Dr. Bridget Welsh on 100 days of Pakatan Administration: Glass half full or half empty?


August 16, 2018

Dr. Bridget Welsh on 100 days of Pakatan Administration: Glass half full or half empty?

by Dr. Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com

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“Harapan continues to be hampered by a trust deficit. Many of its own members are attacking one another. Conspiracies about alliances, intensive politicking and reports of infighting (often played out in the press) are taking away from what Harapan should be focused on – governing. After 100 days, these sorts of things should be declining, not increasing in prominence.”–Dr. Bridget Welsh

COMMENT | Today, Pakatan Harapan faces its 100-day report card. The idea of ‘100 days’ is somewhat arbitrary and any assessment in the early days of any administration should also be treated with caution – including this one.

This is especially the case given the difficult conditions Harapan has inherited, not only the financial liabilities caused by reckless spending and serious graft, but decades of erosion in institutional competence and good governance.

The problems lie not only with the political system but extend into society where social relations are deeply coloured by race and resentment as well as uneven education and entitlements which reinforced inequalities.

Let’s start with the positive

Let’s start with the positive, however. First of all, Harapan has shown that it can work together as a new coalition, and it has found its footing. While there have been moments of frustration – immature behaviour from those coveting position they somehow think they are entitled to – the five parties (with Warisan) have worked out many of their key differences and put in place a cabinet that while may lack in experience, is arguably the most talented and clean government in decades.

Over the past three months, these officials on the whole have worked hard to learn the ropes in environments that have been at times hostile and unwelcoming. They have been under the microscope and faced intense public pressure.

While there have been mistakes in (mis)handling questions on issues such as the United Examination Certificate (UEC), lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and foreign workers (and these speak to broader needs for greater reflection and engagement on these controversies), to date these mistakes have not fundamentally damaged the goodwill Harapan has from the majority of the electorate. One hundred days on, surveys show that the majority of Malaysians continue to support the bringing about a stronger ‘new’ Malaysia.

Second, there have been some important reforms introduced. Most of these have been internal and off the radar. The first has been granting more power to Parliament, an important strengthening of the checks and balances. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Electoral Commission (EC), Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), The National Audit Commission, Public Service Commission, Education Service Commission and Judicial Appointments Commission all report directly to Parliament rather than the prime minister.

Decentralisation of power

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These initiatives have been led by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is now engaging in a meaningful decentralisation of executive power. Comparatively, Mahathir has also allowed ministers greater autonomy than in the past.

Third, there has been considerable restructuring of departments with the bureaucracy, with different agencies and units now coming under different jurisdictions. Some of these initiatives streamline governance and decision making, although not all of the restructuring has been clearly explained, leaving the impression (and in some cases, the reality) that turf wars are about politicking and positioning rather than governance. A good example is the divisions of the Ministry of Finance.

 

Fourth, there have been important reversals in entrenched exclusionary practices of the previous BN government. This week, the announcement of the end of propaganda outfits of the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) and National Service programme was made. Over the past three months, there have been scores of questionable contracts cancelled as part a broad review of spending and graft. Most of these have been done on an “ad hoc” basis but taken collectively, there have been important reviews in largely an inward-oriented process of assessment.

Fifth, there has been greater attention to corruption and abuses of power, particularly surrounding 1MDB. While many bemoan the slow handling of the serious corruption violations, including those associated with former Prime Minister Najib Razak, there has been a stream of reports of assets captured, investigations opened, scores of bank accounts frozen and, in some cases, charges filed. The MACC has been working overtime in carrying out investigations with greater independence than before.

Finally, there has been greater inclusion of Malaysia’s diversity in government and political life. From the composition of the cabinet to patterns of public engagement, more groups have had access, and with the greater press freedom, more issues have been raised in public, including many sensitive ones.

Despite continued reliance on race and religion on the part of the opposition parties (UMNO and PAS), there has also been considerable debate on a range of issues that speaks to underlying aspirations for different narratives and political participation. Even in Parliament, the focus has increasingly been on policy issues. In the spirit of the post-GE14 ‘durian runtuh’, the bitter and the sweet have offered more to the public to taste.

