A resounding theme in Malaysia’s 13th General Election on May 5th had been the prospect of change, and the popular slogan being bandied about was ‘Ini kalilah! Ubah!’. Yet May 5th had passed, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) that has ruled Malaysia for the past half-century still succeed to retain Putrajaya. And this, too, put a full stop to Pakatan Rakyat (PAKATAN)’s road to Putrajaya 1.0.
So, 267 days after the May 5th 2013, we have now witnessed the PAKATAN, or Parti Keadilan Rakyat (KEADILAN), to be precise, has taken the initiative to steer the electoral politics of Malaysia by calling for by-election in Kajang. Despite criticisms and contestation, think tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU) opines that Kajang by-election is a new departure for PAKATAN in the quest for Putrajaya, again – not by following the same old road, but hewing out a new path instead. It is a strategic move to re-deploy against the attack from BN – it has come to the time wherein PAKATAN does not passively combat in BN’s warfield by complying to their rules, but to become the game master. As the Chinese saying goes, catch an enemy off guard with a surprise attack. Kajang Move is definitely a strike beyond expectation, and this strike just come in time to invigorate PAKATAN’s quest for Putrajaya 2.0.
Losing the 13th general elections with 52% popular votes was indeed a great disappointment; it is a huge blow to people’s morale and confidence, as well as of the oppositions. Furthermore, the temperature of the general election last year had then cooled, the euphoria and excitement hoping for a regime change had evaporated. The following price hikes have furthermore rendered the ordinary folks in despair and helplessness. The recent hype on Prime Minister Najib’s ‘kangkung’ price remark has gone viral and spread like wildfire but nevertheless a harmless joke. Meanwhile, as Selangor PAKATAN government, as well as Pulau Pinang, has entered its second term, people will inevitably place higher expectation on its performance in every respect, and how Selangor, as a targeted state, play a strategic role to strengthen PAKATAN’s strategies to Putrajaya 2.0.
Recap PAKATAN’s Road to Putrajaya 1.0: From 308 to 505
The historic results of the 12th general election, later widely known as March 8th political tsunami, was an unprecedented massive swing towards the opposition, and since then a newly formed PAKATAN has begun to pave the way towards Putrajaya.
The results of the 2008 general elections were remarkably stunning, and it played a pivotal role as a stepping stone for the forming of KEADILAN-DAP-PAS coalition, later known as PAKATAN. Since then, we can hardly dismiss the evolvement of a new Malaysia with a brand new political sky, where opposition coalition taking 82 seats in Parliament and winning state power in four states on top of PAS’s Kelantan, namely Pulau Pinang, Selangor and Perak. However, Perak was later seized by BN, not through legitimate elections but unethical and unconstitutional power grab.
As the BN suffered a major setback in the 12th general election, yielding one of the worst results in the coalition’s history, former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was urged to step down in favour of his successor Najib Tun Razak during the UMNO General Assembly held on April 1st 2009, and the latter sworn in as the Prime Minister on April 3rd 2009. During Najib’s days in Prime Minister Office, he had and is still tirelessly launched various ambitious programmes with bombastic names, including the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and Government Transformation Prograam (GTP), as well as introducing one after another airy-fairy slogans – from ‘1Malaysia’ to the latest ‘Endless Possibilities’. Nonetheless, your average Joe and Jane on the street does not necessarily understand those big words, as they were, and are still being left out from the fruits claimed in his Janji Ditepati rhetoric.
Meanwhile, unceasing scandals broke out in corruption-riddled BN, from Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal to National Feedlot Corporation (NFC)’s “cattle and condos” scandal, from diamond to private jet, and the lists go on. People’s dissatisfaction and anger has been brewing and reaching its peak.
We have witnessed a growing social movement having bigger impact. Hundreds and thousands courageous Malaysian flooded the heartland of Malaysia during the third rally by the Bersih organization for free and fair elections on April 28th 2012. Also, between 300,000 to 500,000 Malaysians from all walks of life, gathered in the historic Merdeka Stadium just before the 13th general election on January 12th last year, showing that they are aware of the issues at stake in Malaysia, and they want their government to hear them. People’s political consciousness and awareness have underpinned the emergence of new political landscape.
PAKATAN has not only harnessed the dynamics, but at the same time also working hard to consolidate and strengthen its influence. PAKATAN had launched alternative budget in 2012 and 2013 prior to the tabling of federal government’s budget. Additionally, PAKATAN also presented its common manifesto, highlighting people’s most needs and concerns, and essentially making sure they are on the right track to capture Putrajaya.
However, the journey to Putrajaya 1.0 came to an abrupt end when PAKATAN failed to capture more than half of the 222 seats in parliament, although successfully garnered more than half of popular votes. What is worse, PAKATAN merely succeed to retain Kelantan, Selangor and Pulau Pinang, whilst losing Kedah to BN and failed to regain Perak.
Creating a level playing field
Anwar Ibrahim’s Kajang Move will be a new sheet of history in Malaysia politics. Malaysians, especially those young one will no longer recognize him as the ex-Deputy Prime Minister or ex-Finance Minister who were once holding the second most powerful post in the government, or merely a figure of politically active and of international repute, but a reformist-cum-office holder who dare to force the dysfunctional political system to evolve through the legitimate use of the electoral system.
To compete with the current Prime Minister Najib – who wields not merely executive power, but also resourceful enough, Anwar as the Opposition Leader, on the other hand, should at least have considerable power and resources, if not equal one, to compete competently with the federal ruling coalition’s top leader. Kajang Move provides such an opportunity enabling the shackles of restraint to be wrecked, and thus creating space for the rise of a stronger and more resourceful leader, who can then carries much more weight in a political and parliamentary system choosing to ignore its fundamental flaws. Worse still, the whole discussions about strengthening opposition forces used to ignore those fundamental flaws while assuming a Plato type of philosophical king as the leader par excellence.
Recognizing the hardship ahead
Sooner or later, the Election Commission (EC) is about to embark on an exercise to redelineate electoral boundaries, and the constituency re-delineation motion is most likely to be tabled in the March parliamentary sitting. It is doubtful that the redelineation will be done in a free and fair manner, considering the fact that EC had just help BN winning 60% of seats with a mere 47% of vote in the last general election. In addition, the substantial increase in the number of voters, which carve out new demography, will render another challenge to PAKATAN ahead of the 14th general election. All these lump together with the economic hardship laying ahead coupled with heightened political tensions currently faced by Malaysia, signals an urgent need that PAKATAN has no other alternative but to take initiative to master the game so that the road to Putrajaya will be possible, again.
Kajang Move, is beyond strengthening and entrenching PAKATAN’s foothold and influence in Selangor as to counter BN. Crucially, Kajang Move, as a starting point of the PAKATAN’s road to Putrajaya 2.0, will likely to determine PAKATAN’s fate on the coming 14th general elections. Nonetheless, what should be borne in mind is that, PAKATAN winning Kajang by-election must not be at the expense of ignoring criticism.