The power is in the people

If Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties PKR, DAP and Amanah are open to forging a pact with Umno post the 15th general elections (GE15), they should come out in the open and say so. They should not make non-committal statements and then after GE15 declare that they have no choice but to join forces with Umno. That would be deceiving the people!

DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke recently said that DAP may have to be open to working with Umno in order to form a majority government to save Malaysia. This was followed by a statement by PKR president Anwar Ibrahim who said that any alliance with Umno would only be a “worst-case” scenario.

Both these leaders’ statements clearly reveal that they are willing to work with Umno in the event no party or coalition wins a clear majority to form a government.

That should not be the case. Umno should not be allowed to form a government by itself or by leading a coalition of parties simply because it will see the return of money politics as has been revealed by the ongoing court cases. And only Opposition MPs can stop them by resisting them — not joining them!

If for whatever reason PH parties are open to forming an alliance with Umno, they should make their intentions clear to their voters before the latter goes to vote! If the voters still vote for them, then, of course, the parties are free to go ahead with any alliance with Umno.

The fact that they have not firmly declared their intention seems to imply that PH parties are not confident their voters will accept their reasoning if they expressed it, which can only suggest that PH parties are playing a game with the voters by not clearly stating their stand on this issue.

Don’t deceive the voters. PH parties are already facing a credibility gap judging by the fact that they have lost most of the seats they held in the recent state elections, which means their voters are unsure of the credibility of their leaders.

If PH parties want to restore their credibility in the eyes of the voters, tell them the truth and explain the difficult position their parties are in and trust the judgment of the voters.

PH parties need to understand that there is no such thing as a “worst-case scenario”, as if they have no choice. The truth is that they have a choice but they don’t want to take it.

The choice is in two areas. Firstly, they have to work with other opposition parties not necessarily in a coalition but in a loose collaboration where opposition parties do not undermine each other. As a result, should the election results favour them, it would be easier to form a coalition government.

Even if Umno turns out to be the Malay-based party with the largest number of seats (considering the negative publicity created by the court cases of its leaders, the figure may be less than the 39 seats Umno currently holds), and if no party joins it, Umno will be unable to form a government.

However, the combined number of Malay seats and non-Malay seats won by Opposition parties will be sufficient to form a government. In other words, Umno can be ignored and should be!

Secondly, Anwar has to rethink his ambition to become prime minister. If after an honest explanation to the voters, PKR wins more seats, Anwar will be in a commanding position to negotiate with fellow Opposition parties, including regarding his candidature as PM.

If, however, he fails to win enough seats he will have to accept the fact that he has lost leverage to negotiate and go along with other nominations for the premiership.

The confidence to negotiate comes from the support MPs get from the grassroots. Malaysian politicians need to understand that their confidence comes not from government positions or who they know or pacts and alliances but from their voter base.

There is no point in holding government positions and making a mess of governance as we have witnessed in the past two years. And, there’s no point in submitting memorandums to the king to call for a royal commission of inquiry as Bersatu and Amanah politicians did with regard to the RM6 billion spent on ships that were not delivered. What can the king do aside from making a comment like he did regarding the Smoking and Tobacco Control Act where he added that it was up to Parliament to resolve the issue?

The king knows what Malaysian politicians don’t seem to understand: that the latter has been vested with authority by the constitution to resolve such issues in Parliament. The fact that Malaysian politicians immediately seek the king’s or China’s or the US’s help simply reflects their own lack of confidence to navigate the authority bestowed on them to solve political issues. If they can’t solve problems, how on earth can they govern and, therefore, why elect them?

Confidence comes from the support of the voter base. So, it is to them that politicians must first go to get support. Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad understands this very well and that is the reason why he has got small parties, including his own, Pejuang, to form Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) which plans to contest in Umno-held seats.

GTA may lose all the seats it contests in GE15 or it may win a few which would dent Umno’s count of MPs. GTA should not be written off. If it wins some seats from Umno, it may be a game changer in GE15 because it means a loss of support for Umno from its very own voter base. That may trigger a domino effect and swing support to GTA.

This happened to some extent in GE14. GTA is new and with little support. That support may pick up in the near future. Until then it is hard to predict if GTA will lose all or win some in GE15. But the strategy of going to the people is commendable. GTA just needs more believers to follow it.