These changes speak to the new political environment as Malaysia’s ongoing transformation is unfolding. On the whole, the focus has been on the past, cleaning up the situation inherited and, in many cases, reversing unpopular policies. The guiding framework for changes has been the Harapan manifesto, which has proven to be both a basis for action and burden in that many of the proposals are financially untenable.

As Harapan has been in government, they have differed on whether some of the policies are politically viable, such as the UEC, and this shows that coalition dynamics are still evolving.

Legitimate criticisms

There are, however, quite different interpretations of the changes taking place, not only across the political divide but among different stakeholders. Legitimate criticisms can be made, as there is inadequate attention to addressing problems being currently experienced and indications of future trajectories.

The Economy

Foremost are percolating concerns about the economy. Harapan did a good job in managing the initial transition, instilling confidence. As time has progressed, this confidence has waned. While there has been a retail boom and a boost in some sectors from the end of the Goods and Service Tax (GST), many Malaysians have not witnessed a significant drop in prices.

Many businesses used the opportunity to rake in profits at the expense of consumers, a development that contributed to the negative impact of the GST originally. Many of the deep vulnerabilities with cost of living are still present, and deeply felt by vulnerable populations. There are worries that the return of the SST will lead to a similar negative impact on consumers.

Investors who have been waiting for approvals have been put on hold, now for most of 2018 as decisions were put off earlier in preparation for GE14. Impatience is growing. At the same time, the contract-driven domestic businesses are being dislodged from their hold on government largesse, and with these displacements, there is resentment.

In the climate of greater austerity, public spending is less of a driver for the economy. Collectively, there is a perceived slowdown in some quarters, which has been exacerbated by a lack of clear policy direction for the economy. To date, attention has focused on ending projects, not the experience of ordinary people. Harapan needs to be reminded that the main concern that brought them into power involved bread-and-butter issues.

 

This was closely followed by calls for reform. There are many visions of what the reforms should be and how they should be prioritised. The Institutional Reform Committee has made its recommendations and the public is looking for more substantive initiatives than those implemented to date.

Keep in mind, no draconian laws have been removed although a repeal of the anti-fake news bill has been tabled. No meaningful anti-corruption measures have been introduced, especially to prevent corruption in the Harapan government. The investigation of Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu’s aide for “crowdfunding” speaks to the problem of the urgent need for anti-corruption checks.

Programmes to prevent Police abuse and reduce trafficking have yet to be brought in, despite their inclusion in the manifesto. The need for Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and investigation into human trafficking crimes in Wang Kelian is long overdue. The same lack of attention to improving electoral administration is also evident. Even in the area of child marriage – preventing the young from abuse – has been mired in a muck of unprincipled platitudes.

Along with the economy, Harapan based its legitimacy in GE-14 on bringing about change, and further delays in bringing about substantive reforms promised in the manifesto will undermine its support among its political base.

Malay votes

A problem that Harapan has experienced in the first three months is a fixation with those that did not vote for them. Harapan itself has focused on the “half empty” glass with high levels of sensitivity to what the rural/semi-rural Malay base may think of the new government.

My estimates of the results show that Harapan won 23.5% of the Malay vote nationally (compared to 44.5% won by UMNO and 31.9% won by PAS). There is indeed a Malay minority of support for Harapan.

Insecurity about a Malay deficit has been driving defensive responses and contributed to overcautious and doubletalk on many issues of race and religion. Harapan has unfortunately continued to use a simplistic ethnic lens to understand Malaysia’s diverse and complex society. This is hampering the evolution of a different narrative, a different Malaysian future.

Anwar Ibrahim

It has not helped that not all of Harapan seems to be on the same page about working collaboratively. While the coalition has come together, the splits that undercut support for Pakatan Rakyat are still present.

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim and Sultan of Johor

 

In the last three months, questions have been asked about PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s commitment to political reform, and whether his personal ambitions are colouring his actions, including an unsettling interview in Utusan Malaysia and an UMNO-like ‘defend the royalty’ narrative. At the same time, grouses are being made about the appointment of former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin and perceptions of persistent patronage, with resentments growing and accusations being hurled. Despite taking on the task of governing, suspicion of Mahathir also persists.

