The Asian Voice

The politicking isn’t over in Malaysia: The Star contributor

The writer says the coalitions and parties that eventually form the Malaysian government will still bicker amongst themselves.

Early voters on Polling Day of Malaysia's 15th general election in Tambun, Perak on Nov 19, 2022. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIANS have decided. Yesterday, we voted for our choice of party or candidate – or both.

I voted in SK Kipovo, near my village, Kampong Pogunon, in Penampang, Sabah. It had a “reunion” kind of feel as most of my family and friends in Pogunon voted there. When I cast my vote, I felt that my vote and the votes of Malaysians wouldn’t be decisive. Decisive, as in bringing political stability to Malaysia, which has seen a roller-coaster kind of politics in the last few years – we’ve had three prime ministers since the 14th General Election (GE14) in 2018.

Our votes wouldn’t be decisive, as there might not be a clear winner. And even if a government is formed, it will comprise coalitions and parties. Which, in post-GE14 politics, is a recipe for much bickering among those in power.

A political roller-coaster is good for a newsman like me as I eat politics for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper. That may be too much politics for one day, I should maybe do intermittent fasting (fast from politics from 8pm till noon).

Politics from 2018 to 2022 was unpredictable, as it was not “history repeating itself”. There were many firsts in that period – a prime minister from Umno who was not the president of Umno, a party like Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia with just 13 MPs grabbed the PM post, and Umno did not dominate the political landscape.

Two years ago, a politician forecasted what would happen in Malaysian politics. His predictions were spot on: friends (like Umno and PAS) became enemies, and enemies (like Bersatu and Umno in Sabah) became friends. He also spoke about backstabbing and marriages of convenience.

These are juicy political stories. “As a journalist, you will be delighted with these,” he said. I told him as a journalist, yes, but not as an ordinary Malaysian. As a family man, I want political stability. I want a prime minister who worries about regional and international issues like Indonesia’s rise, the thorny issue of Sabah claims with the Philippines, and the war in Ukraine.

We don’t need a shaky prime minister worried daily about how to hold on to his position. A prime minister who bloats his Cabinet to make MPs and parties loyal to him.

Suppose we don’t have a decisive result in GE15. In that case, a prime minister wannabe might be compelled to promise key Cabinet positions – like Finance minister or Home minister – to those he needs to convince among the various parties, coalitions and independents to join his proposed government of coalitions. That MP might not be the most competent person for the Finance portfolio, but he would get it just because there’s no decisive conclusion to GE15.

Without a decisive result, a party of just, say, seven MPs, or even a single independent, can hold a government of coalitions to ransom.

There’s a question mark whether the anti-party hopping law which prevents MPs from changing parties will provide political stability. In the last four years, we saw how a small party like Bersatu grew in size in terms of MPs as it held the PM post and how PKR shrank when its MPs jumped.

Will the anti-party hopping law stop this? Politicians told me it has yet to be tested. They told me politicians would find clever ways to bypass the law.

If it happens, it will be great for a journalist like me who covers politics. But it won’t be good for Mr Philip, the family man worried about the shrinking ringgit and inflation.

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There might be some truth in what I was told when I was younger: When you are young, you crave the chaos of democracy, but as you grow older, you want the certainty of dictatorship.

Whoever becomes PM or whichever coalitions and parties form the government, there will still be politicking. By the middle of next year, there will be state elections in several states, like Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Tereng-ganu, Kelantan and Kedah.

Even my state, Sabah, which had an election in 2020, might call a snap election. It all depends on what happens in the next few days.

Now that we have voted, it will be the political elites who will decide. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

  • The writer is a columnist for the paper. The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media entities.

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