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.

Image result for anwar ibrahim and mahathir mohamad

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.

Image result for The Politically unassailable Najib Razak

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.

Image result for GE-14 when?

 

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.

Image result for Rosmah Mansor

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.

Image result for Najib Razak

 

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.

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


June 6, 2017

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

By Azmi Sharom

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for mahathir as alternative prime minister

Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Wannabes for Political Opposition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Anwar alternative prime minister and Zaid Ibrahim

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Najib Razak the next PM of Malaysia

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

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

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

Azmi Sharom is a law lecturer at Universiti Malaya.

This commentary was first published in Sin Chew Daily.

 

An Opposition Grand Coalition can defeat the BN?


May 24, 2017

Here’s why an opposition grand coalition can defeat the BN

Image result for Mahathir as the next PM

Although the gerrymandering will continue, the significant difference is that Dr Mahathir’s new party will be competing for Malay votes in the small towns and villages.

By Koon Yew Yin@www.freemalaysia-today.com

According to news reports on the celebration of UMNO’s 71st Anniversary, Prime Minister Najib Razak had teased his supporters by asking if he should dissolve Parliament as early as the following day.

Some observers see it as a sign that he is very confident of a victory and that he may call for an election soon.However, there are two sayings which he needs to be reminded of.

One is the old saying “Pride comes before a fall” The other is a quote attributed to Harold Washington, the first African-American elected as Mayor of Chicago: “Let’s not be overconfident, we still have to count the votes.”

Barisan Nasional sponsored analysts, who dominate the official media, have been saying that the BN has more than the required number of votes to win the next election by a comfortable margin. In fact, some are so confident that they are assuring BN of a more than two-thirds majority. Because these analysts are tied to the BN money machine, this message of a big BN victory will be drummed into our heads over the next few months.

But is this big BN victory a sure thing? Going by my knowledge of politics in Perak, I wish to differ.

Tide turning against BN

In Perak, most voters have not forgotten that power was “stolen” from the then Pakatan Rakyat by the BN. In the next election, many voters will want to correct the injustice and vote for the opposition.

Included in this group will be most of the civil servants as well as Felda settlers who have been regarded as UMNO’s and BN’s vote banks.To some extent these voters have also been PAS’ vote banks.

But will the Malay civil servants and Felda settlers continue to allow themselves to be swayed by racial and religious politics and vote with their hearts rather than with their heads in the next election?

Or will they realise that both UMNO and PAS have let them down badly and are not worth the support that the two parties have been provided with during the past 50 years and more?

Image result for Mahathir as the next PM

In addition to Sabah and Sarawak, this guy is Najib’s Secret Weapon (?). Perak is not reliable predictor of GE-14 outcome. Furthermore, the Opposition is in disarray. PKR wants Anwar as the next Prime Minister. Mahathir is ambivalent on this matter since he may have someone else. Will there be two Deputy Prime Ministers to accommodate DAP? Those in Amanah also want a piece of the action. Allocation of seats will be a challenge for the opposition. I witnessed what Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had to undergo in 2008.

Finally, Najib has all the advantages of incumbency and the resources to wage an aggressive campaign. So brave is the man who  dares to predict the outcome of GE-14. –Din Merican

Today, everyone, except for the elite, are suffering from a socio-economic crisis arising from the mismanagement of the economy and pervasive corruption. Food is more expensive, transport prices have soared, education costs have escalated.

According to Cuepacs president Azih Muda, civil servants have ended up heavily in debt to manage rising living costs, to the point that more than 60,000 of them risk bankruptcy.

“This is a direct effect of the hike in cost of living. Civil servants end up taking up a lot of loans and this is unsustainable and they are unable to manage their finances,” Azih told the foreign news agency Reuters.

This report was, understandably, not carried in the mainstream Malay media. Neither have the numerous reports on the financial mess inflicted on Felda settlers through the launch of Felda Global Ventures Berhad.

This time, I am sure the revolt of the Malay masses will take place. And when this revolt led by the civil servants and Felda settlers happens at the polling booth, a new page in our nation’s history will be reached.