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Rafizi’s Ambition knows no limits

Harapan continues to be hampered by a trust deficit. Many of its own members are attacking one another. Conspiracies about alliances, intensive politicking and reports of infighting (often played out in the press) are taking away from what Harapan should be focused on – governing. After 100 days, these sorts of things should be declining, not increasing in prominence.

Practices do not change overnight, and arguably they realistically cannot be expected to do so. The trajectory overall has been positive. This does not mean that attention should not be drawn to areas where there is dirt in the glass, and a possibility for a brighter future.

 


BRIDGET WELSH is an associate professor of political science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a senior associate research fellow at the National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a university fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with co-author Greg Lopez) is titled Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore. She can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Can Anwar be PM this time around?


August 15, 2018

Can Anwar be PM this time around?

P Ramasamy

 

ADUN SPEAKS | Anwar Ibrahim nearly succeeded in taking up the post of Prime Minister when he was the Deputy UMNO Chief and Deputy Prime Minister when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was in his first role as prime minister of the country.

However, Anwar’s quick rise within the ranks of the party and government led to his dismissal and subsequent imprisonment on a charge of sodomy.

It was the incarceration of Anwar that led to the reform movement with far-reaching political implications.

The reform movement that galvanised people across racial and religious lines sowed the seeds of the political decay of Umno and BN. The victory of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, and with PKR winning the most number parliamentary seats, is testimony to the powerful forces having their roots in the reform movement.

Anwar must be credited for being the force and personality who gave hope and trust to those Malaysians who wanted a better Malaysia.

Anwar was perceived as a threat and was charged, with sodomy again, and jailed the second time by the BN regime under Najib Abdul Razak. And, with the election victory by Harapan this year, on terms agreed by its component parties, Anwar was pardoned and released from his captivity.

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It was also agreed that Mahathir would serve as the Prime Minister for two years following which Anwar would take over as Prime Minister.

Anwar has been released and he recently he won the presidency of PKR, uncontested. The question now is when is he going to stand for election to Parliament – provided someone in his party is willing to vacate a seat.

As per the agreement before the election, Mahathir will be the prime minister for two years after which he will relinquish the post to Anwar.

Mahathir, being a man of his words, there is no question of him not stepping down.

Spoilers bent on derailing the process…

As we understand, he entered the political arena merely to oust the kleptocratic Najib government from power and to pave the way for better governance of the country.

 

While everything seems to point in the direction of a smooth transition of power from Mahathir to Anwar, there, however, are spoilers who are bent on derailing the process of this smooth democratic transfer.

It has not been proven, despite the challenge thrown by Mahathir, that there those within PKR who have joined forces with one or two powerful figures to ensure that Anwar does not assume the post of prime minister after the two-year period.

There are some who are claiming that Mahathir might not easily give up his post and that he had hinted a few times in the past that he might stay longer if the situation warranted it.

I am not sure whether we can create mountains of these insinuations and indirect statements, but nowhere is there solid proof that Mahathir might overstay in the post.

Mahathir might be credited for providing the critical leadership to Harapan in unseating the BN regime. However, let us not forget the formidable role of Anwar in creating and sustaining the forces, together with the DAP leadership, in creating a new Malaysia.

Twice Anwar has been “cheated” of the opportunity to become Prime Minister. I hope this time around he succeeds!


P RAMASAMY is Penang Deputy Chief Minister (II) and Perai Assemblyperson.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Ultra-liberals and the futility of discourse


August 14, 2018

Ultra-liberals and the futility of discourse

by S Thayaparan

Young, smart, ambitious, impatient and brash Rafizi Ramli

The political nature of man made it highly unlikely that a society designed to meet regularly would remain peaceable. “The way to make friends quarrel is to pit them in disputation under the public eye,” Jefferson said.

― Jon Meacham, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

COMMENT | Truth be told, I like Rafizi Ramli. Sure, we have had a very public spat but the reality is that for whatever reasons, he often kicks the Pakatan Harapan regime in the nut sack and more often than not, gets pilloried for it on social media.

The internal politics of PKR, I have very little interest in. No matter who runs the good ship, PKR politicians in Harapan will not stray too far from mainstream Malay politics even though they, like the DAP, claim to be a multi-racial party.

