It’s time to call for a general election
By Zan Azlee
Looking at politics in Malaysia, I’ve always had the idea that it is not a good thing if a political party or coalition has a vast majority in Parliament. What this means is that the majority party can practically do anything they want. Laws can be made and changed at a whim since they control the majority vote.
This is obvious because, in Malaysia, the Federal Constitution has been amended so many times over the decades, I wonder if we can even count the number. Many of these laws then became very self-serving for the ruling coalition rather than for Malaysians in general. But nothing could be done about it because there was not a strong opposition.
So, I have always considered that situations like these are what makes democracy safe. It provides a good check and balance. For example, in Malaysia, if a government doesn’t hold too big a majority, then they can’t simply do anything they want because a strong opposition would be sure to oppose them.
Unfortunately, I think I may have been proven wrong about this. After over 60 years, Malaysians finally managed to change the government for the first time, and we thought everything would be better, and changes would happen. But Pakatan Harapan had won the government without a majority as big as BN previously had.
So, even with all the changes that had been promised during the campaign, it was quite difficult for PN to keep the promises because, well, they didn’t have enough votes in Parliament to do anything. Now, after the “Sheraton Move” and another change in government, the majority is supposedly even lower. It’s so low that a shift of two seats could result in a change of government.
In a situation like this, we definitely have a strong opposition, but then the bigger problem is that the government becomes a really weak and unstable government. The coalition that is holding on to the government starts becoming insecure and will do anything to stay in power. They might be desperate enough to, say, even attempt to call for an emergency.
The opposition isn’t going to be doing any better. They will be so preoccupied strategising on how they can take over the government and might even make public statements saying that they already have the numbers to take power in Parliament but then provide no evidence of it. All of this just creates more instability.
It’s funny how such a big majority does nothing to make democracy work, and neither will a very small majority. It’s times like this when I think that democracy might not be the best system the world uses to govern itself. But then again, what better system is there? I guess we just have to make do with what we have.
So who suffers when a situation like this takes place? The people, of course. As we are going through a pandemic, politicking politicians help us to spread Covid-19 even more. When the country needs to have a very specific and carefully planned national budget for the coming year to deal with all the crises, nothing is moving.
First of all, as I had written last week when the Yang di-Pertuan Agong said that he wanted the budget to be approved, I am convinced he didn’t mean that the government could just come up with anything. It was supposed to be discussed with the opposition and other stakeholders and then table one that would be agreed upon by everyone. Of course, the government didn’t do that.
In a mature democracy with mature Parliamentarians, laws and bills would be discussed properly between both sides of the divide. They talk to each other and try to convince each other of what would be the best way to pass a bill. Parliamentarians should also be thinking of the people when doing all of this instead of thinking of their party allegiances. Oh well.
So, now we are in a situation where the budget has been tabled in Parliament and the MPs are scrutinising it. There is a very high risk that the budget might not be approved and if this happens, then it would be the first in Malaysia’s history. It would also mean the prime minister and his current government has no support anymore.
But, there is still the opportunity to amend the budget. As they have multiple readings in Parliament, the government can implement changes and suggestions before a vote is called. The hope is that it will be done and Budget 2021 will be passed. However, listening to all the criticism that has been made, it looks like a longshot.
Maybe, the best thing to do is actually to call for a general election. All those who have been elected into office have been making their own decisions and failing the people.
It’s time for the people to take back that power. Sure, there is a pandemic. But outline the necessary standard operating procedures, and we’ll make sure to follow it. It’s time for a reset for the good of the people.
[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]
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