Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Ugly Feud with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad reflects the shallowness of Malaysian politics


July 19, 2017

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Ugly Feud with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad reflects  the shallowness of Malaysian Politics

Possibility of snap election looms as ex-leader backs a jailed former foe

by Takashi Nakano, Nikkei staff writer

http://asia.nikkei.com

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (Photo by AP), left, and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad are sniping over the state of the country’s leadership.

SINGAPORE — An ugly feud is intensifying between Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, with Mahathir throwing his support behind an old nemesis in hopes of unseating the administration, and Najib sniping back.

Mahathir ruled Malaysia for 22 years through 2003, and the country’s profile on the world stage grew under his hard-charging leadership. He has vocally criticized Najib, who has been in power for over eight years — and is in sight of a yet longer term — but has recently come under fire amid an embezzlement scandal. Rumors have swirled that Najib may dissolve parliament this year, leading to a general election.

The two figures’ mudslinging, if it drags on, may diminish Malaysian politics in the eyes of observers at home and abroad.

The enemy of my enemy

In 1998, Mahathir sacked Anwar Ibrahim, then Deputy Prime Minister, who stood in opposition to him. Anwar was then arrested and imprisoned for six years on charges of sodomy and corruption. In Malaysia’s last general elections in May 2013, Anwar led an opposition coalition against Najib’s ruling one, but in 2015 was convicted of fresh sodomy charges and given another five years behind bars.

Anwar Ibrahim © Reuters

Early this month, Mahathir told The Guardian, the U.K. newspaper, that the popular Anwar had been “unfairly treated.” “The decision of the court was obviously influenced by the government,” he said, “and I think the incoming government would be able to persuade the King to give a full pardon for Anwar.” The statement sent shock waves across the country.

Since the time of Anwar’s first arrest, the independence of the Malaysian Judiciary has been in doubt. Mahathir’s championing of Anwar even at risk of drawing fire for his own past actions shows the intensity of his drive to topple the Najib administration.

In June, at the International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Mahathir also said that Malaysia’s present administration was doing badly by the country, and that he hoped for the opposition to score an electoral victory and drive Najib out of office.

Najib quickly fired back via his blog. He said it was “ironic that Mahathir now needs Anwar, the man he sacked and jailed,” and that the former prime minister’s “crusade is motivated not by the national interest, but by selfish personal interest.”

No winners

Najib, having built up a stable political base, appears to have the upper hand in this fight. Mahathir cannot hide the shrinking of his political clout. And while Anwar’s popularity may run deep, he cannot run for office from prison. With the term of the lower house of Malaysia’s Parliament set to expire next June, Najib is waiting for the moment to play his trump card: the right to dissolve the legislative body.

But the Najib government has a major Achilles’ heel in the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, or 1MDB. U.S. authorities are investigating the apparent misappropriation of at least $4.5 billion from the fund, and several people close to the Prime Minister have been implicated.

Najib’s administration has objected, noting that Malaysian authorities conducted extensive inspections and no crime came to light. But overseas authorities have turned a stern eye. The Monetary Authority of Singapore, for instance, has taken steps to punish a number of financial institutions and people whose actions contributed to the 1MDB scandal.

The ties between Mahathir, Najib and Anwar not only show the fierceness of Malaysia’s power struggle, but expose the shallowness of its political benches. Since it won independence in 1957, the country has not undergone a significant change of government, and it has not cultivated a culture in which the politicians that will bear responsibility for the next generation sharpen one another in friendly rivalry.

With its per-capita gross domestic product having reached the $10,000 level, Malaysia is at a crossroads and in need of a new growth model. Its ruling and opposition parties are constantly bickering instead of engaging in more robust economic debate, casting doubt on the nation’s hopes of joining the ranks of the world’s developed countries.

Be Wary of Spin Doctors


July 14, 2017–The Bastille Day

In the Run up to GE-14: Be Wary of Spin Doctors

by R. Nadeswaran@www,malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | In 1984, British journalist Henry Porter published a book outlining the excesses of what used to be Fleet Street newspapers. He chastised them for their lack of concern for simple matters such as the truth.

Image result for Najib Razak's Spin Doctors

Smart and Decent  Malaysians say Prime Minister Najib Razak, is a Crook

Image result for Najib Razak's Spin Doctors

Golf Buddy Tan Kay Hock thinks Prime Najib Razak is the best Prime Minister Malaysia ever had.

It was written in an era before the advent of the mobile phone which became a necessary tool for journalists to survive. And if not for this gadget, the world would not have knowledge of the phone-tapping technology which journalists in the red-tops in England used (illegally) and made headlines worldwide.

It was also an era when the term “fake news” was unheard of and when we scribes prepared our stories on the Olivetti or Remington typewriters on several sheets of carbon paper in between specially-cut A4-sized newsprint.