Malay establishment politicians have to pay attention to certain agendas and non-Malay establishment politicians have to enable such dictates. It does not have to be this way but it is easier to retain power this way.

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Dato Seri Azmin Ali, as Economics Minister, is a key Cabinet Minister and ally of Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

Recently, Rafizi labelled those hounding Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on the whole child marriage fiasco as ultra liberals who “focus on the one issue”. Not nice, Rafizi.

Dismissing these critics, while saying these ultra liberals are not responsible for the poor (while the DPM was) is a strange way of deflecting from the criticisms of the cautious response of the DPM on this issue.

Firstly, child marriage, as in marriages between children and adults, is normalising sex with children.

Furthermore, it is normally the “poor” children who are exploited in this manner. Also, this idea that ultra liberals are single-issue advocates is rather bizarre, because it’s like saying that rights groups who advocate on a specific subject do not care about anything else – the poor – because they advocate for specific issues.

Last year when UMNO was in power, my Malay-speaking activist friends were always worried that the state labelled them as deviant and that meant they were liberal. As one young activist said (in Malay no less), how could he be liberal when he can’t even speak English that well.

Even now I do not want to go into the whole definition on the debate about what a liberal is even more so an ultra-liberal, which I suppose is akin to an ultra Malay or Islamist or howsoever else Malaysians define such things.

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Where is  Deputy President Azmin Ali?

It gets really messy when Rafizi claims that some activists are biased against Wan Azizah because she wears a tudung, more “Malay” looking in her outlook and appearance and behaves like a moderate. Really?

Some would argue that Wan Azizah is an idealised version of a Malay woman. A fair skinned, tudung wearing, religious and socially compliant political operative. I mean we are talking about a community which is a melting pot of various people foreign and domestic, right?

Why even say horse manure like that? And what does having a Malay outlook mean and does having this Malay outlook, trump whatever agreed upon principles that the opposition says it has? How does one define the middle ground this way?

But wait. Rafizi already staked out the middle moderate ground.  “And the moderate centre behaves like Wan Azizah. The moderate centre does not behave like very vocal social activists who want outright political condemnation,” he said.

Wait, so all those years when tudung wearing Malays were outright in their condemnation of UMNO policies and rhetoric, they were not the “moderate centre”? All those social activists many of whom were tudung clad did not represent the centre of Malay politics, which is what the opposition (Harapan) was saying was the true face of this country?

What about those who do not wear tudung? Are they somehow less “moderate” in their views? Does the content of the criticisms change depending on whether one wears a tudung or believes in a specific religion?

Muddying up waters

But what is the moderate centre in PKR? By labeling activists who are vocal in their criticisms about a political operative who is also the women and family development minister, as ultra-liberal, then what is the moderate liberal’s position? Less vocal?

It is like PAS saying that anyone who disagrees with their interpretation of Islam is liberal but an ultra liberal is someone who actually voices out such disagreements. Where does someone like Zaid Ibrahim fall when it comes to the liberal and ultra-liberal label?

Which brings us to the futility of the discourse and the big tent approach of PKR. Let us be honest here.

In most cases, the discourse is between the Malay component – liberal or orthodox – and the non-Malay component of PKR.

Rafizi’s example of Malay groups who are not happy with the UEC recognition and bringing those who are and those who do not together sounds like a swell idea.

But really, when it comes to Malay rights, can there ever be a dialogue? Why do Malay rights groups oppose the UEC? The basis of their dissent is based on racial and religious supremacy, right?

So it’s how you have to allay their fears, right? But this is the problem right here. Non-Malays as citizens of this country should not have to allay the fears of their countrymen. How exactly does the UEC, for example, threaten the culture of the Malay community?

How exactly is talking about this with people who base their objection to specific issue along racial or religious lines going to get us to that place, where we are all treated equally before the law?

How erectly does the discourse work with people like this? I mean really, saying non-Muslims can use the word, Allah – as long as it was not misused – is something to be proud of? If I ask an orthodox Malay who believes in Malay supremacy how do the non-Malays misuse the word Allah, he or she would say that by uttering the word, they would be misusing it.

