Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pity the Poor Malaysian Voter

Pity the poor malaysian voter – he is not exactly spoiled for choice in the latest elections. Yes, you may say the average Malaysian is disgruntled with the latest shenanigans in the BN government but is the Opposition a viable alternative? Let’s examine the field:

DAP – currently the country’s largest opposition party but it still struggles to assert its identity beyond being a party for Chinese rights. It has some bright sparks in the team but they are absolute neophytes in the political arena. Might gain some traction from unhappy non-malay voters over increasing Islamic overtones in daily life (literally from cradle to grave) and might benefit from the negative fallout generated from the recent Hindraf marches.

PAS – no non-muslim in his right mind would vote for what they see as a fundamentalist theocratic party that still expounds an Islamic state as its stated aim. Will appeal only to the rural heartland. In any case, the perception is that malays are likely to rally behind UMNO this time in response to general non-malay unhappiness. Not expected to make much headway this time.

PKR – still a one-man, one-cause party with big dreams. Anwar Ibrahim won’t be able to run this time, but his wife and daughter proxies should be a good bellewether for him. Malaysians just aren’t ready to see themselves as anything beyond their ethnicity after 50 years of segregation and racial policies. PKR has grand aims and ambitions, and dare I say a noble cause but many people are still suspicious of Anwar’s motives – a leopard can’t change its spots, they say.

So it comes down to the ruling party. With its massive budgets, gerrymandered voting system and reach, it is clear the BN will win this General Election. The question is: by how much? Pak Lah appears to have been playing it too safe during his term and the perception is that corruption has not been weeded out, or that it has just changed players. Whether it has been through more relaxed media control or that things have really gotten worse, the ordinary Malaysian is being subjected to an almost non-stop barrage of sordid news about the executive or judiciary. Will this be strong enough to force Malaysians to deliver a protest vote?

This latest article by Michael Backman in the Age points out that we need to be managed like the complex country we are, with “greater accountability and scrutiny.”

Meanwhile the IHT's Philip Bowring almost uncannily reiterates a similar theme, talking about the paucity of Malaysian politics.

Malaysian Voters, we've got our work cut out for us.

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