In one chapter, Porter describes how a Daily Telegraph journalist created a fictitious character with a military background living in Gloucester, through which he expressed right-wing views. Even when it became apparent that he did not exist, the newspaper reported that “Raphael Duvant died when lightning struck his metal leg while he was umpiring a cricket match.”

In a way of sorts, Duvant or a number of Duvant clones have been resurrected right here in Malaysia to be the new darlings of political parties who seek to embrace the new media.

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R. Nadeswaran–Malaysia’s Foremost and Gutsy Investigative Journalist

Nothing wrong with that, except that these specially-created Duvants claim to have been given access to all meetings. Even when two opposition leaders are having a cuppa, he or she can sit and record every word they utter. Their ears are so powerful that they can generate first-person accounts describing the words whispered between sheets in someone’s bedroom.

But their mind-reading capabilities must take the cake. They can conjure what someone is planning to do and even have knowledge of the inner secrets that circulate in the minds of third parties. This is no ordinary boast. In their writings, they appear to give the impression that they have front row seats.

Image result for The New Straits Times, The Star and Utusan Malaysia

They cannot be expected to be factual, reliable and truthful since they are owned by UMNO and Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)

The mainstream media is popularising these non-existent characters by quoting them extensively to give them an aura of legitimacy and authority without even knowing their identity.

Yes, everyone is in the pre-election mode or to put it more bluntly, survival mode. The affairs of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and the court filings of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) are indeed part of it. Praise the former, demonise the latter and you are guaranteed to be in the news.

During the last general election, I took umbrage with the newspapers publishing full-page advertisements, making all kinds of claims against the opposition without any substantiation.

The riposte was not unexpected. Instead of addressing the issue, Vincent Lee, the then Executive Vice-chairperson of the Star Publications group replied: “I am disappointed with him (Nadeswaran) because when I was President of the 4As, I sided with him when he took on the issue of corruption in the outdoor advertising industry. At that time, I received death threats after speaking up against illegal billboards in the Klang Valley.

“After a year, the situation has remained unchanged. However, he has moved on from his anti-corruption stand to talking about advertising, but his own newspaper has accepted and carried the same advertisement.”

But writing about advertising is not exclusive to anyone, and I responded thus: “The fact is that although the management of theSun (my employers at that time) may not see an issue in the same light as the writer, it sees it as expressions of opinion. It may not necessarily reflect the stance of the newspaper. The publication of such articles does not mean that the newspaper endorses my views.

“It was in a plain and simple language that journalists have no control over newspaper operations and the final decision on content – advertising and editorial are left to the management.”

I then posed a vital question: “The outburst in cyberspace reflects the anger of ordinary Malaysians who view such audacious campaigns as insulting their intelligence. On a similar note, will the same newspapers publish an advertisement paid for by well-minded citizens which reads: ‘Can you trust a party which is led by a crook?’

“This question can only be answered by none other than owners of publishing houses who have accepted and consented to publish those questionable and code-breaking advertisements.”

In dire straits

This time around, the election campaign will be dominated once again by the media – but with a difference. The worms that have crawled out of the woodwork will get their five minutes of fame, albeit writing under pen names or pseudonyms.

How else to explain government mouthpieces taking the stand that the 1MDB is a non-issue? Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s stance that 1MDB has contributed to the people in many ways which they are unaware of, has further added to the continued parroting of praises of the state sovereign fund which is in dire straits.

Yes, the company has financed haj pilgrims, built houses and sponsored students’ education but at what cost to the nation and its people? Committing the taxpayer to several billion ringgit in debt and giving away a few million makes little sense because it is akin to robbing the bank to feed the needy.

As this article is being written, news has just filtered of yet another episode in the 1MDB saga. Former Singapore banker Yeo Jiawei, who is serving the longest jail term in Singapore’s probes linked to 1MDB, has admitted to charges including money laundering.

Yeo, who also pleaded guilty to cheating his former employer, agreed to help with Singapore’s money-laundering investigation, which prosecutors described as the largest in the country’s history. He was sentenced to 54 months in jail. He was handed a 30-month term last December on charges of trying to tamper with witnesses in the probe.

Yeo’s admission of guilt came after the Monetary Authority of Singapore wrapped up a two-year probe into flows related to the 1MDB. Prosecutors named him as a central figure linked to Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who was identified by Singapore police as a “key person of interest” in their probe. Low has also been described by DOJ investigators as the controller of a plan to steal billions from 1MDB.

According to international news organisations of repute, 1MDB is at the heart of several money-laundering and corruption probes across the globe.

Against such a background and given that the people in Putrajaya and their spin doctors can make black look white and vice versa, would anyone be surprised if any of these worms would come out with this incredulous statement: “Singapore and other countries are deliberately carrying out investigations and taking action to discredit Malaysia and its leaders because they are jealous of our success and that 1MDB has been able to help people in times of need?”

I wouldn’t be, but would you?