For whatever reason, Rafizi is the only political operative who pisses in the Harapan kool-aid occasionally. I will take occasionally over the prostrating of most political operatives at the altar of the great old one.

But for Allah’s sake, be mindful of how you respond to criticism. If your critics are wrong just say they are wrong and but don’t engage in identity politics.

The discourse is hard enough already without folks who should know better than muddying up the waters even more.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

War Games in Pakatan Harapan?


August 14, 2018

War Games in Pakatan Harapan?  There’s a campaign to stop Anwar, says PKR man

by Soo Wern Jun

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim

Kapar MP Abdullah Sani who recently accused Putrajaya’s Chief Adviser of being behind a campaign to stop Anwar Ibrahim from becoming the Prime Minister today said he would provide proof of his claims.

“Once I am done visiting the respective states, I will be able to show proof that there are such people, outside forces, who have been trying to stall the smooth transition of Anwar assuming his position as Prime Minister.

“But you don’t need much proof, as I said in my debates during last week’s Parliament sitting,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby, adding that there were “hands from the skies interfering with the country’s governance”.

On Saturday, Abdullah named Council of Eminent Persons head Daim Zainuddin as among those whom he said were out to stop Anwar from becoming prime minister as agreed by Pakatan Harapan (PH).

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Daim, a former Finance Minister who was recalled to duty months before Anwar’s dramatic sacking in 1998 during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as Prime Minister, had actively campaigned for PH candidates, including those from PKR.

Abdullah said Daim had claimed that Anwar Ibrahim should wait until Mahathir fulfils his commitments to the government.

“In these statements, there are signals pointing towards elements of preventing and hindering the process of Anwar taking over as Prime minister.”

Abdullah also said this was why he had decided to openly support Rafizi Ramli who is running against Economic Affairs Minister Mohamad Azmin Ali for the post of PKR deputy President.

“I decided to do so as an effort to strengthen Anwar’s position. Rafizi is seen as championing the reform agenda in the party, and this is supported by party leaders as well as the people.”

It was reported that Abdullah had earlier claimed Anwar would face problems taking over control from Mahathir if Rafizi was unsuccessful in unseating Azmin as PKR deputy president in the coming party polls.

He was quoted as saying several parties who had previously wronged Anwar were again conspiring to deny him the position.

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Kapar MP Abdullah Sani

“I will not back down from what I have said, and I will continue to bring this up because when I retire, I will not allow myself to be accused of not championing the original struggles of the party,” he said.

Prior to the 14th general election, PH leaders agreed that after two years, Mahathir would hand over the prime ministership to Anwar, who recently won the PKR presidency unopposed. Mahathir reportedly said he might stay for two years or longer, depending on the people’s wishes.

Cautions from Sungai Kandis


August 6, 2018

Cautions from Sungai Kandis

by Dr. Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com

“…the dominance of race and religion in the national narrative and within Harapan itself will curtail the capacity and needed alliances to implement reforms and govern effectively. It also has the potential to stymie the Harapan government further as it is pushed into an even more defensive mode.”–Dr. Bridget Welsh

COMMENT | Pakatan Harapan won its first by-election since taking over the government in Sungai Kandis.

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PKR candidate Ustaz Mohd Zawawi Ahmad Mughni defeated (former premier) Najib (Abdul Razak’s) loyalist and UMNO supreme council member Lokman Noor Adam. Harapan won with a comfortable majority of 5,830 votes for the incumbent PKR in a straight fight against the biggest loser in the 14th general election – UMNO, although there was a drop of 35.5 percent in turnout in the contest, from 49.4 percent from 85 percent.

This victory and the lower turnout was expected, but the campaign and results suggest that there are political developments evolving that do not bode well for greater political reform and more inclusive‘New Malaysia’.

Return to race

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First of all, the by-election campaign was dominated by a racialized UMNO narrative. The gamut of issues ranged from supposed Christian dominance and Communist conspiracies to alleged attacks on Malay institutions and the community at large.

None of these issues was fundamentally new, as they have long been part of the defensive approach that UMNO introduced after it scraped through in the 2013 elections. These right-wing attacks combine identity politics with paranoia and feed off the insecurities and fear of displacement that has long been stoked to keep UMNO in power.

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Najib took defensive racialized politics to a new level.