Finding the way to political stability

In thanking the MPs for passing the anti-hopping bill, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that the bill was important to ensure long-term political stability in the country.

The anti-hopping bill will no doubt bring about some measure of political stability to the country but it has no bearing on the fundamental flaw that caused the political instability that followed the Sheraton Moves.

The country plunged into political instability the moment Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin took Bersatu out of the legitimate, elected Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition government after the then prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, resigned. When Tun resigned, PH was still the government but within a couple of hours, Muhyiddin pulled Bersatu out of PH. That was when the PH government fell, because it lost its majority when Bersatu pulled out of PH.

Muhyiddin then got his new alliance, Perikatan Nasional (PN), installed as the new government without facing a confidence vote in Parliament to prove his majority. There was no proof he had a majority and that was when the party-hopping began as politicians were enticed to join PN ostensibly to show a majority.

So, party-hopping was a consequence not the cause of the political instability that followed Tun’s resignation. The cause was Bersatu’s withdrawal from PH which felled the PH government — not the party-hopping.

While the anti-hopping bill enables political parties to stop their MPs from switching parties (which, perhaps, was the primary motive for mooting such a law), there is no guarantee that a coalition government will not fall in the future when one party decides to leave it and leave it without a majority.

Meanwhile, the current status quo in which an illegitimate and unelected government is supported by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Opposition remains, with Sabri’s party, Umno, standing to gain most from the anti-hopping bill because its MPs won’t be able to leave it to join other parties. Umno becomes stronger because it will be the only Malay party with the most number of MPs and if it wins a good number of seats in the next general elections, other parties will have no choice but to negotiate with it to form a coalition.

On the other hand, if a law was passed to ensure that an unelected party or coalition faces a confidence/no-confidence vote in Parliament, the instability of the consequences of a minority government is eliminated. When the numbers are proven, party hopping will be irrelevant with only a few rare exceptions when MPs leave for their own reasons.

MPs need to demonstrate better judgement in prioritising the new laws or amendments that need to be addressed.

However, since a precedent has already been set, the anti-hopping law or any other law can be tabled again for further amendments. The Sabri government set a precedent when it tabled again the motion to extend the enforcement of Section 4(5) of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) for another five years from July 31 after it was rejected in the previous sitting of the Dewan Rakyat. The motion was passed in the current session.

It’s a dangerous precedent because it undermines and diminishes the significance, dignity and authority of the Dewan Rakyat. It reflects a government that does not respect the decisions made in Parliament and would use its position in government to bulldoze laws through Parliament until they get a majority to pass them. This is another example of abuse of power.

Since a precedent has been set, a subsequent government can overturn passed legislation. Why then have a Parliament? Do as you please as what is happening now.

Being an unelected illegitimate government, legitimised by an MoU, the Sabri government needs to ask itself on what constitutional authority it is acting. It’s unelected, so it does not have the mandate of the people. It’s illegitimate because it has not proven its majority, so it has no confidence to act on behalf of the people.

So, on whose authority are they introducing bills? Themselves? Apparently so. Its ministers are introducing laws that don’t seem to come from the people such as the Sosma amendment and the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill. Do these laws help the people or the ministers to help produce results they are unable to achieve through proper, well-thought-through humane policies and campaigns? Instead, they want to produce results with punitive laws like a whip in the hand.

Sabri needs to understand that his government does not have the mandate of the people to introduce laws that affect the people. So, they should stop introducing such laws. The only authority the incumbent government currently has is to do according to the MoU.

The Sabri government may claim they have the support of the majority of Malays and therefore the majority — as the Malays are a majority — as represented by the number of Malay MPs on its side. The truth is that that is a misnomer.

Most of the Malay parliamentary constituencies are in the rural areas which at one time held the majority of Malays and hence a large number of constituencies in that region to ensure that the Malays are adequately represented in government. That demographic has changed and the 2020 census records that most of the Malays are now in the urban areas where they are not represented.

Although the Malay-majority Sabri and previous PN governments have a majority of Malay MPs, they represent only about 25% of the Malay population because according to the 2020 census 75% of the rural population has migrated to the urban areas. In other words, the current government represents a minority and it has no moral grounds to impose its minority concerns on the majority. That is tyranny.