Last words:  When comparing state sovereign wealth funds, Singapore’s Temasek Holdings on Tuesday announced that its global portfolio is worth US$197 billion (about RM850 billion). Can someone tell us what 1MDB has to show besides a large amount of borrowing and crooked deals?

R NADESWARAN is an award-winning veteran journalist who writes on bread and butter issues with one agenda – a better quality of life for all Malaysians irrespective of colour, creed or religion. He can be reached at citizen.nades22@gmail.com.

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Mahathir Mohamad’s return shows the sorry state of Malaysian politics


July 3, 2017

Banyan

Mahathir Mohamad’s return shows the sorry state of Malaysian politics

https://www.economist.com/news/asia/21724432-former-prime-minister-reinventing-himself-leader-opposition-mahathir-mohamads

The former Prime Minister is reinventing himself as a leader of the Opposition

Image result for doctor in the house mahathir

The Doctor seeks a Return to the House

WHEN Mahathir Mohamad spent a week in hospital last year, at the age of 91, talk naturally turned to his legacy as Malaysia’s longest-serving former Prime Minister. How naive. Dr Mahathir may have stepped down in 2003 after 22 years in office, but he has hardly been retiring in retirement. His constant sniping helped topple his immediate successor, Abdullah Badawi, who lasted until 2009.

Now the old warhorse is picking a fight with Najib Razak, the Prime Minister since then and now leader of Dr Mahathir’s former party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which has run Malaysia for the past 60 years. Dr Mahathir has registered a new political party and persuaded Pakatan Harapan, the fractious coalition that forms Malaysia’s main opposition, to admit it as a member. Now Pakatan is debating whether to make Dr Mahathir the chairman of their coalition—and, perhaps, their candidate for Prime Minister at elections which must be held within 13 months. Having long said that he would not be returning to Parliament, Dr Mahathir has lately been hinting that he would consider another stint in the top job.

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In Politics there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests

It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely turn of events. The original incarnation of the coalition Dr Mahathir might soon be running was formed in the late 1990s to oppose his own interminable rule. Its founder, Anwar Ibrahim, was Dr Mahathir’s deputy until the latter sacked him during a power struggle; he was later jailed on sham charges of corruption and sodomy. The current government’s methods are copied directly from Dr Mahathir’s playbook. Since 2015 Mr Anwar has been back in prison following a second sodomy conviction, this one just as dubious as the first. The reversal of the authoritarian turn Malaysia took under Dr Mahathir is one of Pakatan’s main objectives.

What makes all this even tougher to stomach is that Dr Mahathir’s conversion to the Opposition’s cause looks disturbingly incomplete. Though he is hobnobbing with former enemies, the old codger still finds it difficult to apologise for the excesses of his tenure. Many of his views remain wacky: in May he told the Financial Times that he still thinks the American or Israeli governments might have arranged the attacks of September 11th 2001. Can Malaysia’s opposition really find no more palatable leader?

These are desperate times, retort Dr Mahathir’s supporters. Since 2015 news about the looting of 1MDB, a government-owned investment firm from which at least $4.5bn has disappeared, has dragged Malaysia’s reputation through the muck. American government investigators say that 1MDB’s money was spent on jewellery, mansions, precious artworks and a yacht, and that nearly $700m of it went to the prime minister. Mr Najib says he has not received any money from 1MDB, and that $681m deposited into his personal accounts was a gift from a Saudi Royal (now returned). He has kept his job, but only after replacing the Deputy Prime Minister and the Attorney-General.

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The Prognosis is that Najib Razak is likely to win GE-14

One might expect this scandal to propel Pakatan into power at the coming election, but instead the opposition looks likely to lose ground, perhaps even handing back to UMNO and its allies the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution. This bizarre reversal has much to do with Malaysia’s regrettable racial politics: the Malay-Muslim majority largely favours the government and the big ethnic-Chinese and -Indian minorities tend to vote against it. Mr Najib has baited an Islamist party into renewing calls for more flogging for moral lapses, forcing them to leave Pakatan. The split in the opposition will lead to lots of three-candidate races, in which UMNO will romp home.

Put in this context, Dr Mahathir’s reappearance is a godsend. It stands to transform Pakatan’s chances by granting access to a broad swathe of rural constituencies that they had previously thought unwinnable. Many Malays have fond memories of the booming economy of Dr Mahathir’s era (they overlook its crony capitalism and his intolerance for dissent); in their eyes, he put Malaysia on the map. As coalition chairman, Dr Mahathir might also bring some order to Pakatan’s noisy council meetings. His backing could be invaluable after a narrow victory or in a hung parliament, when UMNO’s creatures in the bureaucracy might be expected to put up a fight.

All these benefits could probably be obtained without offering to make Dr Mahathir the Prime Minister. But he may be the only front man upon whom most of the coalition can agree. That role had previously fallen to Mr Anwar, but it has become clear to all but a few holdouts that he cannot continue to manage the quarrelsome coalition from his cell. Voters are not sure whether to believe Pakatan when it says that, should it win, it will find some way to catapult Mr Anwar out of his chains and into the country’s top job. Nor are they much inspired by the notion of accepting a seat-warmer to run the country while this tricky manoeuvre takes place.

