Some words on the 13th Malaysian General Election

The 13th Malaysian general election will be held in 2 days time. I have never been a fan of democracy or democrazy, and usually try to steer away from any in-depth discussions of  Malaysian politics. However, this coming general election is the hottest topic among Malaysians or anyone having connection to Malaysia, and thus it is hard to avoid this topic.

This time the election is seen by many observers as the closest and most intense of all the Malaysian general elections ever held, as the ruling  National Front Coalition government has weakened considerably over the years while opposition parties have strengthened. The election atmosphere this time is highly electrifying with festive airs. People are being agitated , and this lead to many Malaysian Chinese  adopting very strong view, to the extend that any Chinese  who  vote for the  National Front are  considered traitors. Thus when famous actress Michelle Yeoh declared her support for the Prime minister in a function, she was  heavily criticised and called a traitor or sell-out to the Chinese cause for equal treatment by the opposition supporters.

It is a fact that many Malaysian Chinese are unhappy and  angry with the perceived massive corruptions, cronyism and the marginalisation of the Chinese community, where special privileges are mostly given to the Malay majority.   However,  it is the highly charged and effective  campaigns carried out by the opposition DAP that intensify Chinese reactions and created an atmosphere of  no-hold  barred ground on racial politics for many Malaysian Chinese.  The popular slogan of the DAP is 五月五,換政府 ( change government on 5th May) .   

The DAP is expected to win big this time at the expense of the Chinese component party of the ruling National Front, the MCA. However, at the most it will still be a party of the minority.  And what happens next? Can the DAP play the kingmaker (in the case where opposition coalition wins) and really dictate their terms to the majority Malays? This is highly doubtful, as the  Malays still perceive themselves to be economically and socially disadvantaged, and their religion and race takes far higher priority over the  abstract ideals  of Western universalism that are being extolled by some opposition propagandists.  It is very easy to make promises,   but it is altogether  another matter to deliver,  given the reality.

Anyway, following is an article from a scholar on the election :

Anti-establishment sentiment among youngsters a global phenomenon

Researcher of Southeast Asian and Malaysian politics for more than 30 years, Dr Chang Chak Yan predicts that Chinese Malaysians will overwhelmingly vote for the opposition in GE13 although the ruling coalition will still take the helm of Federal administration after May 5.

He foresees that MCA and Gerakan Rakyat will lose the grounds to bargain with Umno because of their poor showing in the elections.

Chang, who is also the guest professor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, pointed out that such eventuality is not a bad thing for both MCA and Gerakan, for they can seek to reinvent themselves and emerge stronger after the election flop, adding that the parties need to restructure themselves to stay relevant in the Chinese community.

He said such a development will not have too much impact on the day-to-day living of Chinese Malaysians in the future. They also will not be marginalised or oppressed by the authorities, but to consolidate the Malay support, the government is expected to siphon most of its resources to Malay-dominant constituencies.

“Due to lack of political needs, the government may give up fighting for Chinese support, and the appeals of Chinese Malaysians will not be prioritised by the government.”

Chang, who is now in the country observing the general elections, said during an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily that the chances for a change of regime after May 5 are slim, for at least 50% of Malay constituencies will remain staunchly loyal to BN while not all Chinese will rally behind the Pakatan.

Born in Kuala Lumpur and growing up in Senai, Johor, Dr Chang is currently the head of Akademi Kewartawanan & Informasi Taima and has been conducting researches on Southeast Asian and Malaysian politics for more than three decades.

Based on his observations, Chinese are expected to vote for the parties of their choice rather than the candidates per se, a phenomenon that has been seen as a norm ever since Merdeka.

“Those who vote for the Barisan set their eyes on the vested interest. They are contented with the existing economic and social situation and wish to keep the status quo.”

As for those opposing the ruling coalition, Chang said this has something to do with the country’s past history of labour society and anti-British movements of the CPM, who later continued to support the opposition alliance formed by the Labour party, etc. evolving over the years in line with changes in the country’s political environment into a powerful support for the DAP.

He concluded that those supporting Pakatan will continue to do so but first-time voters are generally anti-establishment. Meanwhile, a small group of BN supporters who have been denied chances of advancing their economic pursuits and who are frustrated with the government’s refusal to recognise Chinese education, coupled with the corruption and incapability of some leaders in Chinese-based parties in the ruling coalition, will also swing towards the opposition.

Dr Chang feels that DAP now offers nothing more than just a platform for people to vent their anger towards the government, not trying to convince the public with their policies. As such, judging from the current situation, support for the opposition is only a kind of emotional outlet for the people.

He admits that Pakatan has produced something for the public to scrutinise based on their track records in governing the states of Selangor and Penang, but these are Chinese-majority societies which may not reflect the actual situation if Pakatan were to take over the Federal administration. Academically speaking, such records cannot be construed as instances of success applicable to the entire nation.

He pointed out, the success of Penang is comparable to that of Singapore and that any Chinese-dominant society will be able to come up with such results. Lee Kuan Yew was against the special privileges accorded to the Malays, but it could be very dangerous if the same were to take place in Malaysia.

He said, Chinese Malaysians generally believe DAP can check and balance PAS, and even replace MCA to check Umno.

“But in reality, even if DAP, PAS and PKR have formed an alliance, they hold very different political beliefs. As a political scholar, I have yet to see any evidence of cooperation between DAP and PAS. Their beliefs are at two extreme ends. They used to cooperate before, then they broke up, showing that their cooperation would not last if DAP persists in its stance against the Islamic policies.”

Based on his observations, even though Pakatan were to clinch the victory, PKR’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would still not be in charge. Unlike DAP and PAS which have their firm support bases, PKR will have to look forward to some external forces.

“Such forces are very likely coming from America!

“Anwar is a political celebrity in the Western world. He bases his political beliefs on the US values and it is therefore not unfounded to say that diplomatically he is leaning towards the US.”

Chang agrees that Chinese Malaysians are generally frustrated with rampant corruption in the government, but he emphasises that no regimes in the world could be topped because of corruption alone, adding that the corruption issue can be addressed without having to replace the whole government.

He said even if the government is eventually changed, Malaysia is still incapable of freeing itself from racial politics. Although the fair, democratic and clean governance championed by Pakatan Rakyat is hugely popular, politics is something very realistic. Looking from perspectives of political philosophy, equality in politics is non-existent in our world.

He said first-time voters are expected to vote against the government, but this phenomenon is not exclusive to Malaysia and that such behaviour is not caused by the Malaysian government.

“These kids are used to run against whoever in charge. They are against their parents at home, and when they grow up, they start going against the government. This thing happens all over the world.”


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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