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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Change: DENIED

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Well, it’s been just over a week since GE13. The net result: BN regains power at the Federal Government level, albeit with a reduced seat majority, and losing the popular vote by a good 3 percentage points.

It would have been an acceptable victory had it not been for the alleged fraud. Pakatan Rakyat improved its seat count compared to GE12, both at parliament and state levels. More telling, however, is the popular vote, of which, UMNO/BN only managed to obtain 46.5%, compared to 50.3% for Pakatan Rakyat. What this translates to is an unpopular UMNO/BN helming the country for the next 5 years.

Just how unpopular? Let’s just say that the 51% of Malaysians who voted for change are not exactly happy campers right now.

Disappointed as Walski is, however, UMNO/BN won the election. Truly fair and square is another question, but they won. And as things stand, for right now, that’s the result we’re forced to accept. Reluctantly.
(thoughts and recommendations, in the full post)

What is more disconcerting, however, was Najib’s “victory” speech. The immediate blame on what has now become a clich√©, the Chinese Tsunami, and the talk about reconciliation, almost in the same breath, so to speak.

Some would say it’s an UMNO kneejerk reaction, while others (quite rightly) would place the blame squarely on UMNO/BN’s polls strategists, who weren’t exactly the most strategic, it would seem.

Dr. M, who should really do the country and himself a favor and enjoy his retirement, came out to say that it was the fault of the “ungrateful Chinese and greedy Malays”.

Utusan didn’t exactly do its political masters any favors by playing up on anti-Chinese sentiment, asking the question “what more do the Chinese want?” True to form, the Internet generation responded almost instantly. And somewhat hilariously.

Despite the overall result, there were some positives. For instance, Perkasa, represented by Ibrahim Ali (Pasir Mas) and Zulkifli Nordin (Shah Alam), lost at the polls. So too did another UMNO conservative Puad Zarkashi (Batu Pahat), overrun by a Pink Tsunami, some have said. To Walski, this is a clear rejection of ultra right-wing voices within the winning coalition.

And for the first time in history, a BN candidate lost their deposit money, not getting even 1% of the votes cast (Pengkalan Kota, Penang state seat).

So, what does that mean for UMNO/BN and Malaysia?

Well, for now as far as Malaysians are concerned, Walski thinks we need to move on with our lives. But moving on with our lives doesn’t mean conceding defeat in our quest for a better Malaysia. Not at all – the fight certainly continues.

Much commentary has been made about how the new Najib-led government should move forward, among others by The Malaysian Insider and Zaid Ibrahim.

If Najib is really serious and sincere about pushing for reconciliation in what he calls a “polarized” Malaysia, this desire needs to be demonstrated. Urgently and decidedly. Walski being Walski, he, too, has a few ideas that the newly minted government may want to consider if they’re serious about this reconciliation they’re talking about.

First Off, It’s Not About Racial Reconciliation, But Fixing the Trust Deficit
What Najib Razak is talking about when he mentions “reconciliation” is actually the reduced support for BN, perceived to be particularly from the non-Malay population and urban population. This is a perception that’s out of sync with reality, and only exposes UMNO/BN’s obsession with a dying paradigm: race based politics. What the 51% represents, dear Mr. Prime Minister, is distrust for government and its institutions, which are seen to have become overtly beholden to UMNO/BN. There is a severe trust deficit when it comes to institutions of government, and that is not at all a good thing. Not for your government, and not for Malaysia.

Make the EC truly independent
One of the biggest complaints is the Election Commission (EC) itself. It’s time to remove the EC from under the Prime Minister’s Office, and make it an autonomous entity, reporting directly to Parliament. Or some other more viable reporting structure, but certainly NOT part of the Executive. Like justice, impartiality needs to be seen, and not merely exercised. And how, by any stretch of the imagination, can the EC be perceived to be totally impartial – even IF it really is – when it comes under the purview of the PM, UMNO/BN’s president? Logically, that’s as impartial as a Manchester United game being refereed by Sir Alex Furguson! Seriously, it’s time to get jibby with it.

Instant ICs, just add Bangladeshis
The problems with the electoral roll, Walski thinks, goes beyond the EC not being totally impartial. If indeed there were foreign workers who were on the rolls and voted, and had valid ICs, this sounds like a different kettle of problematic fish. It would, for one thing, involve the National Registration Department, and possibly the Immigration Department. This is as serious as what happened in Sabah, prompting a Royal Commission of Inquiry. And without a doubt, this is a problem that needs to be looked into. What say you, Mr. Prime Minister?

Implement IPCMC as recommended
To show that you, Najib, are a Prime Minister with the Malaysian people’s interest at heart, please implement the IPCMC as recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry. The half-hearted (and again, not very impartial) Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) is certainly not enough to restore the integrity of the police force in the eyes of the Malaysian people. Yes, it’s not going to be a popular move with your party/coalition, nor will it be with PDRM. But hey, you got your mandate, now it’s time to grow a backbone and a pair.

Transformation, within before without
Najib’s much touted transformation, now that he’s gotten the mandate (sort of), will be scrutinized with a fine-toothed magnifying glass. Whether or not UMNO/BN transforms, and what it transforms into, only time will tell. Perhaps the new cabinet will be an indication, but the UMNO General Assembly will be a huge indication. The early signs, however, are not encouraging. Utusan continues to play up racial sentiments, and whether UMNO likes it or not, what Utusan says is perceived as what UMNO says by proxy. Just like how charity begins at home, real transformation is only possible if UMNO can transform. Personally, Walski thinks it has no capacity to, but that’s just Walski. It’s another one of those wait and see scenarios.

There are other things to do, for sure, but act on these four areas, and PM Najib will have gone a long way to reduce the trust deficit. And perhaps demonstrate that he is serious about leading this nation towards a better future.

Needless to say, Najib has his work cut out for him. He wanted a mandate, and a minority mandate is what he got. How minority? This reposting of a Malaysiakini article by Tommy Thomas tells the full story. Yes, the parliamentary seat counts favor UMNO/BN, but the popular vote certainly does not. Even in Perak where UMNO/BN managed to retain the state government helm.

But before Najib can convince the nation, he must first ensure that his party and coalition are on the same page with him. Early indications are that many within UMNO/BN are still in denial, falling back on tired old rhetorical outbursts of race, indebtedness and betrayal.

First things first, however, is the new Cabinet. Or will it be an old cabinet with new paintjob and minor accessories? We’ll find out tomorrow. Meanwhile, a possible list has been released on the Politik Harian Media Rakyat blog. Kind of looks like… well, you decide.

Meanwhile, Anwar Ibrahim is on a roadshow to garner support for his position that the currently elected one is illegitimate, due to the alleged polls fraud. Walski has mixed feelings over this.

Bottom line, as hurtful as having the elections stolen is (if indeed there was fraud on the scale alleged), the relevant laws are there for a reason. If we are to support the rule of law, the last thing we want to do is take the law into our own hands.

Finally, GE13 has resulted in a more divided Malaysia. Not along racial lines as UMNO/BN want to believe, but along other more complex demographic lines. It’s probably going to be a bumpy ride, but Walski, for one, is here for the long haul.

And disappointed as he may be that real change was denied, the fight for a better Malaysia continues…

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