It could be worse

This is a depressing mess, even by Malaysia’s dismal standards. The opposition bears no blame for the dirty tricks which, over several shameful decades, the government has used to hobble Mr Anwar and many others. But by failing to nurture—or even to agree upon—the next generation of leaders, they have played straight into UMNO’s hands.

It is possible that the thought of hoisting Dr Mahathir into the top job will at last force the coalition to thrust a younger leader to the fore (some suspect that this is the outcome that Dr Mahathir, a shrewd strategist, has always had in mind). But it is also possible that, facing only uncomfortable options, they will end up making no decision at all. Some in Pakatan seem happy to barrel into the next election without telling voters who will lead Malaysia should they win. That might seem like pragmatism, but it is really just defeatism.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Doctor on call”

Malaysia: GE-14 will be later rather than sooner


June 15, 2017

Malaysia: GE-14 will be later rather than sooner

by P. Gunasegeram@www.malaysiakini.com

QUESTION TIME | With Prime Minister Najib Razak embroiled in a larger number of imponderables right now, GE14 will likely be later rather than sooner even if the opposition is in disarray and making contradictory moves which confound rather than clarify what they stand for.

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But wouldn’t the fact that the opposition is so much in a tizzy that it can’t even unequivocally name a prime minister in the event of that unlikely victory let alone key cabinet posts, means that now is the time to strike by calling for elections? That depends on what your chances of victory are and whether they will increase or decrease if you wait.

Under the Federal Constitution, the 13th Parliament will automatically dissolve on June 24, 2018, exactly five years after its first sitting and the 14th general election or GE14 has to be held within two months after that, by Aug 24 next year. That means GE14 has to be called within the next 14 months.

What are BN’s chances if GE14 is held right now? The common wisdom seems to indicate that BN would win, but there are several factors that may weigh against that. First, latest available polls indicate that approval ratings for the government are down.

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The GE 14 Winner

Next, one recent poll indicates that Sabah may not be the fixed deposit state that it has been before – and that could perhaps extend now to Sarawak as well following the death of the popular, reform-minded, tough-talking chief minister Adenan Satem.

And, there seem to be some polls indicating that cost of living is an issue and with inflation figures hitting record eight-year highs of 4.5% annually, that is something which will figure heavily in voters’ thoughts.

Meantime, news such as Sarawak Report alleging that jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s prosecutor at the Sodomy II trials, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah received RM9.5 million from Najib’s accounts – and lack of denial so far – has added an explosive political element into the heady mix, rekindling a long-smouldering sensitive issue with many voters, especially Malays.

And that’s just one piece of news – others include Malaysia’s newfound closeness to China which may find some traction with local Chinese in terms of votes but which can be opportunistically used to turn Malay votes against BN.

Serious questions are being asked about the massive Forest City development in the Johor Straits and the influx of Chinese citizens on completion and the use of illegal Chinese labour. Concern has been expressed about the massive RM55 billion East Coast Rail Line to be built and financed by China, widely thought to be massively overpriced.

Let’s look at some of these in turn.

Approval rating takes a dive

The only reliable poll that I can locate for a serious downturn in Najib’s approval rating dates back to October 2015 and was done by the reputable Merdeka Center, which does not seem to have carried such polls subsequently. This indicated that the approval rating among Malays for Najib’s government dropped to below 50% for the first time since February 2012.

Singapore’s The Straits Times (ST), citing a survey by Merdeka Center, said only 31 percent of Malay voters was satisfied with the government. The fall among Malay voters was drastic as it had stood at 52% in January 2015. The survey was revealed to analysts in the financial sector, according to ST.

Since then, even more revelations have come up regarding what is still considered as one of the major failures of the Najib administration, 1MDB and the loss of billions, with the US Department of Justice reports mid-last year which substantiated that over US$3.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB, not to mention the China issues.

If anything, the approval rating for Najib may have deteriorated even further. And then there is a poll, this one last month, again by Merdeka Center for Malaysian Insight, which indicated that Sabah may not be a fixed deposit state in GE14. It involved 905 voters, covering all age groups and demographics.

Among the key findings were some 52% of the respondents were dissatisfied with the state government; some 49% of the respondents believed that Malaysia was headed in the wrong direction, with their primary concern being the cost of living and lingering unhappiness over the goods and services tax; some 66% of respondents were unhappy with the economic situation in Sabah; some 56% of those surveyed said they were feeling the economic crunch; nearly 70% of respondents also wanted greater autonomy for Sabah to run its finances and administration. Sabah voters continue to have grave concerns about illegal immigrants and want this issue debated fully in the run-up to GE14.

