Could it be a matured Malaysia?
By Zan Azlee
I am going to declare that I called it weeks before the election that it will be a hung Parliament and no coalition will win enough seats to form the government on their own.
At the end of the day, they would either have to form a unity government or a minority government with a confidence and supply agreement.
But Malaysia isn’t used to that and everyone was still caught up in hoping for a coalition or party that they supported to win. They were also obsessed with who will be each coalition’s prime minister candidate. The country just needed to have a clear winner and an authoritative individual that they could see, touch and feel to lead.
This is old Malaysia. A Malaysia that only knew one coalition leading them from the beginning of independence till the next 63 years. A Malaysia that was only told what to do, how to do it and to just listen.
But, as we know, the wheels of change had been set in motion in 1998 when Anwar Ibrahim was sacked as deputy prime minister.
In 2018, Pakatan Harapan won the general election and managed to form the government. But the majority was slim and after two years, due to unethical (but not unlawful) tactics, the administration fell and changed hands. People were frustrated and it further proved to them that an authoritative coalition and leader were needed.
I disagree and feel that democracy should be an institution that can stand on its own and goes beyond any single coalition, party or individual leader. The system had to be stable enough so that no matter who is in power, democracy would exist and the people’s rights would be protected.
So, when we entered GE15, I was very excited to see how it would pan out. I was rooting for a hung Parliament. Oh wait! Let me be clear. I had a coalition that I wanted to vote for and, of course, I wanted them to win. But like I said, I knew no single coalition would be able to form a government on its own.
Same old campaign
I wanted to see Malaysian politics mature and develop into something that I can have faith in. Politics that exists to move the country forward and safeguard the interest of the people instead of one that breeds selfishness, cronyism and, basically, all that is bad. Maybe it was wishful thinking, maybe it wasn’t. But I was excited to find out.
As campaigning started, I was disappointed. Everything was happening just like how it was before. The different coalitions were extremely polarising in the way they campaigned. It was them or no one else. Not a lot of emphasis was given to their actual manifestos as compared to demonising their rivals.
Also, the prime minister candidates of each coalition were made to be like superstars or at least the driving force of their campaigns.
Sure, they should have a candidate as their main leader but as I said, it should transcend that. If the right policies and manifesto are in place and they follow it, it shouldn’t matter who is at the top.
Hung Parliament sparks negotiation fury
Then the hung Parliament happened and Malaysians panicked. What was going to happen? Is the country in turmoil? Were we caught in a political crisis? Is Malaysia going to be a failed state?
Is the country’s infrastructure going to crumble? Will the public transport system fail? Oh wait, that last one can happen even without a crisis.
I became even more excited. This would mean that the coalitions have to discuss and negotiate in order to form a government. You have the conservative Malay bloc that is Perikatan Nasional (PN), the multiracial bloc that is Harapan, the Borneo blocs of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS).
They all represented different segments of Malaysia and if they manage to work together and come to a compromise, as Rivers Cuomo from Weezer said, it would be the perfect situation. A hung Parliament isn’t new in this world and neither is a unity or minority government. But I knew it would take time.
When hung Parliament results happened in Germany, it usually takes them a couple of months to form a coalition government. If I am not mistaken, the record of the longest time a country took to form a government after a hung Parliament is 500 days in Belgium. But I hoped it wouldn’t take that long for Malaysia.
When the results were official, as expected, Harapan won the most seats but not enough for a simple majority. What was not expected was BN being slaughtered and only winning very few seats. Instead, PN won big and was second with the number of seats behind Harapan.
And as I expected, the two big coalitions started claiming they had enough seats via negotiations to form the government. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong gave a deadline, had meetings with the different parties and coalitions and eventually, he decreed that a unity government is to be formed with Anwar as the prime minister.
Aside from some allegations of false statutory declarations and a bit of squabble happening between party members about the right and wrong of joining forces with rivals (see, if they weren’t so polarising during campaigning, it wouldn’t have been a problem), I would have to say that everything went quite smoothly.
As much as prime minister Anwar wants to call it a unity government, it really isn’t. It is a coalition government with an opposition. Harapan along with GPS and GRS is the government and PN is the opposition.
It works well. The three coalitions that are the government will need to negotiate and compromise as to how they will administer the country. They would have to take into consideration each coalition’s manifestos and voters, and be as inclusive and representative as possible.
Heading in right direction
Hopefully, the combination of these coalitions working together will naturally keep the whole government in check, because if it doesn’t, they all know well that their government can crumble. There is also the opposition PN to keep all of them in check anyway.
What is really ideal to me is that even if PN managed to garner the support and form the government, the different coalitions that come together will still keep all of them in check, inclusive and well-represented. Why? It’s the same reason – if they fail to work together, then they know that their government will crumble.
So there lies my point whereby democracy and politics should transcend coalitions, parties and individuals. A natural system should be in place so that no matter who governs, they need to abide by the system. I understand that there will be problems. This is the first time for Malaysia, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.
It is true that Malaysians are divided based on the votes and results of the election. But I have faith that the country and our people are starting to mature. Let’s hope everyone plays their role responsibly and with integrity. It’s not going to be smooth sailing for sure, but I think we can do it.
[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]
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