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Saturday, August 20, 2011

A unity government in Malaysia - impossible unless Umno changes

Sulaiman Kamal | 7:03 PM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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There are many names and labels for it - a national unity government, a government of national unity, or a national union government. But basically, it means a broad coalition government, consisting of all parties or all major parties in the legislature or Parliament.
A unity government is also usually formed during a time of war or other national emergency, and involves the disbandment of coalitions and the setting up of a singular political entity.
In a unity government, there is no division along party lines nor any distinction of politicians but rather a single unified mind-set in governance. Truly unified governance also means there would be no such thing as a government or an opposition, just one big team.

Can such a situation be a reality in Malaysia? Frankly speaking, even in the developed nations, this is a tough ideal to stand up to. Firstly, society must be pretty advanced because the main check-and-balance at Parliament won't exist any more. In other words, no opposition to challenge or slug it out with the government of the day. Secondly, this would also mean that a very vocal and powerful civil rights scene must evolve in order to povide sufficient cushioning against authoritarianism.
And perhaps more than any other factor, the nature of the existing parties and their leaders count the most. If they have the attitude and motivation to share and work for the good of society, why should a unity government be impossible in Malaysia? An attempt was made in 2008, between UMNO and PAS in the Selangor state government, but it tanked because there was insufficient shared vision leading to a breakdown in negotiations as to how power should be divided.
BN's contrasting fortunes 2004 vs 2008
In the March 2004 general election, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi led Barisan Nasional to a landslide victory. The coailtion recaptured the state of Terengganu from PAS. Riding high, the BN controlled 92% of the seats in Parliament.
It is indeed ironic that in 2005, Mahathir actually stated then "I believe that the country should have a strong government but not too strong. A two-thirds majority like I enjoyed when I was prime minister is sufficient but a 90% majority is too strong. ... We need an opposition to remind us if we are making mistakes. When you are not opposed you think everything you do is right."
The Malaysian public took Mahathir at his words and gave the opposition huge gains in the 2008 general elections, granting them control of 5 states and denying BN a two-thirds majority rule. So from near total dominance in 2004, BN swung to being forced to look for allies in 2008.
But by then, allies were not that easy to convince. The 2008 General Election showed that BN’s strangle-hold could be broken. And with the current awakening of voters across Malaysia, the coming GE-13 is a real tipping point for total change in Malaysia. For the Opposition, who now prefer to go it alone, it’s a do or die push and their supporters are gearing up for it like never before. Strike while the iron is hot and BN is at its weakest now! This is now the mantra of the Pakatan Rakyat and its growing horde of followers.
Make no mistake, BN too is aware of its current weakened state. The jostling for position in UMNO  itself had contributed greatly to the 2008 losses and the same pattern is emerging again. As the lynch-pin of BN, UMNO needs to stay strong and keep its rank and file happy. The disastrous showing by Gerakan and MCA in 2008 has added to UMNO's troubles. On its own, UMNO cannot rule Malaysia, it still requires partners and at times this may mean it has to extend a hand to its former rivals.
Stumbling block is UMNO itself
A unity government would have been possible, if PAS accepted UMNO’s call to merge in the aftermath of the 2008 GE. This union would have consolidated the Malay vote in Malaysia, strengthening the power base for Malay rule for many years to come. Yet, such a union would have a mere platform for UMNO to strengthen its dominance over all things politic in Malaysia. PAS would have been assimilated, digseted and relegated into the annals of history. Indeed, PAS was wise not to entertain any such notion of unity from UMNO.
UMNO's recent call to DAP to join BN points to its desperation to maintain it strangle-hold on the government. UMNO knows that as a singular entity it cannot rule Malaysia and has unashamedly offered the olive branch to an arch-enemy. While it is keeping quiet, the demise of MCA and Gerakan is attributed to the racial politics that UMNO itself favoured and insisted on practising. Not surpisingly then, it is currently avoiding eye contact with sister units such as Perkasa, which has reviled the Chinese as ungrateful people.
But no matter how or what sort of 'make-up' UMNO wears to attract DAP, its offer can never be taken seriously or be accepted, because the goal of UMNO is never to form a unity government but rather to cling to power at all costs. They are merely interested in DAP being a political party that can deliver the seat count for BN and thus assure that the UMNO president will always be installed as Prime Minister of Malaysia.
The interests of the people are far removed from the political agenda of UMNO. This was evident with the rampant accusations that Christians, Chinese, Communists, Jews, Americans and Indonesians are out to usurp the government and turn Malaysia into a modern-day colony of the Western powers. And these ideals are the greatest obstacles in the way of a unity government in Malaysia.
A unity government may never come into being if UMNO continues to dictate and bully its BN component members. This alone shows the disunified nature of BN. In a nation that is divided along religious and racial lines, one is not faulted to think that there is no hope of a unity government in Malaysia. And this may be the case unless, the very mechanisms that form the basis of government in Malaysia are dismantled and political parties are formed based on ideals rather than race or religion and politicians are more civil in their conduct with each other and with the general public.

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