Meantime, a forum in Singapore earlier this week was told that the cost of living was the number one issue for GE14. The panelists included Ibrahim Suffian, director of Merdeka Center; Ong Keng Yong, Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large and former High Commissioner to Malaysia; and Selena Ling, head of Treasury Research and Strategy at OCBC Bank.

“Many Malaysians have actually gone beyond the issue (1MDB), and this has been bundled together in what they perceive to be leadership weaknesses,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying.

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It is clear why UMNO is moving towards an alliance with PAS, supporting the introduction of much harsher sentences under syariah law and leaning towards Islamic fundamentalism – to bolster Malay support. But at the same time, this very move is going to alienate and even jeopardise the fixed deposit votes from across the South China Sea where they practice a much more liberal form of Islam.

Double-edged sword

The issue of moving closer to China is a double-edged sword. Chinese Malaysian voter support could increase from this, especially since the Chinese Ambassador has been moving closely with politicians in some of the constituencies that MCA and Umno contest in, implicitly and explicitly supporting the ruling party.

But Malay voter support may reduce if the opposition, especially with people like former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in their ranks, can use this to highlight the unnatural closeness with China which even permits open interference by Chinese diplomats in Malaysia’s internal affairs.

Meantime, the Indian vote has been courted with the Malaysian Indian Blueprint but scepticism remains over this document whose success will depend on implementation. The track record here is sorely lacking.

The maltreatment of Indians at the Police lockups, lack of sympathy for their economic plight, and lack of recognition for their contributions amongst others are not factors that will turn them significantly towards BN in GE14.

While expectations are of a BN victory, the situation is not quite so clear when you put it down on paper which is what Najib’s advisers and strategists would have done. That explains why UMNO is embracing Islamist PAS, hugging agnostic China and unveiled a blueprint for Indian advancement. But indications are that it is not working – yet.

Just as the opposition needs time, perhaps BN and UMNO need it even more. And they are hoping that some future confluence of events will be more favourable. If there is an unlikely window of opportunity, they will take it. Will BN’s chances be better if elections are delayed? Perhaps but it is not likely to be much worse.

Even if there is a significant chance of losing, although small, why take it now when you have 14 months to go? Lots of deals can be done in that time, the opportunity for patronage and corruption is tremendous, and there is more time to cover the obvious holes so they remain out of sight.

Najib can still set his sights on winning after the 14 remaining months in power. Unlike British Premier Theresa May, he knows it is better to be safe and in power now instead of sorry by rushing into an election and potentially losing it. Voter behaviour can be rather unpredictable.

Watch for GE14 not earlier than the middle of next year. Still not convinced? Okay, note that GE12 was held on March 8, 2008. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stepped down after the polls reversal for BN and Najib became Prime Minister in 2009.

From 2011, there were intense speculations of an early election but GE13 was eventually only held on May 5, 2013, five years and two months after GE12 – full term in other words. Najib will do the same again, unless there is an unlikely massive voter shift towards BN because he knows how to be safe rather than sorry.


P GUNASEGARAM is waiting for the next big shift in voting patterns after GE12 when the opposition took five states in Peninsular Malaysia – it may be sooner than you think. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

Najib Razak’s BN to retain Putrajaya


June 15, 2017

Najib Razak’s BN to retain Putrajaya, says former Singapore envoy to Malaysia Ong Keng Yong

by FMT Reporters

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

ST Global Forum discussion on next general election concludes 1MDB, billion-dollar deals with China will have no impact on how the majority vote.

PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional (BN) will continue its hold on Putrajaya by winning the next general election (GE14), as the status quo in Sabah and Sarawak and support from Malays in Peninsular Malaysia will remain, The Straits Times (ST) reported.

Image result for Ong Keng and Din MericanSingapore’s Ambassador at Large Ong Keng Yong (center)

This was the conclusion drawn from an ST Global Forum panel discussion held in Singapore yesterday. The forum was entitled Malaysia’s Next GE: The Perils And Prospects.

“I don’t think that it will be worse than what Prime Minister Najib Razak or the BN obtained in 2013. For the Malay voters, I think they will stick with what they know,” said Ong Keng Yong, who is Ambassador-at-Large at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign affairs, Former High Commissioner to Malaysia and Secretary-General of ASEAN.

Another speaker at the forum, Merdeka Center director Ibrahim Suffian concurred, saying that even though Najib’s popularity remains low, BN remains the most trusted brand among Malay voters.

According to the Singapore daily, the rationale proffered by the speakers, which also included OCBC Bank Treasury Research and Strategy head Selena Ling, was that all the billion-dollar scandals and headline-grabbing deals with China would not have an impact on the vast majority of voters.

Describing the issues surrounding 1MDB as “approaching historical status”, Ibrahim said many Malaysians have gone beyond the issue. “1MDB has now been bundled as just being part of what is perceived as leadership weaknesses,” he was quoted as saying.