Sabri is a lawyer, so he should understand the political conundrum he is in. A general election is the best solution to reset Malaysian politics and get back to following the constitution in installing a legitimate, elected government. Unfortunately, since Umno is led by leaders facing corruption charges in court, a general election could bring them back to power.

So, Sabri needs to think through rationally and carefully to choose the earliest date for a general election that would also ensure that corrupt leaders do not come back to power. It may seem like a tall order but a clever politician can find the right date for the next general election.

Take a leaf out of the UK’s book to choose a PM

The United Kingdom is in the midst of a race to elect the next prime minister after incumbent prime minister Boris Johnson resigned on July 7. What makes it an event to take note of here in Malaysia is that — unlike in Malaysia — the prime minister’s resignation was NOT followed by a period of political instability.

Johnson resigned as a result of a wave of resignations from his Cabinet and government which triggered a series of events that led to the loss of support of his party for his premiership. Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also resigned when he realised that he had lost the support of his then party, Bersatu, which had engineered an alliance that included Umno leaders Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Najib Razak who are facing corruption charges in court.

When a prime minister loses the support of his party or the voters who elected him/her, he/she should resign. That is democracy.

The political instability that followed Tun Mahathir’s resignation is still reverberating through the country while the UK is going through its change of prime minister calmly through an organised, orderly process of electing the next prime minister. That begs the question as to why Malaysian politicians failed to ensure political stability when a prime minister resigned.

There are several factors to take note of to explain this dismal failure in political accountability. Firstly, in the UK government, there wasn’t any predator politician or a cohort of them waiting in the wings to seize the opportunity offered by the resignation of a prime minister to advance their own agendas.

The prime minister resigned but his party or coalition remains the elected government. When Johnson resigned, his Cabinet fell as well but he and his Cabinet remain in government until a new prime minister is elected. That is the democratic convention in a parliamentary democracy-cum-constitutional monarchy.

Johnson’s party, the Conservative Party, is recognised as the elected government and no one attempts to seize the opportunity the instability of a transition offered to force himself or herself and his or her team into government; that’s a coup. The mandate of the people is respected and left untouched while the resigning prime minister’s party undertakes the responsibility of electing the next prime minister.

But, did that happen in Malaysia? No, Malaysian politicians disrespected the mandate of the people and installed themselves as the government as if it were their right, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they were not following democratic conventions and that that is not the rule of law!

Secondly, how did Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin become prime minister? Did his party nominate him? What was the process according to the party’s constitution? Was the process of nominating a prime minister described in the party’s constitution? Or, did he assume as party president that position was automatically his, and his supporters in the party went along with it? Perhaps, it was decided at a meeting of his top party leaders but was there a proper nomination and election process?

UK’s Conservative Party has a clear and orderly process with a committee that oversees the election of a prime minister when the incumbent resigns. They go through rounds of election by the party’s elected MPs until the candidate with the highest vote in the final round emerges as the prime minister-elect, which, in the current situation, is expected to be announced in early September. It’s a long and tedious process and no one rushes it, with the interim prime minister and his Cabinet running the government until then.

In Malaysia, prospective prime ministers unilaterally announced they are the chosen candidates of their parties. Muhyiddin never claimed it but through a series of political pacts, he became prime minister. Without following democratic conventions he named Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob as prime minister and Muhyiddin’s legacy of an illegitimate government continues.

Tun Mahathir has said his party wants him to be the next prime minister if his new party, Pejuang, wins the next general election. PKR president has announced that he would reduce petrol prices if he becomes PM. It’s a political party’s right to name its candidate for the premiership. But is it an arbitrary decision or a name that emerges at the end of a nomination or election process?

Political parties need to spell out clearly in their constitutions the process of how to choose a prime minister. It then becomes clear to the public that the majority in the party chose the candidate and it is a choice that must be respected.

The only party that has a clear nomination and election process is Umno. It is Umno’s tradition that the president becomes the prime minister if Umno or an Umno-led coalition wins. How Sabri became the prime minister is a break from tradition. Again it was an arbitrary decision made by Muhyiddin and the country — like everything after the Sheraton Moves — was stuck with an unelected choice!

