Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Leadership Issue: What If PR Takes Over?
WE continue our discussion on leadership issue. This time let us try to figure out what will happen to the country if the Umno-led Barisan Nasional loses the next general election.
Let me start by quoting passages from the comment from debater, Safiai Saad, in our last posting. He, among other things, said:
“We should ask ourselves how would the Malays be if Umno is no more the ruling party. No ruling party is expected to continue to eternity. Certainly all the so called affirmative policy will be changed to reflect the new mandate given by the rakyat.”
During the 2013 general election, the Rubicon had been crossed – the Barisan Nasional lost the popular votes. In a system where proportional representation is practised, the Pakatan Rakyat would have won the Dewan Rakyat by a simple majority.
The momentum against the grand old coalition appears to be continuing although the PR has its fair share of setbacks in the form of intra- and inter-party squabbles.
Thus there is little wonder that more and more people are asking what if the BN falls at the next GE less than four years from now? What would the PR do as the new government of the Federation of Malaysia?
The Bumiputeras, in particular the pro-BN Malays, fear that they would lose their rights and privileges and the minority Chinese would dominate the government in addition to the economy that they already control.
Fear factor is Umno’s last remaining weapon to keep the Malays on its side. Fear of the Chinese was one of the key reasons why the Malays returned to Umno’s fold thus giving its a bigger victory during last year’s GE.
Images of tens of thousands jubilant Chinese and Indian supporters of the opposition taking over towns in Johor during election rallies struck fear among the Malays and they rallied behind Umno.
If the PR could convince the Malays that it would be fair to them, the BN would be in deeper trouble. The situation in the PR-ruled Selangor and Penang is a fair indicator. Was there a Malay revolt in these states since the PR gained power in 2008?
Except for the BN-linked Malay business community, the rest of the Malays appear to have accepted the PR. In Penang, where the DAP leads, the remaining holdouts are not Malays but Indian Muslims.
The latter are more strident in their criticisms of the state government because they are largely traders. They are directly affected by policies and programmes of the state government.
Even BN state assembly members are lacklustre in their efforts to confront the PR in the state legislative assembly. Unless they exhibit a more spirited challenge, they are at risk of being seen as a weak and ineffectual opposition.
If the PR could convince the Malays that it would be fair to them, respect their rights and privileges and promise a better deal for them in the economy, it would almost certainly get to keep Selangor and Penang, and may even win other states and ultimately the country.
Pacifying and allaying the fears of Malays are a must because they are the majority and they control the key elements of the government – the civil service, the police and the military. No government can change these overnight.
Of cause the easiest way to be popular with the people is for the PR to blame its predecessor i.e the BN government for the hardship they suffer. It would probably do what it has all along been demanding – setting up a royal commission of inquiry - to investigate the former BN government.
There will be other quick fixes like reducing the price of petroleum products or, at least, halting its increases, applying screws on profiteering and increasing salaries of the civil servants and allowance of quasi government officers like mosque officials - as was done by the DAP in Penang in 2008.
This could be achieved by reducing wasteful expenditures, doing away with extravagance and reducing cost of government procurements through open tender.
The experience with BR1M and election giveaways show that poor Malays and Bumiputeras are easily pacified. This has been copied by the PR governments of Selangor and Penang.
Keeping BN Policies
It will be foolish and dangerous for the PR to do away with the existing policies and programmes. So the core policies and programmes pertaining to the economy and commerce are likely to remain, minus such hypes as transformation and high-income economy.
The new PR government would risk too much if it abandons the existing economic framework altogether although admittedly it has its own sets of economic advisers if it wants to chart a totally new direction. Some of their advisers were from the Umno-BN network.
The next the PR has to convince is the private sector. The businessmen, including those who gain massively from the Ummo-BN government, will shift their loyalty if they are fairly treated.
They will rally around the new government for safety and survival, and may even be willing to make concessions and re-negotiate contracts they obtained from the former BN government.
This should not be a huge problem because many tycoons and big time businessmen have already been befriending and cultivating the PR parties since the 2008 GE.
But should the PR chooses to be vengeful, it risks angering the Malays and losing their support. And this cannot be good as the Malays form the majority and they control the key elements of the government.
The biggest challenge to the PR is keeping peace among its ideologically incompatible members. The recent Selangor Menteri Besar crisis exposed the vulnerability of the PR to inter- and intra-party squabbles. PAS lost Kedah in the last GE due largely to factional rivalries.
Therefore, unless BN goes through a credible transformation and Umno is back in favour with the Malays, in particular the younger ones, the PR stands a fair chance of grabbing Putrajaya in the coming GE.
- A KADIR JASIN
- I was born in 1947 in Kedah. I came from a rice farming family. I have been a journalist since 1969. I am the Editor-in-Chief of magazine publishing company, Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd. I was Group Editor NST Sdn Bhd and Group Editor-in-Chief of NSTP Bhd between 1988 and 2000. I write fortnightly column “Other Thots” in the Malaysian Business magazine, Kunta Kinte Original in Berita Harian and A Kadir Jasin Bercerita in Dewan Masyarakat. Books: Biar Putih Tulang (1998), Other Thots – Opinions & Observations 1992-2001 (2001), The Wings of an Eagle (2003), Mencari Dugalia Huso (2006), Damned That Thots (2006), Blogger (2006), PRU 2008-Rakyat Sahut Cabaran (2008), Komedi & Tragedi-Latest in Contemporary Malaysian Politics (2009) and Membangun Bangsa dengan Pena (2009).