Image result for Najib RazakThe Likely GE-14 victor

Ambassador Ong believes the cases that have emerged over allegations linked to 1MDB in other countries, including Singapore, the United States and Switzerland, has only affected Kuala Lumpur’s standing from an international standpoint, but it “has not greatly harmed Najib or UMNO” in the homefront.

Meanwhile, Ling told the forum that Malaysia’s economic data was healthy, but that too would be of minimal consequence.“When it comes to elections, people are going to vote on bread-and-butter issues. It is not going to be because growth is 5% or less than 5%,” she said, according to ST.

The panelists all agreed that Najib’s biggest challenge will be overcoming the growing unrest over the cost of living, with the GST and lower value of the ringgit having an impact on the price of goods.

The reality on the ground remains harsh according to Ibrahim who spoke about the struggles of Malaysians, both young and old.“Young people are worried about finding a good job, married couples are concerned about whether they can afford a home and whether they can get a pay rise, while most retirees do not have sufficient savings to tide them over,” he was quoted as saying by ST.

The speculation over when Najib will call for GE14 is mixed with some predicting it will be held in the last quarter of this year, or early next year. However, the Prime Minister has until next June to decide when he wants to dissolve Parliament.

The Federal Constitution states that a general election needs to be called when Parliament is dissolved or it reaches a maximum term of five years. The current Parliament kicked off its term on June 24, 2013, therefore Parliament will automatically be dissolved as of June 24, 2018.

As a general election needs to be called no later than two months after Parliament is dissolved, therefore, the last possible date for the next general election (GE14) will be August 24, 2018.

Infusing Ketuanan Politics into Pakatan Harapan


June 12, 2017

Infusing Ketuanan Politics into Pakatan Harapan —A Colossal Error

by William Leong Jee Keen
Image result for Mahathir's Ketuanan Politics into Pakatan
Now Mahathir embraces DAP–Credible and Winnable ?

The proposal for Tun Mahathir to take over leadership of the opposition and for Bersatu to become the dominant party in Pakatan Harapan to win Malay votes, instead of securing victory will end in disaster.

It is indeed critical for the opposition to win the Malay-majority constituencies, especially the rural Malay areas. There are 114 Malay-majority constituencies in peninsular Malaysia alone. In 2013, BN won 77, PAS 20 and PKR 17. Najib can retain power by winning these 114 parliament constituencies without drawing on his Sabah and Sarawak BN save deposit vote banks. A way must be found for the opposition coalition to win these constituencies but it has to be based on principles, respect for all interests and consensus. The proposal fails in these respects.

The proposal in essence is infusing racial politics into Pakatan Harapan. This will not sell. The proposal to win office, is to attract Malay voters by turning Pakatan Harapan into a BN and the continuation of Umno’s racial policies minus Najib. This proposal has serious flaws, three of which are set out below.

Betrayal of the Reform Agenda

Firstly, the assumption that by adopting a racial supremacy policy, Pakatan can hold on to the 52% who voted for the Reform Agenda in 2013 is false.

Image result for Mahathir and Kit Siang

If Pakatan Harapan trade Ketuanan Rakyat for Ketuanan Melayu-Minus-Najib in exchange for power, it will be a betrayal of principles, a selling-out of core beliefs. Pakatan Harapan cannot argue they are acting as statesmen or being pragmatic. The argument that such a compromise is justified by the higher objective of Pakatan Harapan forming the government cannot hold water. It is disingenuous to say gaining power is better than remaining in the opposition when the deal requires Pakatan Harapan to give up the very core reason to gain power — to institute change through implementation of the Reform Agenda.  It is not a compromise. It is not even a rotten compromise. It is a capitulation. Power without principles is simply greed. Winning office without the power to implement the reform promised is a betrayal of the 20 years of struggle and the cause so many have sacrificed so much for.

Mahathir cannot hope to hold onto Pakatan Harapan supporters with such a proposal. Even though they will not vote BN they will prefer not to vote at all. This will reduce Pakatan Harapan’s vote share.

A recent example of the significance of a reduced vote share is the US elections. Hillary Clinton just could not hold onto the support given to the Obama coalition. This proved to be her fatal undoing. Hillary obtained 88% of African-Americans compared to 93% for Obama, 65% of the Latinos to Obama’s 71%, 54% of the younger voters to Obama’s 60%. Although, Trump’s 58% of the white votes was less than Romney’s 59% in 2012. Distaste for Trump was not sufficient to overcome their apathy for Hillary. Democrats stayed at home and handed victory to Donald Trump. If the proposal is implemented, Pakatan Harapan will suffer a similar fate.

Leadership of the reform movement

Secondly, the assumption that by taking over the leadership of Pakatan Harapan, Mahathir will take over the leadership of the opposition is false.

The opposition is not Pakatan Harapan. Pakatan Harapan is only a vehicle for the real opposition, the masses who arose from the Reform Movement. The opposition are the reformists, activists, civil society, the 62 NGOs that formed BERSIH, the thousands who with their own money, time and energy went to the towns, villages, estates, Felda settlements and long houses to spread the word for change, the hundreds of thousands that came out to the streets, and the millions that voted against BN.