While the UK’s Conservative Party is choosing its next prime minister, Parliament gets ready for a vote of confidence. Again this is the democratic convention. A government must prove to the people it has a majority and the only way to show it is through a vote of confidence/no-confidence. This is not a negotiable issue and the British Parliament practices it without debate.

Did the Malay-majority government led by Muhyiddin follow this fundamental principle of the rule by a majority which is the basis of any democracy? Definitely no. What followed was simply to use their positions and pacts to ensure they remained in government. The current so-called “Malay-majority” government needs to ask itself if it followed the rule of law or bent it to keep itself in government.

A third factor to note is the role of the Queen. The Queen has not breathed a word about the political changes taking place in her realm. She does not intervene but leaves it to the politicians to resolve the issues on their own. The politicians know their role. They don’t involve the Queen. According to a recent BBC report, once the Conservative Party has chosen the next prime minister, he/she will be invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen who — on the advice of the ruling party — appoints a new prime minister.

Did we follow a similar process? No. Instead, our politicians went racing to the palace to show proof of majority, and, somehow, Muhyiddin, got installed as prime minister although he didn’t prove he had the numbers.

The point is that the party chooses the prime ministerial candidate who then goes to Parliament — not to the king or the royals — to face a confidence vote to prove that the candidate has the support of the majority of the House. When that is demonstrated for the public to see, the invitation comes from Buckingham Palace to meet the Parliament-approved candidate who is then appointed prime minister on the advice of the party.

Malaysian politicians need to understand that all political issues involving the people must be resolved among themselves and finalised in Parliament. They should have enough confidence in themselves to resolve all political crises by themselves without seeking the help of the king or sultans. Then, we won’t have a case of an unmandated menteri besar or one who receives fancy shoes from royals!

Malaysian politicians have to understand how parliamentary democracy-cum-constitutional monarchy works and there is no better example to consider than the people who first set it up — the British.

Hopefully, Malaysian politicians are following the UK PM race and learning how to conduct themselves as responsible self-respecting politicians. If they can’t learn and correct themselves, then, it is crystal clear that they should not be reelected.

Just consider what happened in the past two years: abuse of power through double standards, intimidating political policing, an Attorney-General’s Chambers that allowed out-of-court settlements involving politicians, a Dewan Rakyat Speaker who has failed to understand that his overriding responsibility is to ensure the independence of the House and not to protect the government, poor governance, weak efforts at recovery and bungling incompetence. Only the judiciary remains an uncompromised institution.

The country can’t afford further decline at the hands of this batch of leaders. Only the people can stop them by voting them out and voting in leaders who know what the rule of law is and uphold it. Otherwise, we will be freely offering garlands to monkeys.

A compromise …

Pejuang has declared that if it wins the 15th General Elections (GE15) it wants its chairman, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as prime minister. The party is riding on the stature and support that Tun is still able to command from the people. The question, however, is if these factors are enough to put Pejuang candidates in Parliament to form the next government.

Tun, no doubt, has considerable support from the people as evidenced in the Johor state elections. Although the party lost in all the constituencies it contested, it garnered 1.8% or 18,000 of the total votes. However, the votes were distributed over the state. There was no evidence in the Johor state elections that there was a significant concentration of support for Pejuang in any one of the constituencies to effectively change the outcome of the results.

In other words, Tun’s support is spread all over the country but not necessarily concentrated in any particular constituency where it can win. So, Pejuang needs to think carefully as to the wisdom of going it alone in the GE15 in the hope it can form the next government on Tun’s support.

On the other hand, if Pejuang joined a coalition, Tun’s widely-distributed support can be significant in giving the edge to the coalition candidate, enabling the coalition to win the election and form the next government. Pejuang’s survival, perhaps, lies in working with the opposition coalition rather than going it alone.

In fact, all the opposition parties stand to lose rather than win if each goes it alone in the GE15. The outcomes of their contests may be no different from the results they obtained in the Malacca and Johor state elections where they were wiped out losing the seats they held and winning only a handful!

The “Big Tent” strategy is the best course of action for all the opposition parties if the overriding priority in GE15 is to prevent Umno from returning to power.

Should Pejuang win a sufficient number of seats while going it alone and then decides to form a coalition with allies with Tun as prime minister, Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties may not oblige. The consequence could be a hung Parliament — again!

