Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Is Dr M right?

Dr M seems intent on uniting Malays under one political party -- Bersatu -- to the extent that he invited members of PAS and UMNO to join his party.

Why is he doing this? The simplistic explanation is that he wants to replicate UMNO within PH, with Bersatu being the new UMNO. He wants Bersatu to play the big brother role.

That certainly could be a reason but there could be another (arguably more critical) explanation for his fixation with building up mega-Malay party.

Perhaps Dr M is convinced that PH cannot win future elections unless it adopts the BN formula of a dominant Malay party in charge of the coalition.

Could he be right? If he is, that means the rest of PH must be wrong because the other component parties are emphasizing a multi-racial approach.

The reason Dr M gave for making Bersatu a Malay-only party was that this was necessary to make Malays feel comfortable with voting for PH in GE14.

There is probably some truth in that but how much? What percentage of the Malay electorate actually cared whether there was a Malay-only party in PH?

The other parties in PH believe the way forward is to adopt a multi-racial approach. That is one of the reasons Anwar has been calling for a needs-based approach to affirmative action rather than the race-based one preferred by Dr M.

When Dr M was in BN, his approach to combating PAS was to out-Islam PAS. This was why he declared Malaysia an Islamic state. Dr M seems to be going back to the same playbook and trying to out-Islam PAS and out-Malay UMNO.

This would explain his bizarre support for Zakir Naik to remain in Malaysia and his approval for the education ministry to introduce khat as part of the BM syllabus.

Both these issues are incredibly divisive but he was willing to put the country through that because he thinks this will win Bersatu (and by extension, PH) Malay support.

Dr M is a master politician. That can't be denied. But even experts make mistakes and Dr M is wrong if he thinks becoming more like BN is the way to win future elections.

People who voted for PH in GE14 did so because they were sick of BN. The last thing these folks want is for BN to be replaced with another BN-like entity.

"BN minus 1MBD" is not what people are clamoring for. What people want is a PH with the courage of its convictions. They want to see a change in the way things are done. They want reforms.

It's unrealistic to expect Dr M to embrace this new approach favored by the other PH parties. As such, the only way PH can fully go on full reform mode is for Dr M to eventually retire and be replaced by Anwar.

There's no guarantee that Anwar will be able to deliver on all the promises PH had given prior to GE14. Certain things that require a lot of money to fulfill (e.g. no more highway tolls) may simply be unachievable. But there are many promises that can be fulfilled that don't require huge funds or a 2/3rds majority in parliament. All it takes is political will.

Expecting Dr M to become a committed reformist may be too much to ask of him but it is not too much to expect him to pass the baton to Anwar after two years in power. In fact, it's something that should be demanded because that is what the electorate voted for.

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