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The Political Tsunami Changes Malaysian Politics

This is a political tsunami. Just like the natural tsunami that never gives any sign before it happens. However, when the geological plate abruptly shiftdeform and vertically displace the overlying water, it can generate a great tidal wave.

This time, the political tsunami swept away almost half of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition's power. No one expected such results, included BN and the opposition as there was no conspicuous sign before the elections.

Indeed, BN has been psychologically prepared. It expected to lose majority of Indian votes and part of Chinese votes. But it was confident to win the national polls by obtaining most of Malay votes and supports from Sabah and Sarawak. Based on this confidence, it held an early elections.

As a result, those who have been expected to lose lost very badly while those who were not expected to lose, lost a lot. BN did not merely lose Indian and Chinese vote but also Malay votes in urban areas, as well as in Northern Malaysia and the East Coast.

This is different from the wind of change in 1990 and 1999. Opposition parties formed a coalition to fight with BN coalition in 1990. Eventually, Malay voters worried that changes might cause them lose the ruling power. So, they chose to give up Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and supported United Malays National Organisation. Despite most Chinese voted for the opposition, but the opposition failed without the support from others.

In 1999, Reformasi movement was initiated by Anwar Ibrahim and his supporters to oppose Mahathir Mohamad's regime. But BN were supported by Chinese and Indians that helped BN to maintain its strong position.

"There are limitations for racial parties and it is hard to maintain the need of national unity."

For 2008, voters no longer made decision based on race and colour. Opposition votes in urban areas, mixed constituencies that cast by Chinese, Indians and Malays helped the opposition to gain victory.

The reasons are:

1. Changes In The Social Environment

In terms of social environment BN has been facing the adverse social atmosphere before the elections. Economically, the surge of prices has formed a great pressure to the people, especially those who live in cities.

Worse still, the disparity between the rich and the poor becomes more and more serious. According to an official statistics, Gini Coefficient (a measure of statistical dispersion) showed that Malaysia was better than Papua New Guinea but worse than other countries in the region.

Politically, political parties and politicians stirred up racial issues that surfaced racial conflicts. The people were dissapointed with deteriorating social order, government's determination in coping with corruptions, endless religious issues and questionable independence of judiciary.

Of course, these were not new issues and they might not be able to affect people's support to BN if they existed alone. But when they all came together, their explosive force could be ten times stronger. BN would not be able to stand for it no matter how rigid it was.

2. Changes In Civic Thought

The political structure of BN coalition was still based on race in which each party stressed on their own racial ideology to gain support from their racial groups. Then, leaders of each parties cooperated and distributed power in the top management.

This structure has been maintained for half of a century and played its historical role, as well as successfully resolved some racial problems. But there were some weaknesses for the structure. As every party was fighting for the interests of their races, it was lack of common ideals and goals and led to contradictions in policies and ideals.

Component parties initially survived on such distribution of power but as time progresses, racism has been gradually outdated and the overall national interest has gone beyond racial interests.

There are limitations for racial parties and it is hard to maintain the need of national unity.

Under these double pressures, the theme of the BN's manifesto that still stressed on peace, stability and prosperity has been inconsistent with the requirements of the people.

Similar to the riptide beneath the sea, BN coalition, who has ruled the country for half of a century could not control the change of the people's thought.

Relatively, the opposition was supported by the people as it emphasised on issues like lowering oil prices, improving law and order, reducing the gap between the rich and the poor and fighting against corruption which were in line with the social atmosphere and consistent with the people's expectations.

The ideology of the opposition has abandoned racial and religious issues but shouted for change and emphasised on social equality, democracy and justice.

Democratic Action Party's (DAP) wish to bring changes to the country, Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) advocacy of Divide and Rule and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia's (PAS) idea of having a welfare country gained them resonance from the people.

The opposition worked together and fished votes for each other to strengthen their power. In addition, PKR has walked out from the shadow of Anwar while Anwar showed his charisma that successfully turned the party into a normal political party and a new force.

Malaysia would definitely have a new face after the political tsunami. The power of BN coalition has declined and it has to rely on Sabah, Sarawak and Southern Malaysia to maintain its ruling power.

There will be major leadership changes in UMNO, MCA, MIC and Gerakan. And the ideologies of BN coalition's component parties have to be adjusted. Abandoning racial partition would be a way out.

As for the opposition, they might not be able to handle to sudden victory in the elections, especially for DAP and Keadilan who won control of states and expanded their influences in the Parliament should integrate their manpower, policies and ideologies to solidity their cooperative means.

A political tsunami brought Malaysia into the prototype of two-coalition system that changed the political arena of Malaysia. (By TAY TIAN YAN/ Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/ Sin Chew Daily)

MySinchew 2008.03.09



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