There are no elections in the Reform Movement. Anwar Ibrahim holds no official position in Parti Keadilan Rakyat. He is the de facto leader of the Reform Movement because he inspired commitment, built consensus, mobilised resources, recognised opportunities, devised strategies, framed demands and influenced outcomes. He appealed to the various races, religious groups and diverse interests by being inclusive. More importantly it is his courage of conviction for the Reform Agenda in choosing imprisonment over freedom that the masses accept his leadership.

The Reform Movement is an assertion of popular leadership by the people themselves. Democracy does not come from the government, from high, it comes from people getting together and struggling for freedom and justice. Politicians are elected and selected but mass movements do not elect officials or seek blessings or legitimacy from anyone. Mass movements transform society, they aim to persuade the courts, politicians and other actors to fall behind them, not the other way round. Mass movements accomplish this through appeals to shared sets of deep and widely held convictions among the people they aim to mobilise[1].

Bersatu cannot demand and Pakatan Harapan leaders cannot give to Mahathir the de facto leadership of the opposition movement. Even if Pakatan Harapan yields the leadership to Mahathir the masses will not necessarily accept his authority. The masses by their courage, conviction and commitment for change had withstood tear gas, water cannons, police brutality, beatings, arrests, detention without trial, selective prosecution, imprisonment, repression and ostracism. They will not accept the very policies they have been fighting for so long and so hard to abolish, even if this is proposed by the new de jure leadership of the vehicle. Without the mass support, the vehicle is but an empty shell.

The relationship between the leader and the masses is dialectical, it takes the agreement of both to work together: ”the leader cannot take the people where they do not want to go and he cannot operate outside the possibilities that were already part of the existing social structure and cultural heritage of the original movement.”[2] They will not want go back to a future, substituting Najib for Mahathir without a return to the rule of law, restoration of the institutions and the guaranteed implementation of the Reform Agenda. Weber’s analysis of charismatic authority still holds true: the charismatic leader has to be recognised by his followers in order to achieve the degree of legitimacy required, it cannot be demanded nor given.[3]

Policy-oriented coalition

Thirdly, the assumption that an opposition coalition founded on the removal of Najib from office and not a policy-oriented coalition is sufficient to win the election and sustainable to govern is false.

Coalitions formed for the purpose of securing enough votes or combining a sufficient number of parliamentary seats to govern through power-sharing arrangements without an agreement on the policies and their implementation are referred to as “office-seeking coalitions.” Office-seeking coalitions are coalitions whose main goal is access to power. Cabinet portfolios are the payoffs. Office-seeking coalitions have been accused of being “unprincipled” because their members were ideologically remote and therefore perceived as political opportunists interested in short-term gains rather than long-term policy goals.[4]

Policy-oriented coalitions are party coalitions justified by policy goals. For opposition alliances which sole aim is to defeat the incumbent to form a new government, there is no place for ideological affinity and the common-post election strategy in the case of defeat is to join the winner. Such alliances usually collapse as quickly as they are formed because they are, themselves, essentially an office-seeking strategy used by politicians to position themselves in such a way as to make themselves attractive to the governing party or coalition. The lack of ideology and the absence of a post-election strategy make office-seeking opposition coalitions difficult to sustain. In a study of five African countries, Kenya, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa, it was found that it has been easy for the government of the day to buy off opposition leaders of office-seeking coalitions after their electoral defeat.[5]

The case of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) of Kenya is illustrative of the pitfalls of an office-seeking coalition. Daniel Arap Moi of the Kenyan African National Union (“KANU”) won Kenya’s 1992 and 1997 presidential election with 36.8% and 40.51% of the vote respectively. Combined the opposition garnered far more votes than the eventual winner. However, by splitting the votes, they failed to secure the presidency and gain a majority in parliament. In 2002, 14 opposition parties formed a coalition, the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK) with the Liberal Democratic Party (“LDP”). LDP consisted of a splinter group of disgruntled KANU leaders following Moi’s choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as presidential candidate. The coalition of NAK and LDP was called the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). NARC put up Mwai Kibaki to contest the presidency against Uhuru Kenyatta of KANU. NARC won a landslide victory. NARC began to face problems within days after winning the election when Kibaki did not honour the agreement on cabinet posts to the coalition partners. In 2005, President Kibaki dissolved the cabinet, dismissed all the LDP ministers, allocating ministries to KANU, the party NARC had united against. In the 2007 elections Raila Odinga, formerly of the LDP ran against President Kibaki, formerly of NAK. Absence of a common ideology for political reform is one of the main reasons for the rapid disintegration of NARC.

