Everyone wins with unity govt or CSA after GE15

Everyone wins with unity govt or CSA after GE15
By Zan Azlee

It is official. Today was nomination day and we have seen all candidates in all of the 222 parliamentary seats being announced officially.

The 14 days of campaigning now begin and on Nov 19, 2022, Malaysians will go to the polls to decide who will become their next government.

But here’s the thing. How sure and clear are we that we can actually decide on the government that we want?

There are five coalitions in this current general election – Pakatan Harapan, BN, Perikatan Nasional (PN), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS).

This is different from when we had two huge coalitions in recent elections, almost like a two-party system.

Previously, we voted for either BN or Pakatan Rakyat/Harapan. Whichever coalition gets the most seats in Parliament will get to form the government. Simple as that.

Voters who voted for BN would want BN to form the government and vice versa for those who voted for PR/Harapan.

But now, with so many coalitions contesting, will there be a clear-cut winner once the dust settles? It could be almost impossible for a single coalition to amass enough Parliamentary seats to form a government by itself.

So the most likely outcome is that a Confidence and Supply Agreement (CSA) is made and a unity government is formed.

When this happens, what does it mean for the voters? What happens if say BN forms a government with PN? Or Harapan forms a government with GPS and GRS? Or even if all of the coalitions come together to form a unity government? Would the voters actually get what they voted for?

Winners and losers

There have been analysts and lay people who say no clear manifesto will be upheld and hence, politicians will start to only look out for themselves and voters’ rights will not be upheld.

But in all honesty, I think this is unlikely and the opposite will actually happen.

Let me see if I can explain this properly. When there is a two-party/coalition system, we can observe that people tend to start identifying with the different sides.

Someone is either a Harapan voter or a BN voter. There is nothing in between because there can’t be anything in between. When this happens, it can be quite polarising.

When these two sides start campaigning and presenting their manifestos, again, it is clearly one side against the other. It is as clear as black and white, or more accurately, right and wrong.

But can’t there be a possibility of a grey area where the best of both worlds can merge and be better?

In an election where there are only two parties or coalitions, when one side wins, they and all of their voters win. The other side is the loser and so are all of its voters.

The country will then be divided into two groups – the winning group and the losing group, and as I said, that can be polarising.

But if there are multiple parties/coalitions, then people tend to think a little bit more about how they can adapt. This is actually quite normal human behaviour.

For example, as an individual, we play many roles depending on the different life situations we are in on a daily basis.

Coming to an agreement

Back to my referencing of a unity government and a CSA. Since no single coalition in this election can form a government alone, they will have to pact up. This is a unity government.

They shouldn’t see each other as rivals, but instead as colleagues trying to thrust the country forward.

A unity government like this has been successful in Malaysia a number of times. It happened in the Perak state assembly in 2020 when all the state assemblypersons, including those from the opposition, came to an agreement on how to govern the state.

Due to this, instability and rivalry were avoided.

The last example of this happening was in Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s government.

Caretaker prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob (middle) and leaders from Pakatan Harapan, April 2022.

The opposition and everyone else agreed to support him and his administration as long as he agreed to compromise and push certain agendasfrom all sides. It worked relatively well.

When this happens, politicians need to compromise and merge their manifestos together. These manifestos are the coalitions’ promises to the voters, so they should negotiate the best win-win agreement as possible.

It is also a good check and balance because if any one side reneges on their part, support for them stops.

But for all this to happen, the coalitions and parties need to understand they should work together and not against each other.

The voters also need to understand this same thing so they can demand this from their selected candidates and parties.

It actually serves everyone well if they all work together once the dust settles after the election. In the situation that Malaysia is in right now where there are multiple coalitions, if we approach it the right way, we don’t need to have any losers. Everyone can come out as winners.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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