Sunday, March 09, 2008

A New Dawn for Malaysia I

I watched the Malaysian election results with excitement this morning. The unofficial news of Penang falling to DAP came as early as 9pm last night but were only confirmed past midnight.

First it was Penang, then Kedak, Kelantan, Selangor and finally unofficial news about Perak falling into Malaysian opposition parties. It is not an exaggeration to say this is truly a Political Tsunami. However, what is more important is the AFTERMATH of such Tsunami.

The main issues that cost Barisan National votes are:

1) High Inflation
2) Racial discrimination and divide
3) Incompetency & Complacency which leads to total neglect of development for some places
4) High Crime Rate
5) Rampant Corruptions
6) The increasing size of middle class and their assertion of political will
7) Natural social Justice prevails over Pork Barrel politics and Political Persecution
8) Lost of credibility of mass media due to manipulation by BN which gives New Media the opportunity to grow
9) Unity among opposition parties that avoided many multi-corners fight.

Inflation

While many people feel that inflationary pressure due to rising fuel prices may not be the fault of BN, but the lack of concerns and control of prices by the ruling elites. Inflation or hyper inflation will normally widen the income gaps. In a society where the middle class forms the main pillar of the economics, the squeeze on the middle class would inevitably result in protest votes.

Racial discrimination and divide

Racial discrimination and policies that are deemed to marginalize the minorities have existed since Malaysia's independence. This undercurrent of discontent has been suppressed for the past decades by the inclusion of racially based parties like Gerakan, MCA and MIC into the ruling coalition BN. However, over the years, these parties have traded communal interests for their own self prosperity and political appointments which has made their community to believe that they have betrayed them. Such undercurrent has built up over the years but the sparks that blew up such racial sentiments has come from UMNO Youth Wing Chairman Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein who has displayed Malay chauvinism by publicly kiss his Kris. This action is widely interpreted as a direct challenge/warning to other minority races (mainly Chinese and Indians) not to question the unfair racist policies and practices.

Such action has outraged the minority races, particularly Chinese and Indians. Internet bloggers campaign against BN and eventually such wild fire burnt to reality whereby Indians take to the streets to demonstrate their displeasure of the state of marginalization experienced by their community. Interesting enough, we witness star blogger Jeffrey Ooi and an Indian detained (without trial) under Malaysian ISA becoming winners of this election.

This election will be a good lesson to BN or anyone who is to rule Malaysia in future that communal racist politics will not work in modern society filled with more middle class. The minority races cannot be taken for granted anymore and the middle class majority Malays will not be simpletons that will dance with racist fire anymore. This is especially so in urban areas like KL and Penang. It is not surprising for BN to lose almost all seats in these two places where population demographic is mostly made up of the urban middle class. Even PAS has realized this and decided to move towards the centrist secular path in order to win more seats in other states.

Malfunction of Pork Barrel Politics and Political persecutions

In Asian countries, pork barrel politics, gerrymandering and political persecutions are common practices. However, with the growth of size and strength of the middle class, it seems that it will become less and less acceptable for ruling parties to convince the electorates about the legitimacy of such politicking.

The people of Kelantan have shown that pork barrel politics will not win over their hearts, mind and the sense of upright social moral justice. Neither did the fear of pork barrel politics has stopped voters in Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kedah in their determination to vote BN out of the state government. This is something for governments around this region, particularly PAP of Singapore, to ponder about.

The conventional wisdom of boiling water in a kettle is that the longer you resist steam from coming out of the kettle, the bigger potential power will be trapped and when released instantly, will translate into a power push. The political persecution of DAP Chief Lim Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim had turned the tide into a Tsunami. DAP Chief was charged and jailed, deprived of his rights to stand as a candidate for the past two elections. Anwar Ibrahim has been jailed for politically motivated reasons and deprived of standing for the last and present elections.

Such deprivation of political opponents in a direct challenge will only entrench the sense of injustice and unfairness in people's mind. Instead of strengthening BN's own position by enhancing its ruling track record in preparation to face tough challenges from political giants from their opponents, BN has chosen the shortsighted, easier way out of the contest TEMPORARILY. But this will only build up political strength of their opponent rather than remove them from future contests. Even when these politically persecuted opponents could not contest directly, their personal political capital could be used to help their comrades to gain advantages over the ruling parties.

The effectiveness of such political persecution will diminish along with the growth of the more affluent middle class.

The Power of Middle Class

In short, I believe BN has totally ignore the potential power of the middle class in Malaysia. Their core values of social moral justice and fair play cannot be ignored or neglected else the vote swing will be tremendously overwhelming.

The lessons Singapore should learn from this Malaysia Election result is that whoever could empathize with the middle class sentiments and aspiration, will win their hearts, minds and votes.

Goh Meng Seng

5 comments:

daikor said...

The urban Malay middle class almost did BN, or rather UMNO, in this time. The kris waving at the UMNO GA scared away the non-Malays and such theatrics had no impact on the Malay middle class who were more concerned with rising crime, inflation and corruption as you pointed out.

LuckySingaporean said...

GMS,

The big lesson is there is alot for the opposition to gain if they can put aside their differences. The Malaysian opposition Islamists can work with Leftists etc etc.

The hand behind all that is Anwar. A pure poltitician who do what he needs to do to win power. When Anwar was a student he was in the Religious organisation. Then he found out there was power to be had by joining Umno so he abandoned his religious stance. When he was kicked out of UMNO, he reorganised the Opposition to empower himself. Anwar is a world class political "creature" (I don't mean it in a negative sense) he almost rivals the Clintons....and knows what it takes to win power.

There is no Anwar for Singapore's Opposition. If anything you have the most wily authoriarians watching over your every move.

Anonymous said...

This is a new and possibly good development for Malaysia. It could only happened because of the people's pent-up frustrations and the feeling of injustice and the desperate need for change.

I looked at the factors you listed that costs BN their votes and tried to see if they are applicable to Singapore. Sad to say, I can only see less than half applicable ... that probably explains for why PAP managed to get 66.6% in the last election.

For a political tsunami to happen in Singapore, the chances are quite remote.


KH

Goh Meng Seng said...

Dear LuckyTan,

You are spot on. But there lies the danger also. PAS is not trusted by the Chinese in Perak and Selangor. Nevertheless, PAS will have to prove itself that it has a moderate side in terms of religious tolerance and ideology.

As for Singapore Opposition Unity, I don't see it coming any sooner. :(

Dear KH,

Although in Singapore's perspective, many of the reasons listed may not apply, but we do have our sets of problems. Whether these problems is HUGE enough to create a Political Tsunami, depends very much on how Singaporeans view them against the possibility of having a "weaker" PAP rule.

Goh Meng Seng

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