Opposition leader and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has already made it clear in a recent media statement that his grassroots are not open to Tun Dr Mahathir being prime minister again and that it would be difficult for him to convince them to agree with Pejuang’s plan.

PKR grassroots and PH may want Anwar to become the next prime minister although it is unlikely that either he or Tun will assume the post if their parties go it alone in the GE15!

The candidacy for the premiership may become a divisive factor in preventing a formidable alternative opposition coalition from being formed. The solution, perhaps, is for neither to become prime minister.

Let the opposition parties choose a candidate for the premiership that both senior leaders can work with and accept, and all coalition partners back the nomination. This will remove the block to the formation of a strong and viable opposition coalition to challenge Umno/Barisan Nasional.

Such a compromise is needed for the formation of an opposition alliance that has a chance of winning the GE15.

Why Umno still stands today

It can be easily concluded from the exposés by Umno politicians of their leaders that their party, Umno, is heading towards self-destruction. That may happen in the future but unlikely in the imminent future such as in the coming general election.

The point to note is that it is not the leaders who determine Umno’s political standing. Leaders come and go but it is the supporters who ensure that whoever stands representing Umno in their constituency gets voted in to represent them in government.

Since Merdeka, Malay voters in the traditional rural heartland have been ingrained with the belief that Umno is the only Malay party that represents them and that their support ensures Malay dominance in government. That thinking has not changed and until it is challenged, the rural vote is expected to go to Umno despite the fact that its leaders are facing criminal charges in court.

If Umno politicians are honourable and rise up to the trust their voters unquestioningly place in them, they will hold party elections and change the top leadership. If they can’t solve party issues, how then can they govern a nation and solve national issues?

The hope is that rural voters will be able to see that their leaders aren’t acting on behalf of their supporters but for their own interests. If they can see it, then, there’s a good chance that they may not vote for Umno.

The only way to make them see the truth before their eyes in order to defeat Umno is for other Malay parties to contest the same seats Umno contests and present an alternative to Umno.

The only parties that can do that are Bersatu, Pejuang and Warisan. If past elections are anything to go by, Bersatu seems to have lost support and the small parties, Pejuang and Warisan, remain untested.

Yet, that is the only way to defeat Umno — put another Malay candidate against the Umno candidate and go on an anti-corruption campaign that the voters can understand and relate with, together with their nasi periok issues.

This is Pejuang’s strategy. If it works, it may succeed in swinging some seats away from Umno as Bersatu under former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad succeeded in swinging about 10% of the rural Malay vote to Pakatan Harapan (PH) and enabled it to form the first PH government.

If the PH-government was short-lived, the underlying factor was its inability to hold on to the 10% Malay swing vote. It went back to Umno because Umno politicians went to town claiming that the PH government was dominated by non-Malays — a sufficient argument to spook the Malay voter!

Opposition parties understand this but their supporters may not. Opposition candidates may need to explain the realities of Malay politics to their constituents so that there is give and take between Malay and non-Malay parties rather than the typical confrontational standoff.

Malay-based opposition parties like PKR and Amanah could stand in the Malay rural seats if they are able to reach the Malay voter base but if they go on a campaign of good governance and reforms it will fall on deaf ears! The rural Malay voter wants to know if his/her nasi periok issues take priority.

There is, however, one particular demographic that has been largely overlooked — the Malay urban voters who, according to the 2020 census, are a majority and underrepresented in Parliament. PKR and Amanah, perhaps, need to target this voter base and win them over.

It’s a tough task but not impossible to achieve.

If opposition parties don’t change their strategies and convincingly reach out to Malay voters, the trend to vote for Umno will continue.

Go to the people …

It must have been a major embarrassment to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob when the Prime Minister’s Office’s social media team had to take down a Twitter poll that carried a majority of negative views on the government’s newly-established “Jihad Task Force to Address Inflation and Assist in Facing Cost of Living”.

The poll had asked Twitter users to give their views on the capability of the task force to coordinate efforts to resolve inflation issues efficiently and effectively.

Most of the viewers didn’t agree with the question asked. That prompted the PMO’s media team to take down the poll.

