Friday, December 14, 2018

Are Dr M and Anwar playing 3D Chess?

On the surface, Dr M seems to be eager to take in ex-UMNO MPs to bolster the number of Bersatu MPs (currently 16 compared to PKR's 50 and DAP's 42).

On the surface, Anwar is toying with the idea of having an UMNO bloc aligned with Nazri, as a bulwark against a potentially fast-growing Bersatu.

If the above scenarios are actually what's happening, Pakatan Harapan is in trouble. But what might seem obvious might not be what is happening. Could it be that both Dr M and Anwar are yanking UMNO's chain?

Mahathir is not some naive freshman politician. He's knows exactly what UMNO guys are like. There's no doubting he wants to grow Bersatu fast but he won't do it by accepting ex-UMNO MPs wholesale. He will pick and choose who he wants. I believe a lot will be rejected.

Anwar might be more compassionate and forgiving compared to Dr M, but he's no fool.  So what's he doing negotiating with Nazri? Maybe he's just humoring Nazri, who seems desperate to get back into the government again.

Remember, Anwar is negotiating from a position of strength. His party has the most number of seats. He is PM-designate. He has DAP and Amanah's support. He doesn't need UMNO guys. They need him.

Anwar will really get the last laugh if a bunch of UMNO MPs end up carrying out Nazri's plan and supports Pakatan in Parliament with nothing in return but the hope that one day they can be appointed Cabinet positions (it's not gonna happen).

Maybe I'm being too charitable towards Dr M and Anwar but realize this: These two are the most skillful, experienced, cunning and shrew politicians this country has ever seen. There is no way they will get outplayed by UMNO guys.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The equilibrium in Pakatan Harapan

Some people are fearful that Pakatan Harapan could eventually turn into a BN-like scenario where you have one big monolithic Malay-based party dominating the rest. This concern was born out of the notion that Bersatu may open its doors to 40-over members of UMNO in order to bolster its ranks.

It's a little bit hard to keep track of the exact numbers of MPs each party has but in GE14, this is what each one got:

PKR: 47
DAP: 42
Bersatu: 13
Amanah: 11

(In East Malaysian Warisan got 8 and UPKO 1 but for this discussion let's focus on the peninsula).

Since the election there has been some party-hopping and from what I can tell, this is the current composition:

PKR: 50 (additional 3)
DAP: 42
Bersatu: 15 (additional 2)
Amanah: 11

The concern is that some have is this: If Bersatu takes in say, 40 UMNO members, it would then suddenly have 55 MPs, making it the most dominant party in the coalition. If PKR (which is nominally multi-racial but in reality predominantly Malay) joins hands with Bersatu, then you suddenly have a bloc that has 50 + 55 MPs or 105 MPs, which would suddenly make DAP's 42 look tiny in comparison.

One thing people must realize is that PKR and Bersatu are fierce rivals. If anything, PKR is closer to DAP than it would be to Bersatu. So, even if Bersatu has 55, there will be a PKR that is close behind at 50.

The other thing people must realize is that DAP is actually very close to Amanah. Added together, that block is 42 + 11 = 53, which is pretty close to 55.

So even if UMNO does get that influx of 40 UMNO MPs (which is doubtful, actually) and it grows to 55-strong, it will be counter-balanced by PKR's 50 and DAP + Amanah's 53.

If push comes to shove, PKR will side with DAP and Amanah and that pushes that block up to 103 versus Bersatu's 50.

Bottom line: There is no way Bersatu can dominate Pakatan the way UMNO dominated BN.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Why I am still optimistic

There are reasons to feel disappointed with Pakatan Harapan. At first it backtracked on the ICERD issue. Then the Human Rights event had to be postponed to avoid any clashes with the anti-ICERD rally championed by PAS and UMNO.

On the surface it seems it extremism is winning out. Just threaten to run amok and the government will give in to your demands, it seems. There is a fear that this will embolden the extremists. But in politics you have to pick your battles knowing that to win the war you don't have to win every battle.

This is what I think Dr M is doing. He realizes that there is some unease among the Malays about the new government. While most probably don't buy into the extremist rhetoric that DAP has taken over the government (how can it when there's also Bersatu, PKR, Amanah and Warisan in the mix), there is a segment which are gullible enough to believe in such hokum.

In making the U-turn on ICERD, Dr M disappoints rational-thinking Malaysians who understand full well that being against discrimination is a good thing not a bad thing. However, at the same time he starves the extremists of the oxygen they need to propagate their fear-mongering rhetoric.

UMNO and PAS leaders think they've won this round -- and in a way they did -- but it's a hollow victory. Whether ICERD is ratified or not, in practical terms nothing would have changed.

UMNO types like to harp on the 3Rs that they claim is under constant threat: royalty, race and religion. Well, even if ICERD had been ratified, we'd still have the monarchy in place, Malays would still receive affirmative action and Islam would remain the religion of the federation. So what have they actually won? Nothing. Because none of these things would have changed anyway. (Essentially, ICERD is just a moral stance against discrimination, that's all. It doesn't change the constitution).

What they lost was the ability to use ICERD as a bogeyman. Now that the government has said no more ICERD, UMNO leaders no longer have that to harp about.

Does this mean these jokers will forever be able to play the "amok" card? No. The reality is that many of UMNO's top leaders have been charged with all kinds of corruption (Najib for instance has nearly 40 charges against him while Zahid has over 40 charges). It's worth noting that Dr M has indicated that more will be prosecuted. By the time he leaves office and hands over the keys to Anwar, most of these guys will be in jail. It won't be so easy for them to issue threats of "running amok" from behind bars.

If we want more progressive policies, we will have to be patient and wait for Anwar's turn to become PM. Meanwhile, we have to let Dr M do his job and get all the corrupted politicians prosecuted.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Slippery slope

The government recently announced a few alarming things:

In response to the Seafield temple riot, the Cabinet had decided to withdraw the moratorium on Sedition Act of 1948 and Section 233 of Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA).

Before that, Hanipa Maidin, deputy minister in the PM's department, revealed that the government would amend NSC Act rather than repeal it.

This is what Pakatan had promised:

What we are seeing here is the slippery slope happening in real time.

People can argue that unlike BN, Pakatan will not abuse these draconian laws. That may be true but even if that were the case it still does not justify Pakatan going back on its word that it would repeal such tyrannical laws which have no place in a modern democracy.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Future Proof