Out of his own security, Najib took defensive racialized politics to a new level. This election shows that UMNO will continue to use these tactics – often based on outright lies and distortions and bordering on hate speech – in an attempt to win back power.

Since taking power Harapan has yet to adequately provide an alternative narrative to UMNO’s racialized rhetoric. In GE-14, racialized campaigns were neutralized by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership of the coalition.

Post-GE14, however, Harapan has adopted its own defensive mode, one in which it sends messages of uncertainty in promoting multi-ethnic inclusiveness, moving politics toward a more national rather than sectarian approach and embracing more positive messages that reflect the confidence and diversity of views in the Malay community as a whole.

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Harapan’s wariness in handling issues involving Malay representation and institutions has fed the sense that it is insecure in this area. There has been no meaningful discussion of the mismanagement of MARA and Tabung Haji in the previous government, for example.

UMNO is capitalizing on this fear, and unless a new narrative is introduced, the approach of seeing politics through racialized lens will blind many to other alternative visions.

PAS: Enemy or Friend?

Second, Harapan’s main issue in the campaign was PAS and its supposed alliance with UMNO. DAP, in particular, is not able to let go with its anger toward PAS and its President Abdul Hadi Awang. PAS opted not to contest in the by-election because it could not win. The Islamic party is divided on whether it will form an alliance with UMNO, either a strategic “no-contest” pact or something more substantive.

It is UMNO that is pushing the hardest in the alliance drive, as they would like the contestation in the Malay community to move from two-fronts to one-front (against Harapan). UMNO is driven to address the most damaging effect on UMNO in GE14, its loss of support within the Malay community itself and loss of its legitimacy to claim is represents the Malay community as a whole.

Sungai Kandis showed that UMNO machinery in Selangor remains weak and even at the height of supposed sympathy towards the party after its defeat, it could not rally enough support to win a by-election. It is now more dependent on PAS support than before.

There are ongoing assessments of what the electoral impact of a partnership among opposition Malay political parties will be. PAS won the most support in GE-14 from defections from UMNO.

As such, it is in UMNO’s interest to stop the erosion. PAS is divided within, as some see a close relationship as leading to more erosion and others see this as backfiring among its supporters who came to PAS because it was seen as different than UMNO. The by-election served to bring the issue to the fore, and this trend is likely to continue through the PAS muktamar in September and upcoming by-elections.

PAS will have its own test in the Seri Setia by-election, which so far UMNO has indicated it will sit out.

Sungai Kandis showed irrespective, that in a straight-fight against Harapan, UMNO was not able to win in a multi-ethnic constituency (29 percent of the constituency was non-Malay). The choice to ally with each other will likely serve to alienate non-Malays further and assure that neither PAS nor UMNO will govern in Selangor or nationally.

Malay opposition parties have yet to recognize that contemporary Malays are diverse and that in today’s era of coalition politics no one party will capture the majority of the Malay vote, especially when it is difficult to differentiate one from the other in their rhetoric.

Many nevertheless, see the alliance of UMNO and PAS positively. It has strong advocates in both UMNO and PAS. These advocates also implicitly include non-Malay parties in Harapan. This outlook is based on the view that non-Malay support will remain with Harapan, given that both UMNO and PAS will likely adopt the racialized narrative prominent in the by-election campaign.

This thinking is narrow, however, and short-sighted, as the dominance of race and religion in the national narrative and within Harapan itself will curtail the capacity and needed alliances to implement reforms and govern effectively. It also has the potential to stymie the Harapan government further as it is pushed into an even more defensive mode.

Politicking and performance

Finally, if there was an issue that seemed to be showcased by Harapan, it was the return to Anwar Ibrahim to the leadership of PKR. The campaign was used as an arena to announce his candidacy for the party presidency in the party election to be held this November and remind the public of his ambition to become prime minister.

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim

 

The focus on politicking within Harapan, as opposed to actual governing, serves to portray the image that Harapan is about power, not serving the people. There are concerns that internal party bickering within Harapan (and PKR in particular) and positioning with Harapan is undercutting its ability to deliver to the public.

