Tuesday, 26 August 2008

POST-Permatang Pauh By-Election: The State of Play in Malaysian Politics

From Minda-Cergas Blog: Read here


Irrespective of the outcome (of the Permatang Pauh by-election), these will stand TRUE:
  1. For UMNO there is nothing that goes beneath them. They will go to whatever the extent that is needed to cling on to power.

  2. UMNO does not have the political will to change. Its inability to respond to the thumping at the GE and its continued reliance on its old ways attest to this. Its same old, same old.

  3. UMNO has a serious leadership crisis. When the Deputy Prime Minister has to seek legitimacy by swearing just shows that his own faith in the judicial system is flawed. Is such a man fit to lead the country?

  4. Pak Lah has contradicted himself so many times that he is making George Bush look good!
If we think that the PKR-PAS-DAP (BR) coalition is fragile, I think Permatang Pauh has demonstrated that the UMNO-MCA-MIC++ (BN) coalition is even more fragile.

PKR-PAS-DAP may not agree on some very fundamental issues like the form of government that it should take but they have all come down in force to ensure full support to Anwar Ibrahim. This is in stark contrast to BN where only the bit players have been coming out.

A win for Anwar - even if it is by 1 vote is a win. While the media is trying to hype up the size of Anwars majority as a proxy for his support this is flawed thinking. Anwar has won the most important battle, that is the battle of perceptions.

Anwar now has a number of options on his hands. Believe it or not - both UMNO and PKR will be more than happy to have Anwar lead. BN and PR are aligned and motivated on different things.

  • BN is aligned around business deals and crony politics and to maintain this they need to be in power even if it means Anwar Ibrahim as their leader.

  • PR on the other hand has evolved through alignment on social justice, equity and representation (not to say that they will not have an interest in crony politics too at some point in time).
Anwar is now thinking of configuration - which coalition of partners will give him the highest level of stability to institute the reforms he wants to push through.

To do that he will have to assess each component party:
  1. UMNO

    UMNO will always remain UMNO - the swashbuckling kris waving fighter for MALAY rights. UMNO’s survival is hinged on amplifying the MALAY agenda to bring back the mainstream Malays into its cause.

    UMNO will take on a much more racially driven slant to stay relevant.

  2. MCA and GERAKAN

    MCA and Gerakan are clearly hedging their bets already. The choice for them is reform or become irrelevant. They will support whomever is in power.

    Unlike the Malays, the Chinese have a range of choices for political representation and will go to the one that they believe can help them achieve better integration and access.

  3. DAP

    DAP has made the bold move forward to shed its CHINESE image and reposition itself as the voice of democracy. DAP will grow from strength to strength but it must first grow the number of Malays in its ranks. Appointment of Tunku Aziz is a huge step forward.

  4. PAS

    PAS will continue as an Islamist party but instead of a party of ULAMA’s they are seeing a huge influx of Professional Muslims, who I describe as the thinking MALAY’s.

    The combination of being stuck in the middle class, aging in to the 40’s and early 50’s, the thinking Malays are all reassessing their beliefs, and lo and behold, they are discovering that MALAY and MUSLIM are not the same.

    The path to salvation is through being a MUSLIM and not being a MALAY and hence politically PAS will make more sense than UMNO.

  5. MIC

    MIC is a good as history.

    The INDIAN community has been take for granted for too long and they will need to re-strategize their fit and positioning. It is a reality of what happens when you have no economic nor political clout.


    Then there are the Sabah and Sarawak based parties that actually underpin BN’s survival. Unfortunately I am too disconnected from Sabah and Sarawak to make any judgements.

Before my next point, let me state a fundamental assumption I have… the country is ready for change, but the MALAY’s no matter how it is done, will not agree to be led by a non Malay or the Muslims to be led by a non Muslim.

Likewise I assume that a portion of Malays and a whole lot of non malays are not ready to be led by PAS or a leader from PAS. (the reason is not important, it is just how it is).


So, Anwar’s big hurdle to the PM’s job is that the PKR-PAS-DAP coalition do not yet have a mechanism to elect a leader other then everyone agreeing that is should be Anwar.

But imagine for a second that on day 1 as PM, God forbid, Anwar dies of a heart attack, who would succeed him?

Of course the DPM. But will the DPM be from PAS or DAP? So while it its easy for the BR team to agree that Anwar is the leader, who will be his deputy?

The structure of the coalition is that all three members will have to be represented at the top (maybe thats a good reason for Tunku Aziz to be in DAP).

REALITY CHECK for Anwar Ibrahim

For practical reality:
  1. PAS is not in a position to be accepted a “ruling” party. And therefore Anwar is better off with PAS exactly where it is but he will make a sweetheart deal with PAS to ensure that they get all the privileges as if they were in the ruling coalition.

    By the way, if PAS is in the “ruling party” and is not able to propagate its islamic agenda, its own members will go after its Leadership and that is the last thing the PAS Leadership needs.

  2. DAP - any attempts for DAP (at this moment) to be seen as “ruling” will send all of the MALAYS running straight back into UMNO. This will absolutely destabilize the equation.

    The last thing Anwar wants is UMNO regaining strong grass roots malay support especially from urban Malays. Like with PAS, Anwar will have to do a sweetheart deal with DAP.

  3. PKR is fairly neutral but doesn’t not have enough seats on its own to be stable in parliament.
So here is the reality… for Anwar to do what he plans to do, he will have to do it via BN.

He will bring PKR into the center as an olive branch to MCA and MIC members. This in essence will checkmate UMNO and will force UMNO to purge itself of the rot if it wants to remain in the coalition.

The alternative for UMNO is to leave BN and in doing so it will becomes the new opposition….. if UMNO chooses to leave, the choice for all the other parties will now be loyalty to BN or loyalty to UMNO.

I suspect they will stay in BN as UMNO on its own will no more be relevant. PAS and DAP will be given time and space to be an “effective opposition” in Parliament…

These are my thought and I think this will give ANWAR the greatest configuration for a stable government.

-"Minda Cergas"

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