Build up necessary conditions for good politics

The commentary package on June 4 ("It is politics, but is it good politics?") highlighted some controversial moves by political leaders in Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Obviously, the main motive of these actions was to gain votes and power. Whether these would translate into benefits for the respective nations is yet to be seen.

We have sensible and rule-abiding citizens in our regional countries. Their demand for good politics is, by and large, simple and pragmatic. They just want a clean government and capable leaders who can solve basic issues for them and the country.

But pockets of community segregation exist in the region. In some cases, it has degenerated into divisive polarisation.

Also, when citizens do not share a common collective vision for the nation, it creates the right setting for politicking.

Politicking disrupts the implementation of good and needed policies. It creates a vicious circle of confrontational politics, making it hard, if not impossible, to introduce reforms or major policy shift. That is bad politics.

Politicking exists everywhere, but we must aim to keep it mild and not let it hinder a nation's progress and ability to function.

First, voters have to raise their expectations. They should not too readily buy into policies of community interests at the expense of the nation's larger or long-term interests.

They should strike a balance in accepting policies that benefit them directly and those that benefit the nation at large or other communities. If they can achieve these, there would be no room for dishonest politicians to sell tricks and illusions.

Second, political parties have to renew and reform. They cannot rely on the same old tricks to gain power in the long run, given that electorates are becoming more and more educated and exposed to the outside world. Parties should compete on things such as policy ideas, quality of candidates and their integrity and commitment.

Third, the mass media should play a more constructive role towards raising the quality of the democratic system of their nations.

Fourth, administrative and legal systems must be fair and efficient in upholding the good principles and rules needed to run the nation, and in preventing malicious and opportunistic politicians from gaining power through dishonest means.

Albert Ng Ya Ken