Battle for change led by Dr Mahathir

Image result for A confident Najib

Fittingly, the battle for change will be led by Dr Mahathir. Several weeks ago, I attended a Parti Pribumi Bersatu meeting at Padang Rengas, Kuala Kangsar, where I took the opportunity to renew my friendship with him and gave him a copy of my book,” Road Map for Achieving Vision 2020” which was partly inspired by Dr Mahathir’s vision for our nation’s future.

It is not only the Malay masses who will push for change. Today we have a new opposition coalition which will operate as a single entity against the BN.

Featuring PPBM, DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara as its component members, the opposition coalition will also include East Malaysian parties. This is an unprecedented grand coalition of Malaysian anti-BN voters which, in my opinion, can bring about the biggest upset in our political history once it gets its act together.

In the last GE, the opposition secured more than 51% of the total votes, but in terms of state and parliamentary seats, the opposition had less than BN because of the gerrymandering.

Although the gerrymandering will continue during the next election, the significant difference is that Dr. Mahathir’s new party under Muhyiddin Yasin will be competing for Malay votes in the small towns and villages.

I believe, too, that PAS is deeply divided under President Hadi Awang, who is presently sick and unable to exert much influence. Once it becomes clear that the new grand opposition coalition will win, I expect many PAS leaders and voters to join the opposition and quit the friendship with the BN.

 

Mahathir’s Challenge to UMNO’s Najib Razak in GE-14


March 17, 2017

Mahathir’s Challenge to UMNO’s Najib Razak in GE-14

by Saleena Saleem

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/03/17/malaysias-new-but-not-fresh-opposition-party/

Image result for Mahathir's Challenge

Anwar Ibrahim and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in the Good Old Days when the former was heir apparent and Deputy Prime Minister. Today Anwar is languishing in Jail

Speculation is rife that Malaysia’s 14th general election, which must be held by August 2018, may be called this year. The general election comes after a protracted political scandal over state wealth fund 1MDB, with damaging financial mismanagement and corruption allegations leveled at Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Several former leaders from the ruling political party, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), have left and regrouped into a new Malay nationalist opposition, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). Led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad as Chairman, and former deputy premier Muhyiddin Yassin as President, Bersatu will need to sell itself to a jaded public if it is to pass as a credible contender for UMNO’s Malay voter base.

Image result for Mahathir's Challenge

Strange brew of Malaysian politicians chasing the rainbow

These public perception challenges stem from the former UMNO leaders’ decisions and actions. At the height of the 1MDB scandal in mid-2015, the expectation that UMNO leaders, particularly Mahathir and Muhyiddin, would lead a massive break-away faction of dissatisfied party members when Najib was at his political weakest, did not materialise.

Instead, they fought for control of UMNO from within for nearly a year. It wasn’t until February 2016 that Mahathir left his old party — for the second time. It was a missed opportunity that gave Najib ample time to build support for his leadership within the various UMNO groups and to present a united front. As a high-profile frontman for Bersatu, Mahathir’s actions during this period may prove problematic for four key reasons as the new party targets the Malay vote.

First, while still in UMNO, Mahathir associated with pro-opposition civil society groups such as Bersih. Mahathir’s participation in the Bersih 4 rally, which was widely seen as a Chinese-dominated anti-Najib demonstration, leaves him vulnerable to Najib’s race-based argument that should Malays fail to support him, the government would fall to a Chinese-led political machine. Given Bersatu’s alliance with the opposition coalition, of which the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) is a key player, such fears can be magnified to its detriment during an election campaign.

Second, Mahathir initially stated he had no intention of establishing a political party upon quitting UMNO, but he did precisely that in late 2016. The timing of his departure from UMNO, which came only after his son, Mukhriz, was forced to resign as the Kedah chief minister by pro-Najib UMNO members, provides ample ammunition to those who claim Mahathir is primarily motivated by his son’s political ambitions rather than a genuine concern for Malaysia’s future.

Third, Mahathir’s past ideological differences, and the harsh treatment of civil society activists and political foes while he was in government, many of whom he associates with today, leaves him open to charges of hypocrisy. For example, during the Asian Financial Crisis in the 1990s, Mahathir clashed over economic policies with his then-deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. This set the stage for Anwar’s imprisonment on charges of sodomy, and his rise as an opposition leader of the Reformasi movement, which advocated an open society and economy.

