Saturday, May 12, 2018


As a keen student of Malaysian and Singaporean politics I never thought I would see the day when the Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance would lose power in Malaysia.    The alliance, in its various guises, but always with the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) as the dominant partner, has been in power since Merdeka in 1957.

The BN was decimated reduced to 79 seats in the 222 seat Dewat Rakyat (Parliament) down 54 seats.    This is spite of a clear gerrymandering of electoral boundaries earlier this year in a move designed to shore up BN support.

The election saw the Chinese and Indian components of the BN (the Malaysian Chinese Association and and Malaysian Indian Congress - MCA and MIC) almost wiped out and reduced to one seat and two seats respectively.     Out of the twelve States the BN only has a majority of seats in three of them (Sabah, Perlis and Pahang).

The catalyst for the Opposition Pakatan Harapan (Party of Hope) victory was the decision of the 92 year old Mahathar Mohamad  (Malaysia's 4th Prime Minister 1981-2003) to quit UMNO in 2016 over the continuing corruption scandal that has haunted Najab Razak, the outgoing PM, and the UMNO Party for the last five years. Mahathar became the titular head of Pakatan Harapan.

While Mahathar has already been installed as the countries seventh PM it is an interim measure only.
He has indicated he will seek a Royal Pardon for the jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (his erstwhile Deputy when he was PM and who he himself had jailed on what are widely considered to be trumped up charges of sodomy ... whoever said Malaysian politics was boring?).   

UMNO lived 'high on the hog' for many years running roughshod over the opposition.    It will be 'interesting' to see how they adapt to being in opposition.   Just as interesting is how the opposition will react to being in government.   61 years is a long long time to be waiting in the wings ... not far behind Charlie boy.


Anonymous said...

The knock on effect in Singapore will be interesting. People are beginning to chafe under the Lee family dictatorship and lack of political choice. (Shelldrake...Oxford educated).

Lord Egbut

The Veteran said...

Egbut ... maybe, maybe not. The big difference between the two countries is that the Singaporean is essentially corruption free whereas across the causeway it became a national scandal with Najab front and centre of it.

Nevertheless I agree a functioning democracy requires an effective opposition. Problem is that Singapore does not have an effective opposition. It is fragmented with nine parties competing for the votes of those opposed to the PAP. Consequently the opposition only holds 9 seats in the 101 seat parliament. The problem too is that the PAP remains popular ... in the last election it increased its share of the vote by close to 10% to 69.86% while every opposition party lost share.

Anonymous said...

The reason that there is no functioning opposition is that PAP is using the rule of law to subvert the rule of law.........."The Workers' Party (WP) is the main opposition party. WP took 6 of the 89 parliamentary seats in the 2015 election, while the PAP won the other 83.[9] Another major opposition party, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), obtained no seats in the 2015 election.[10]

One commonly cited reason for a lack of opposition in Singapore is the use defamation lawsuits by the PAP to bankrupt political opponents and disqualify them from running for office.[11][12] Cases include former leader of the WP J. B. Jeyaretnam and leader of the SDP Chee Soon Juan, who were bankrupted in 2001 and 2011.[13][14][15]

Another reason given is the pursuit of legal action against journalists and bloggers critical of the PAP and its policies.[8][16] Reporters Without Borders cites such lawsuits, along with attempts at making critical journalists unemployable, among its concerns when ranking the country 151st in the world for press freedom in 2017.[17]

The PAP has in the past threatened voters by saying that constituencies voting for opposition MPs would be put at the bottom of the list for public housing programs.[18][19][20] In 1998, then PAP secretary-general, Goh Chok Tong said, "By linking the priority of upgrading to electoral support, we focus the minds of voters on the link between upgrading and the people whose policies make it possible. This has the desired result."[21]

The boundaries of electoral constituencies in Singapore are decided by the Elections Department, which is under the control of the Prime Minister's Office.[22] Electoral boundaries are redrawn just a few days before the general election.[22][23] There have been accusations of gerrymandering via dissolving of constituencies with relatively stronger opposition support, such as the Cheng San Group Representation Constituency (GRC).[24].........this country is not a parliamentary democracy.

Lord Egbut

The Veteran said...

Egbut ... S'pore is a parliamentary democracy ... S'pore style. The simple reason why the SDP won no seats is that it only won 3.76% of the vote. It hardly qualifies for the descriptive of a major party. I agree there is limited press freedom. Yet on the world corruption index it rates 6th ... four places ahead of the UK.

That ruling parties pork-barrel in order to win/retain constituencies is hardly earth shattering news. Happens there, happens in your place, happens here. Suma suma re electoral boundaries to a greater or lessor degree.

The S'pore gummit would argue there is a price to be paid for stability and economic growth. We may argue the price is too high but then again, it's not our country.

What happened in Malaysia could happen in S'pore were the PAP to lose the confidence of the ryat. Not much sign of that to date though.

Shelldrake said...

A key issue for the opposition parties is for them to clearly communicate what is it that they would do and what would they change.

Since 1969 I think I have probably made at least 35 visits to Singapore as well as living there for 5 years. The development of the nation state and its continual development and improbement I think it is unmatched for a former colony. It has largely been achieved with little human suffering. A few riots in early days and some political agitation.

Singaporeans are in the overwhelming majority are very proud of there nation and certainly don't moan in numbers in places like NZ, Australia and UK.

Even the bloody trains run on time and there is never any leaves on the line.

Shelldrake said...

Sorry about typos in earlier post. On a bloody train in NZ

Anonymous said...

Veteran......When you are in total control of the judiciary and the entire political process you can be seen to be corruption free as it will never see the light of day.

Lord Egbut