The year 2020 has caused many Malaysians to be confused, frustrated and disillusioned with multiparty competition and even democracy.
On the surface, this is caused by fluid and unpredictable realignment of coalitions and defection of lawmakers. As allies become enemies and enemies become allies, voters do not know what to believe in what politicians tell them.
At a deeper level, voters feel that democracy is becoming meaningless when power struggles between political elites do not benefit ordinary citizens. Suffering political fatigue, they ask: what differences does it make to their hardship in pandemic and economic recession if Leader A or Leader B becomes Prime Minister?
Voters losing faith in democracy is extremely dangerous. Their cynicism may lead to a support for authoritarianism. Alternatively, they may not rise up to resist coup attempts. Lastly, comes GE15, they may simply vote for some outsider politicians riding on hatred and bigotry like Trump. Or they may simply stay at home on polling day.
In reflecting on our nation’s trajectory in the turbulent year of 2020, I, as part of the political class, owe all Malaysians a sincere apology because we, politicians and parties, have failed to compete professionally.
For 2021, as Malaysians brace the pandemic and recession, politicians and parties should compete to offer better policies and delivery, so that whichever parties win and lose, the people will always win.
Instead of incessant plottings to form a grand coalition or another, to toople a government or another, I call upon both the government and the official opposition, PH, to negotiate for 2021 a ‘modus vivendi’, a ceasefire for co-existence that both the government and opposition can do their best professionally, before fighting against each other in GE15 in 2022 or 2023.
This modus vivendi may entail five parts
- No federal or state election except for Sarawak’s state election which can be held as late as August 5, 2021.
- Parliamentary/Legislative reforms to allow meaningful roles in law making and policy shaping for both opposition lawmakers and government backbenchers.
- Formal recognition of Shadow Cabinet at both the federal and state levels.
- Equitable Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for all government and opposition lawmakers.
- Preparation for free and fair GE15 and state elections which must include facilities for extensive absentee voting and digital campaigning necessary for elections under pandemic.
Such a modus vivendi will allow the government to focus its energy on managing the pandemic and the economy and also enable the opposition to provide effective legislative oversight.
This will deliver real political stability and democratic accountability that Malaysia needs the most to remedy political fatigue, restore business confidence and improve its credit rating.
I humbly call upon Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Parliamentary Opposition Leader Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim to consider the above suggestions.
I also call upon all PH Plus Parties to have a candid and inclusive discussion to build an Opposition strong in policies, not just ambition. We must not waste more time in waiting.
Malaysia needs professionalised politics, not fake unity. Let’s make it work for a hopeful 2021.