This only goes to show how disconnected the current crop of national leaders is from the people. They apparently don’t know what the people want or think. Inflation and soaring prices are everyday issues for the people and setting up a task force is not going to suddenly bring prices down and put affordable food on the table.

Don’t the current crop of leaders know this? Yet, they want to hold on to their positions when they don’t seem able to do anything right to solve the problems of the people except to wear fancy clothes to welcome dignitaries and set up committees to study the issues of the day!

In this respect, I take my hats off to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad; he takes the issues to the ground. Even when he was prime minister the first time, when the fight got intense, he took it to the ground through a party or general election. And he won each time always on the support of the people.

He’s doing the same thing now with his new party, Pejuang — explaining to the people what the party stands for based on what he has said so far. Only a general election will show if his strategy to win support for Pejuang is successful. The outcome may be different from the Johor elections where Pejuang lost all its seats because Pejuang has had more time to meet with the people.

That’s what all political parties should be doing — not sitting in their air-conditioned posh offices setting up committees to solve national issues. Go to the people. If they don’t want to see you or reject you or chase you off or jam your social media accounts with negative comments, it’s the surest sign that the people want you out of government.

Then, hold a general election — for the sake of the people, not for the sake of the personal interests of politicians.

Why we are in this sad state …

Of late, politicians have been referring to the king’s role in selecting the date for a general election. Both Padang Rengas MP Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz (Umno) and DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang have said that it is the king who has the final say on the date.

Both are correct, however, it is the prime minister who first suggests the date or dates and, under the constitution, the king has to act on the advice of the prime minister. If at all these politicians and others want to influence the decision in selecting the date for the general election, it is the prime minister who needs to be won over. The king should be left out of the discussion.

The king’s role is clearly spelled out in the constitution and if he doesn’t know what that is he can easily consult with the Attorney-General to whom he has full access. Politicians do not have to crack their heads about the king or the sultans or royals about what they should do. The latter should be left out of all political discussions and negotiations because the constitution is very clear that the king and sultans are above politics.

But Malaysian politicians do not seem to practise it. I have said this earlier and I will repeat it here. Malaysian politicians prefer to wheel and deal rather than act according to the rule of law.

Johor is a fine example. Umno won with a super majority in the state but it is powerless even to get its own candidate for the position of menteri besar. The Johor Sultan overruled and selected his own candidate. With a super majority, Umno could have insisted on its candidate on the strength of the mandate the people gave it. With an Umno vice president as the prime minister (Ismail Sabri Yaakob), it could have brought the force of law to bear. But that didn’t happen.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi met with the Sultan and while we don’t know what actually transpired, Umno’s candidate was sidelined in favour of the Sultan’s. What can only be concluded is that the mandate of the people was sacrificed for the Sultan’s influence.

The important question to ask is whether the issue would have been resolved if Umno had followed the rule of law instead of “talking with” the Sultan. The reason why Umno, despite its majority, is powerless in Johor is because it courted the palace for political support. So, did PKR and the DAP in the Johor elections. As a result, the palace can assert its influence over the state government.

Would this have happened if politicians kept the royals out of politics? If politicians do not have any dealings with the king and sultans except what is permitted under the law, the royals won’t be involved in politics. They can only be involved in politics if politicians court them.

If politicians steered clear of wheeling and dealing outside the ambit of the law, we would also not be in the state Malaysia is in now. There would have been no Altantuya case, no IMDB, no Sheraton Moves, no Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister and no Ismail Sabri as the current prime minister!

The reason why we have an unelected illicit government legitimised by the opposition through the signing of the Memorandum of Understdanding is because Malaysian politicians prefer to wheel and deal and form pacts rather than follow the rule of law.

Stability for them is when no one in the pact upsets the boat. They don’t seem to understand that enforcing the rule of law automatically ensures stability because nobody can go against it; it’s the law. It’s the rule of law that ensures political stability not an agreement between scheming cohorts.

If government MPs don’t know how to operate according to democratic conventions and the rule of law, it is the Opposition’s job to hold them to the rule of law. But the opposition MPs too prefer to make pacts rather than enforce the rule of law, re: the MoU!

The solution to the current non-performing and non-delivering government is a general election. Under the rule of law, the people must be given the choice to choose their leaders. But the fragmented Opposition doesn’t want one because it can’t unite. And it can’t set aside personal agenda for the sake of the greater good. If it can, it earns the right to govern.