Mahathir has curtailed fundamental liberties that the opposition stands for — he used the Internal Security Act to imprison DAP’s leader Lim Kit Siang during Operation Lalang in 1987, after government appointments in Chinese vernacular schools spurred an outcry.

Fourth, Mahathir’s criticism of Najib’s alleged misdeeds over 1MDB leaves him exposed to scrutiny over his own actions while he was prime minister. He already faces criticism over the Bumiputera Malaysia Finance Limited scandal in the 1980s, and the central bank’s forex losses of US$10 billion in the 1990s, although Mahathir’s camp claims the two are not comparable.

Bersatu enters into an opposition political landscape that is already divided, and where the various parties now jostle to re-negotiate the terms of a political arrangement for the upcoming elections. A January survey by INVOKE, an opposition-linked NGO, found that a three-cornered fight between the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (which includes Bersatu), the Islamist party, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and the ruling party, Barisan Nasional benefits the incumbent government. This makes electoral pacts essential, even as the different ideological bents and histories of the parties in the opposition complicate matters.

The previous opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, saw public bickering among its constituent parties over various issues leading eventually to its collapse. Two examples are the political impasse that ensued over disagreements on the Selangor chief minister post in 2014 and PAS’ renewed focus on implementing hudud (criminal punishment).

Image result for Mahathir's New Party

Good Luck to all Chief Sitting Bulls led by Chief Maha Bull of Kubang Pasu

The lack of agreement on seat allocations between remaining coalition parties, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and DAP, during the 2016 Sarawak state elections, and the recent DAP resignations of its elected representatives over simmering grievances from the past coalition pact with PAS, reinforce the perception that the opposition face intractable difficulties in maintaining a cohesive front.

The opposition’s current narrative of ‘Save Malaysia from Najib’, which was built on Mahathir’s short-lived ‘Save Malaysia’ movement may not be as compelling for voters compared to calls for change based on democratic ideals of equality, justice and fairness for all races, and which were emphasised during the previous two general elections.

When Mahathir recently criticised Chinese investment projects in Johor, he utilised the race-oriented tactics of the past, which can be off-putting to some voters who had been drawn to the opposition in the first place.

Nevertheless, although Bersatu carries the baggage of its founding members, it is a new political party with the potential to grow in strength if it can sustain itself beyond its immediate challenges. No doubt Bersatu is a potential spoiler for UMNO.

Addressing public perception issues and becoming a serious contender to UMNO may increasingly require the introduction of a younger generation of politicians. With the senior generation playing the role of mentors, this new generation could do much to project the future direction of Bersatu as a viable political party — one that looks beyond the objective of unseating Najib.

Saleena Saleem is an Associate Research Fellow at Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

This commentary was originally jointly published in Policy Forum and New Mandala.

 

After Anwar, PKR and Pakatan have failed Malaysian Voters


December 16, 2016

After Anwar, PKR and Pakatan have failed Malaysian Voters

by Cmdr (rtd) S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”– Thomas More, ‘Utopia’

PAS friends of mine have been writing to me and saying that I am being unfair to PAS. They claim that calling their party a religious cult and branding their style of politics as UMNO collusion is extremely partisan. Amanah is a DAP creation and while in Pakatan Rakyat, PAS was a team player until it was “bullied” and vilified by DAP after the passing of Tok Guru Nik Aziz.

While I dispute this narrative, I think it is pointless hammering on PAS for deciding to go their own way. Instead, I will hammer on PKR for maintaining this charade that there is value for Pakatan Harapan to continue working with PAS.

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim

Sorely missed by the Fractured Opposition

Mind you, this has nothing to do with PAS. For whatever reasons, they have chosen to recalibrate their politics and while I disagree with it, this is still a free country and political parties are free to choose whom they align with. However, the problem here is not PAS, it is PKR. When I questioned why Harapan was still working with PAS, I acknowledged two salient points:

1) “Harapan should have learnt this lesson a long time ago. PAS construes the alliance as weak. They were always a virulent anti-Anwar strain within PAS which looked at the coming together of the supposed liberal reformer and convicted ‘sodomist’ – to their minds one and the same – as anathema to their zealotry.”

