions must be dealt with in a practical manner, otherwise the cracks in Pakatan may lead to permanent fissure.

Failure to learn from victories will lead to defeat, failure to learn from defeat will lead to destruction.