Facing up to the reality of politics

No doubt that Rafizi Ramli has made a dramatic return to politics after a two-year hiatus by winning the post of PKR deputy president against party stalwart Saifuddin Nasution in the recently-concluded party elections. His win has excited many in the hope that young blood and a strong leader would auger well for PKR specifically and politics in general.

While the rise of younger politicians is to be encouraged and commended the facts may not present as rosy a picture as idealists may want to believe. The fact is that the voter turnout in the PKR election was only 13.5% as stated by PKR strategic communications director Fahmi Fadzil.

Apparently, Rafizi’s supporters gave him the edge over Saifuddin but the fact is that the support both leaders received was less than 13.5% of the total party membership. According to Fahmi, the reasons given for the poor turnout were logistics and technical aspects like internet reach and the fact that 65 of the 222 divisions were won uncontested.

Whatever the reasons given, the reality is that 86.5% of PKR members were not sufficiently motivated to participate in party elections and a strong personality such as Rafizi was not an adequate draw to pull in more voters. It would be a disastrous outing for PKR to enter any election and expect to win handsomely, with the actual support of only 13.5% of party members. Elections now will not have the “wow” factor of GE14 and voters want honest-to-goodness reasons they can relate to to give their votes.

This should be the primary task of PKR’s new crop of leaders: to engage their members and rally them to vote. The leaders may need to change their tactics to get their members to become active participants in the electoral processes.

As deputy president, Rafizi will now be watched as to the extent he will play the role of team player. He is not yet president, so he will have to defer to the president, Anwar Ibrahim, and consider the input of the top echelon of leaders, especially with regard to the big tent strategy to unite opposition parties in order to defeat the Barisan Nasional (BN).

Each party has its own agenda, but in the current political context, opposition parties need to decide which takes precedence — party agenda or the urgent need to save the country from the court-cluster-led Umno/BN. It shouldn’t be a difficult choice as it is obvious the latter takes precedence.

Towards that objective, opposition parties should start reaching out to each other to form a viably strong coalition as a solid alternative to the BN, which means they should stop bickering with each other and laying conditions before serious negotiations even start.

It is imperative that opposition parties begin to negotiate because the general elections (GE) can be called at any time after July 31, the date given in the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the government and the opposition Pakatan Harapan until which the government can not call for a GE.

Right now, in the face of inflation, shortages, unemployment and limited investments caused by the pandemic-induced lockdown and now the Ukraine-Russia war, the question isn’t when is a good time to hold a GE but whether the incumbent government is able to navigate the trying times ahead in the best way possible with minimum damage to the country.

It is the opposition that will have to monitor the government’s performance in making it easier for the people. If the government fails, the opposition must act decisively to call for general elections before the country slides into an anarchic clamour for basic needs.

If the opposition doesn’t rally under the big tent strategy, the country may be heading to a regretful future that would take a great deal of effort and a long time to recover from.

Don’t dangle the PM carrot before Malay govt MPs

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday called for the expediting of the anti-hopping bill. In saying so, could it also be an expression of his concern that he is aware that some of his party MPs may be planning to switch sides?

If Umno MPs are furtively wheeling and dealing to make a switch, it’s an utter shame that they are doing so without openly making a stand against corruption. To echo DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang’s words, “Does nobody in Umno dare to say that the party should not seek the return of Najib as prime minister and that his years as the prime minister when Malaysia became ‘kleptocracy at its worst’ worldwide is not something to be proud of?”

In other words, why wouldn’t any Umno MP call out against corruption in general and specifically against party leaders facing criminal charges of corruption in court and with one convicted? They prefer to wheel and deal quietly and work out the best deal for themselves like former primer minister Muhyiddin Yassin and current prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob?

The only Malay MPs who are making a stand against corruption are those in the Opposition. How then, can any of these Malay MPs now in government be allowed to continue in their positions as ministers and the prime minister?

If Malay MPs in the government won’t lead the charge against corruption, how can they be trusted with Petronas’s oil money and taxpayers’ money and managing government-linked companies? They will be throwing money to the B40 group in order to stay in power while good governance and progressive development take a backseat.

