TheViewFromAsia

It is politics, but is it good politics?

Political manoeuvres in Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan came in for close scrutiny by commentators in the region. They singled out controversial moves by leaders and drew attention to their likely ramifications. Here are excerpts.

Consequences Umno will have to face

Tay Tian Yan
Sin Chew Daily, Malaysia

The reactions of Chinese Malaysians as well as other non-Muslim communities in the country to the hudud Bill have far exceeded Umno's presumptions.

Already six ministers from the Malaysian Chinese Association, Gerakan and Malaysian Indian Congress have expressed their determination to relinquish their Cabinet posts if Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang's private Bill on hudud gets passed in Parliament.

Chinese Malaysians and the local Chinese associations have strongly protested against the Bill in a rare occasion in recent years as it has encroached on community rights.

Some Barisan Nasional (BN) parties based in Sabah and Sarawak have also stated their stand, with Mr Joseph Kurup, the Sabahan minister in the Prime Minister's Department, threatening possible separation of Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia if the Bill is passed.


A man detained for drinking in a public place in Las Pinas, south of Manila. Mr Duterte is expected to lead and micro-manage an iron-fisted, anti-drugs and anti-crime campaign. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem has pledged to reject hudud and further religionisation of the country.

If Umno insists on going ahead with its endorsement of hudud, the first consequence it will have to face will be the disintegration of BN and the resulting shaky administration.

If this were to happen, an imminent danger will be the collapse of the federal administration.

It's impossible for Umno to form a coalition government with PAS alone as its 86 seats plus PAS' 14 will not even make up a simple majority in the 222-seat Parliament.

The only thing that can be done is to dissolve Parliament to pave the way for an early general election, which will not necessarily give Umno the upper hand.

The second possible consequence Umno will have to face is deepened communal and religious confrontation that will eventually tear the country apart.

The price is way beyond what the party can bear.

The crisis is still in its rudimentary stage at this moment, and we still can nip it in the bud.

To be a responsible leader of the country, it is imperative that Prime Minister Najib Razak decisively withdraw his support for Mr Hadi's private Bill and stop colluding with PAS on the issue of hudud.


Duterte's socialist experiment

Bobby M. Tuazon
Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippines

A coalition government with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has been proposed by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, with an offer of four Cabinet portfolios - agriculture, social welfare, environment and natural resources, and labour.

Thanking his former student for the "magnanimous offer", exiled CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison declined the Cabinet positions for now but said the offer would be studied seriously.

As mayor of Davao City, Mr Duterte staked his political career on accommodating the Communist Party's New People's Army and backing a ban on US armed exercises in the metropolis.

Mr Duterte's proposed coalition with the Left differs from the European norm, where coalitions are formed by opposing political parties for lack of an outright majority.

Forged by compromise, these power-sharing coalitions eventually turn fractious because of incoherent policies and strategies.

In this case, the Cabinet posts are being offered even with Mr Duterte's knowledge that the Left's agenda of revolutionary reforms seeks to alter the power structures in the country - dislodging the ruling oligarchs and the financial elite and building a people's coalition government.

The posts at stake are strategic and critical since they involve social services, employment, land reform and protecting the environment from development aggression. In short, they serve as key platforms for initiating basic social and economic reforms with socialist paradigms.

Offering the "hand of peace" to the Left as well as other cause-driven rebel forces, Mr Duterte anchors his incoming administration on a healing presidency with a programme of national unity, peace and development.

He will lead and micro-manage an iron-fisted, anti-drugs and anti-crime campaign, but national security will lose steam without a peace agreement signed with the Left and capped by comprehensive social, economic and political reforms for a just and lasting peace.

A negotiated political settlement that will accommodate a progressive agenda opens the possibility of an alliance between Mr Duterte and the Left, which may even solidify his socialist orientation.

Others may interpret it as an attempt to co-opt the Left by using the peace process as a ploy for capitulation.

But the presumptive President- elect seems to know better than that.

It's too soon to predict whether the mulled coalition government will work.

Which brings us to the important questions: If the Left comes on board, how will Mr Duterte be able to balance and rein in a government of opposing political forces - the Left armed with a progressive ideology and rightist groups representing neo-liberal and pro-elite interests?

The answer lies in the outcome of the peace process.

Negotiations with the National Democratic Front - which represents the communist rebels - which were stalled in 2013, promise to rectify past mistakes of not honouring 10 peace agreements, with both sides now expected to accelerate the process.

The outcome of these talks will shape the final configuration of the coalition government.

Both Mr Duterte and the Left will need mutual support and cooperation to sustain what may turn out to be the country's first socialist experiment. The coming weeks will be crucial.


Taiwan politicians expose double standards

Editorial
The China Post, Taiwan

If a man awoke from a six-month coma today, he could be excused for thinking he had been beamed to a parallel universe.

In this mirror-image world, every thing would be familiar and yet so different. Politicians would still pick fights over attention-grabbing issues - like whether a government official has diminished the nation's sovereignty by referring to it as "Chinese Taipei" at an international event, instead of as "Taiwan".

Yet the political party that used to decry such a circumspect naming convention as a spineless betrayal of national dignity would now embrace it as adult-like prudence.

Meanwhile, the party that created the moniker "Chinese Taipei" as an inventive diplomatic device that allows breathing space for Taiwan in the international community and has regarded the country as a Chinese nation is now criticising the omission of "Taiwan".

Many have commented on how President Tsai Ing-wen's praise of Taiwan's World Health Assembly delegation as a "successful mission" is similar to the stance of her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT).

The KMT lawmakers' decision to disrupt a Legislative Yuan meeting in protest against such a "downgrade", on the other hand, reminded the public of the antics usually thrown by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over nationalistic issues.

In another example, the KMT and DPP exchanged places again on May 31 as KMT lawmakers occupied the rostrum to block Premier Lin Chuan from delivering his first speech at the Legislative Yuan, taking a page from the old DPP game book.

The DPP, in turn, decried such blocking as boycotting for boycotting's sake.

The issue at stake is the lifting of bans on US pork imports containing leanness-enhancing drugs.

The KMT approved opening the Taiwan market to US beef imports in order to reopen free trade talks with the US in the past but is now vehemently against similar considerations.

The DPP, on the other hand, is less opposed to the imports and seems to recognise the importance of trade-off in international politics.

Such collective change of attitude by politicians from the two major parties is as confounding as it is immediate.

It is as if the pro-independence DPP has swopped souls with the pro-China KMT. Of course, all that was actually swopped is merely the parties' positions in the government.

The true revelation is that the hotly debated issues in the Blue-Green divide that have dragged on in Taiwan politics for over a decade are not matters of principle for most politicians but merely means to achieve their aim, which is to defeat the opposition.

Such lack of principle exhibited by both sides represents one of the biggest crises of democracy.

A nation will not succeed in the modern world when it is led by people without principle.

•The View From Asia is a weekly compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers. For more, see www.asianews.network

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'It is politics, but is it good politics?'. Print Edition | Subscribe