2) “People talk about the UMNO DNA within PKR but they forget that the only reason why the opposition was able to get itself off life support after the brutal beating they took during the short-lived Abdullah Ahmad Badawi glory days was because of the support of PAS.”

Image result for Wan Azizah

Wan Azizah leads a fractious PKR

PKR’s Batu MP Tian Chua claim that there is nothing to be alarmed about PKR attending PAS’ mega rally points to the dysfunctionality of the opposition. There is enough evidence that the opposition only makes gains in elections when UMNO is weak and the opposition is united.

While I understand that PKR is in a difficult situation when it comes to PAS, the reality is that PAS is preying on the weakness of the opposition front and will happily turn the tables when the time is right for them, and most definitely, link up with UMNO.

Also attending that rally was Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan), which in my opinion is the political wing of the outsourced thugs of Umno. Take the “simple” issue of PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang’s “not hudud” amendment recently adopted by the Najib regime.

Image result for kadir sheikh fadzir

The Kedah Mamak and The Hadi–Strange Bedfellows

The public stand of Ikatan’s President Kadir Sheikh Fadzir (who was absent at the rally) on this issue was: “Justeru, semua pihak jangan cuba nak main ‘game upmanship’ (tunjuk siapa lebih hebat) dengan DAP, selain membuktikan siapa paling anti-Islam dan Melayu semata-mata untuk meraih populariti.

“PAS adalah parti besar dan antara yang menunjangi politik negara selain UMNO, justeru sudah tiba masanya PAS tunjukkan taring mereka.”

How does it look? We just had the MCA issuing a stern reprimand (or whatever that was) to the representative who “walked out” at the Perlis state assembly vote. And now we have PKR attending a rally that ultimately descended into a DAP and Amanah bashing rally.

In other words, PKR thinks there is nothing to be alarmed about when it attends a rally that supports policies that they are supposed to be against and attacks their political allies.

Image result for Mahathir and Pribumi Bersatu

Meanwhile, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s attempt to play bridge builder has achieved nothing beyond giving PAS the opportunity to vent at their former ally and recalcitrant children. Which of course is fair enough, since Amanah has declared open season on PAS and DAP has made its disdain publicly apparent.

Straight fights

Furthermore, we have to remember that when it comes to PAS, straight fights are not the top priority.  PAS Information Chief Nasrudin Hassan said, “A straight fight or multi-cornered fights (in the general election) can only be derived from the (correct) political attitude. It (straight fights) is not the main issue here.”

I have no idea what the “correct political attitude” is, but the PAS I remember was more interested in bringing down UMNO, rather than advocating the fine points of political theory or nursing hurt feelings on the political battlefield.

If the correct political attitude means working with UMNO when it comes to Muslim issues, then I would suggest that anyone working with UMNO on Muslim issues is anathema to the oppositional voices in this country, but sadly not anathema to Harapan, which has demonstrated that when it comes to Muslim issues, it is quick to fold under pressure. But I digress.

It is really no point in reminding PAS that it lost whenever it went at it alone against BN, because all indications point to the fact that, when it comes to UMNO, PAS does not need to win elections to pose a threat to UMNO. All they have to do is hamper the efforts of the Harapan and Bersatu and they would be more useful to Umno than any of the other BN members.

With this in mind, the electoral pact between Harapan and Bersatu means very little with PAS out of the picture, unless by some miracle – and at the moment I do not see how – the “other” electoral pact between Bersatu and PAS provides an opportunity for straight fights with the UMNO hegemon.

Ultimately, all these attempts at bridge building are pointless. What the opposition should be doing is concentrating on formulating policies and spreading the message of how a Harapan government differs from the present kelptocratic regime. What the opposition should be doing is building a foundation to work from, and not repeating the mistakes that led to its fracture.

This whole idea of straight fights with UMNO is merely a pipe dream now. The “compulsory” precondition of PAS will never be met, and it really does not matter how much time is given to disparate groups’ intent on preserving power instead of removing UMNO. The reality is that unless there is a tsunami in Sabah and Sarawak, there will be no change of government in the next elections.

It will be cold comfort if PAS does not do well in the coming general election but Harapan is in tatters.  Moreover, while opposition supporters think that the opposition has a chance of winning in the coming election, the reality is that the dream of changing government in this political terrain it is still a dream deferred.