Malay MPs in government may be courted to join a coalition in order to defeat the court-cluster-led Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and to prevent Umno adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak from returning as prime minister. But not one of them should be baited with the promise of the premiership — not any government MP nor the current prime minister. They have disqualified themselves from becoming a prime minister or holding important posts by simply not taking a stand against corruption.

If a new coalition is being formed to defeat Umno, government MPs should join it for the sake of political integrity and stability. They should join the coalition for the sake of a clear conscience and the candidate for prime ministership should be decided collectively and by consensus, as was done when Pakatan Harapan (PH) chose former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to lead the PH’s first government.

Malay MPs who switch sides for political gain other than the interests of the country can not be trusted to put the interests of both the Malays and non-Malays first. Such leaders will be no different from Muhyiddin or Sabri or Najib!

Until Malay MPs learn how to play politics according to the rule of law, they will never have the confidence to transparently stand up for anything right and fight for it for the good of the country. The people — Malay or non-Malay — should not be burdened by such leaders.

The choice of the next prime minister would be better accepted if it came from the Opposition.

A dangerous scenario

What is wrong with this picture: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim debating with convicted former prime minister Najib Razak before a 400-seat, capacity-full hall with opposition leaders seated in the front row? Is anything wrong at all with this picture?

To Najib’s supporters, this is another successful PR campaign legitimising Najib’s comeback to politics and they will see nothing wrong with their Bossku exchanging ideas with another politician. It affirms their Bossku’s credibility.

But, what do discerning voters see? Firstly, they see opposition leaders — Anwar and the others who attended the event — as thumping their noses at the judiciary which convicted Najib. It is the same message sent at the Hari Raya event at the Istana where Najib was seated at the high table with the Agong.

Some people may argue that Anwar is in a similar position to Najib. After all, he was pardoned by the Agong and Najib may want a similar pardon. There is, however, a huge difference between the two. Anwar didn’t mess with government money; Najib did. So, how can we trust the words of a convicted criminal? And, why is Anwar giving credence to Najib’s words when the latter’s actions are questionable?

Very clearly, both and those who attended the debate are disrespecting the judiciary. Should we support such leaders?

Secondly, the presence of Najib’s supporters at the debate is expected. They follow him wherever he goes to provide the carnival feel to his presence and removes the guilt of his conviction and makes him more endearing to his support base.

The presence of opposition leaders at the function, however, indicates that Anwar has their support but to do what? That is the other disturbing message that this picture sends. Opposition leaders are willing to go along with Anwar even if what he is doing is objectionable.

It appears, too, that the media is going along with this clear breach of principles. They played up the debate when nothing new was stated by either participant. The fact that Najib is a convicted criminal is downplayed. Even when he sneezes, it gets media space. The criticisms against Anwar are few and so protectively mild.

There should be much greater objective investigation in the media of Anwar’s antics than has been demonstrated so far, and Najib should be ignored. This is extremely important because Anwar’s current course of action very clearly facilitates the return of Najib/Umno to head the government with Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties on its coattails!

Why else would Anwar sign a Memorandum of Understanding with an Umno prime minister and engage in a pointless debate with a convicted former Umno prime minister?

To the discerning voter, it appears as if Anwar is playing a double game. If PH can form an alliance with other parties that would be considered. But, apparently, Anwar is doubtful that would happen especially since PKR and DAP, both in PH, have been losing their seats in all the recent elections. Hence, his openness to negotiating with Umno.

If Umno wins enough seats in a general election and if PH joins it to form a majority even with fewer seats, PH gets to be in government. The price for it is Najib’s political legitimacy!

That is the reason why I have painted the above picture as it sends a very dangerous message — Najib’s comeback is being facilitated by PH knowingly or unknowingly. Urban voters who form the vast bulk of support for PH now have to be very careful to think whether to vote for PH.

We don’t know what Anwar is up to because we can’t rely on the media which tends not to investigate him. But if the MoU and the recent debate are anything to go by, voters need to be extremely wary of PH parties.

More than ever now there’s a need to form a new coalition in which PH is no longer central to provide the alternative to an Umno-centred coalition. Until such a coalition emerges, a general election may be detrimental to Malaysia as it may bring Najib back with the help of opposition parties.