South Korea has shown the sustainability of coalitions bonded by the common goal to implement democratic reforms. In 1987, the formation of a pro-democracy coalition and an unprecedented level of mass mobilisation pressured the authoritarian regime to accommodate democratic reform. However, neither of the two civilian candidates, Kim Dae Jung nor Kim Young Sam was willing to yield in their quests to become president causing civil society to be divided in supporting them, clearing the way for the regime candidate Roh Tae Woo to win the election with only 36% of the vote. In the 1997 elections, for the first time in South Korean history, an opposition candidate, Kim Dae Jung was elected president. Civil society and its mobilisation were crucial in the democratic transition and consolidation. It was the resurrection and remobilization of various civil society groups and their grand-democracy coalition with the opposition party that ultimately induced the authoritarian ruling coalition to agree on a set of democratic reforms.[6]

By focusing efforts on making South Korea’s democracy deeper and more substantive they provided the foundation for the empowerment of civil society that has allowed South Korea’s Constitutional Court to rule unanimously on March 10 2017 to remove President Park Geun-Hye from office backing the National Assembly’s impeachment of the president. This was a historic incident for the reaffirmation of South Korean democracy and confirmation of the rule of law.[7] The first candle was lit at a protest in Seoul’s downtown plaza on October 29, 2016, about 20,000 people joined to protest Park’s inadequate apology. The next Saturday, the protest had grown tenfold; a week later, on November 12, the protest drew a turnout of one million. The series of peaceful Saturday protests pushed a segment of the ruling-party members of parliament to break ranks to vote for impeachment of the president.

Civil society and the mass movement in Malaysia will not buy into an office-seeking coalition. Bersatu and the component parties in Pakatan Harapan have to weave the policies for winning the Malay votes into the Reform Agenda while maintaining and extending support from all races, religious groups and diverse interests in Malaysia. Umno’s racial politics have spawned corruption, cronyism, patronage and rent-seeking activities. Malaysians want policies that will liberate the Malay mind, induce empowerment and self-reliance, not continuation of policies that chained the Malays economically and socially to Umno, enslaving them politically. The proposal is only providing a change of political master not social-economic and political freedom.

Coalition building and consensus

Elections in Malaysia are not democratic, not free and not fair. Opposition leaders and government critics suffer harassment, arrest, detention, imprisonment and abuse of state resources skewed the playing field heavily in favour of the incumbents. Coercive and unfair means are used to disadvantage the opposition. Civil liberty violations, patronage, gerrymandering, malapportionment, media bias, manipulation, co-optation and repression are relied upon to guarantee incumbent re-election. The application of a divide and rule policy has caused deep cleavages in the society according to ethnicity, religion, rural and urban divide.

Many opposition movements have been challenging authoritarian governments but only a few have succeeded. The opposition forces in South Africa voted out an apartheid regime, people power in the Philippines ousted a dictator, popular unrest in Indonesia forced President Suharto to resign, a broad coalition in Chile won a plebiscite that led to the removal of Augusto Pinochet and Solidarity defeated the Polish communist. Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan can learn, draw strength and inspiration on how these opposition ended repressive regimes[8]:

·       They were able to achieve their goals through broad support, coherence and legitimacy;

·       They were able to bridge deep disagreements about aims, strategies and leadership among the opposition and convince diverse opposition groups to work out their major differences;

·       They were able to encourage convergence, forge consensus and built coalitions among the opposition;

·       They were able to connect the opposition to social movements, workers, students, women, human rights and religious groups;

·       They were able to connect with the wider public to provide a sense that the movements were democratic, truly inclusive and not vehicles for particular individuals or groups;

·       They focused sharply on what united the people rather than on what divided them;

·       But they also made the difficult decisions to exclude groups that refused to renounce violence or insisted on uncompromising demands for regional, ethnic or sectarian autonomy;

Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan leaders can apply these lessons by adopting the 4 C’s of coalition building — communications, consultations, consensus and compromise to forge the broad coalition amongst the parties, civil society, the different ethnic and religious groups and the Malaysian public on an inclusive basis. There are no simple solutions, the Gordian knot of cleavages in Malaysian society cannot be solved by one stroke of the sword. It requires patience, tolerance, mutual respect and goodwill. The proposal has to be sent back to the drawing board.

[1] Bruce Dixon, “It’s Time to Build a Mass Movement”.

[2] Raby, Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today 253.

[3] Max Weber, Max Weber on Charisma and Institution Building-Selected Papers (1968), 49-50.

[4] Wolfgang C. Muller, Kaare Strom, “Policy, Office or Votes? How Political Parties in Western Europe Make Hard Decisions”.

[5] Denis Kadima, “The Politics of Party Coalitions in Africa” EISA and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

[6] Sunhyuk Kim “Civil society and democratization in South Korea”.

[7] Sook Jong Lee, “A Democratic Breakthrough in South Korea?” Carnegie Endowment For International Peace”.

[8] Abraham F. Lownthal and Sergio Bilar “From authoritarian rule toward democratic governance: Learning from political leaders” International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 2015.