While acknowledging the proximity of the by-election to GE14, voter fatigue and recognition among many Harapan supporters that their vote would not have affected the result in Harapan-strong Selangor, Harapan should heed the significant drop in voter turnout. Many of its supporters stayed home.

There is no longer the issue of anger against Najib to bring people to the polls. Some even see an appeasement towards Najib and his administration, as there has been a failure to bring those responsible for scandals to justice. Others cannot identify with what the government is doing, or, worse yet, even notice a substantive difference in governance.

Harapan gave little in the way of reasons to vote for it. Harapan lost an opportunity in Sungai Kandis to lay out its accomplishments, programs and agenda, to effectively showcase what it is doing and to imprint its own narrative for ‘New Malaysia’.

This chance was wasted at both the national level and the Selangor government. Instead, it let UMNO, and to a lesser extent, narrow political interests and caution within Harapan, set the course.


 

Image result for Dr. Bridget Welsh

DR. BRIDGET WELSH is an associate professor of political science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a senior associate research fellow at the National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a university fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with co-author Greg Lopez) is titled Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore. She can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

Malaysian MP calls on his government to take stand on Cambodian elections


July 23, 2018

COMMENT:

Image result for Din Merican

My advice to this Malaysian MP is that he should deal with the internal problems of his own party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and sort out Malaysia’s mess before interfering in Cambodia’s internal affairs. So far our relations with the Kingdom have been close and fraternal, despite the fact our previous Ambassador Hassan Malek was a bit of an embarrassment, to put it mildly.

Respect Cambodia’s sovereignty and let the Cambodian people choose the government they want. MP Wong should learn more about the politics of Cambodia, its history and culture, and its progress since 1998. To its credit, the Cambodian Government did not comment on Malaysia’s GE-14, but it did congratulate Dr. Mahathir Mohamad when new Malaysia Government took over Putrajaya on May 9, 2018.

MP Wong Chen, come to Phnom Penh and I will be happy to educate you. For starters, you should know that Cambodia is an open country. Unlike Malaysia, it does not discriminate its citizens on the basis of colour, creed, race or religion. How about fixing that in stead of being bloody minded.–Din Merican

Another comment from Murray Hunter in Bangkok, Thailand: “Maybe Mr Wong is better served getting a foreign affairs parliamentary committee working for issues intra-ASEAN and international. Shooting from the hip outside the Foreign Minister of his Government within the ASEAN understanding may not be the most wise thing to do. Anyway knowing the political climate in Kuala Lumpur at the moment, it is a story that will be forgotten tomorrow.”

Malaysian MP calls on his government to take stand on Cambodian elections

A Malaysian parliamentarian raised concerns in his country on Wednesday about Cambodia’s July 29 national elections and urged his government to clarify its position on the subject, the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said on Thursday.

Image result for PKR's Wong Chen

Wong Chen (pic above), a member of the People’s Justice Party (PKR) which is part of Malaysia’s ruling coalition, said: “I urge the Malaysian government to take a more proactive stance on Cambodia in the same way we took a proactive stance against the Myanmar government on the Rohingya refugee issue under the Najib administration,” he said.

But the Cambodian Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan brushed off the comments, saying that as Malaysia is just a small country, it can’t wade into the internal affairs of Cambodia.

“I believe that we, as a new government, owe a duty not only to reform our own election laws to safeguard justice and uphold democracy but that we go further and promote and safeguard free and fair elections in the Asean region,” Chen, who is also a member of APHR, said.

Siphan countered, saying: “He is just a Malaysian parliamentarian. Malaysia is a full-rights member of ASEAN which will not interfere in the internal affairs of another member state.”

Adding that Chen is of no interest to the Royal Government of Cambodia, Siphan said he is just a representative of a small country, not ASEAN. “[Malaysia] is not America or France, it is just a small country,” he stressed.

In the lead-up to this month’s elections, the international community has expressed concern about Cambodia’s democratic development.

And while China and Japan continue to help fund the National Election Committee (NEC), the US and the European Union (EU) have withdrawn funds.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Chen’s letter will have little impact because ASEAN governments are bound by the bloc’s policy of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.

“As it has done before, the Cambodian government would use this principle to ward off what it would call interference in the current election, which is very much the country’s internal affair,” he said.