Although the much awaited 13th general election may not be so immediate, it is time to look beyond this coming watershed event and take a cautious glimpse at what the future holds for Malaysia. What could possibly happen and what lies in store for the country and its citizens?
There are five possible outcomes of the next general election – a landslide BN victory, a strong BN victory, a strong PR victory, a slim BN victory or a slim PR victory.
A landslide BN victory would mean BN regaining its two-thirds majority in parliament and PR losing all the states under them except Kelantan. Such an outcome would be disastrous for Malaysia as it means reverting to the status quo before the 2008 political tsunami where BN was free to plunder national resources and abuse the citizens unchecked. The PR coalition would probably not survive a strong BN victory just as the Barisan Alternatif broke up less than a year after the 1999 general election. Let’s hope Malaysian voters never allow this to happen.
A strong BN victory means essentially the status quo in parliament as existing now with the opposition keeping the states under them but with Perak reverting back to PR. BN fails to regain its two-thirds majority but as we can see it does not need such a majority to continue its corruption, abuses and oppression of democratic rights. The result would be just as disastrous for Malaysia although BN will be more sensitive to the voice of the people with a strong opposition which it fears losing power to.
A strong PR victory would mean PR winning a robust majority such as what BN enjoys now. However winning two-thirds majority would be far-fetched given the unlevel playing field. PR will retain all the states under them plus win back Perak and a few other states such as Negri Sembilan and Terengganu. This is the best possible outcome for Malaysia as a strong PR government will have a free hand in reforming corrupted institutions, repealing unjust laws and putting the country back on a growth path to reverse the laggard it has become. Better things are in store for the people including a better standard of living and more democratic rights.
A slim BN victory will result in initial political instability but BN will quickly shore up its position by buying over elected opposition MPs with no scruples or principles to impede it. We can expect some PR elected representatives to jump ship for a one time shot at being a millionaire even if their political careers die quietly.
A slim PR victory would be extremely dangerous for PR as BN tries its level best to topple it and reclaim the crown by enticing elected MPs over with loads of money and arm twisting. BN will have the aid of corrupted institutions such as the police, MACC and judiciary headed by tainted men whom it placed there, a friendly civil service and even the royalty. PR cannot stoop to BN’s methods of buying elected representatives over as it contests on a platform of higher moral principles and the public expects PR to be better than BN. We could say that PR must choose good quality candidates but it’s really hard to look into the hearts of men and women.
The most likely outcome
So which of the four possibilities will be the most likely outcome? Fortunately a landslide BN victory is unlikely given the changed political landscape after the 2008 tsunami. Pandora’s box has been opened, mindsets have changed and political awareness once gained cannot be stuffed back into the bottle.
A strong BN victory which preserves the status quo is more likely than a landslide victory but not the most likely outcome. It is hard to believe that neither side has been able to progress in the political battlefield after years of sniping at each other. It would mean a more or less stagnant situation but our politics has been far from stagnant. Politically we live in interesting times.
A strong PR victory is possible but the chances are not high given the highly tilted playing field where BN controls the media, machinery and money and exercise great powers of incumbency.
So we are left with the other two possibilities – a slim victory for either side – which represent the most likely outcomes in the present political scenario. At this stage it is hard to predict which way it will go, all we can say is that it can go either way. A couple of years to the 13th general election represent a long time in politics where anything can happen. Will people still remember the in-fighting in PKR a year from now? Probably not any more than the unity talks between PAS and Umno which created waves last year.
What happens next?
If BN wins the 13th general election with a slim majority we can expect it to embark on a sustained campaign to destroy the opposition to make sure it is never given such a scare again. A regime which fears losing power is at its most dangerous. BN will try to break up the PR coalition and opposition MPs will be bought over or harassed and dragged to court on frivolous charges. Democratic rights for citizens will be strongly suppressed.
Unfortunately a PR victory with a slim margin may be pulled down and revert to a weak BN government. BN has no qualms about enticing elected representatives over to topple a legitimately elected government. We already have the precedence of the Perak government changing hands merely by defections without even convening the State Assembly. What happened to Perak can be applied to the country and the decision of the Federal Court effectively means that a prime minister can be sacked by the King without going through parliament. PR’s only chance of survival may be to persuade some parties in East Malaysia to join its coalition.
Hence we can expect political instability if the victory for either coalition is slim. More time will be spent on politicking than governing. There may be civil unrest if the people refuse to accept a BN power grab. Eventually BN will assert control as it is more Machiavellian, unprincipled and ruthless than PR.
We can expect a weak BN government to be more sensitive to the people but this will only last as long as there is a strong united opposition. For example a strong opposition now has protected the people from arbitrary hikes in oil, toll, diesel and essential goods while implementation of GST has been stalled and an immoral sports betting license withdrawn. Minorities have also been treated better. But once the PR coalition is broken up BN has nothing to fear and will revert to its old ways.
With BN in control we can expect migration to increase as skilled people stampede for the exit. The economy will continue to decline under BN as there is no way for it to get better if structural issues such as racial policies, corruption, rent seeking, wastage and democratic abuses are not fixed. They cannot be fixed without reforming Umno and Umno has no reason to reform as long as it wields power.
What this means is that the country will spiral down to poverty under the twin blows of stagnated incomes and increasing cost of living. People’s lives will get harder and a maid exporting country like present day Philippines and Indonesia is on the cards. When it is time for the 14th general election BN will be universally hated, even by the rural Malays from whom Umno derives its political power.
Does this mean that PR will have another crack at political power at the 14th general election? Yes, but only if they can hold together despite BN’s oppression and they would stand an even better chance than the 13th general election. But if the opposition has been beaten down to a shadow of its former self and BN hangs on by force and trickery it can continue to rule.
What happens next can be summarized by the words of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States that “those who make peaceful political change impossible make revolution inevitable.” There will come a time when the economic pain is so great that BN will be kicked out by force as what happened to Marcos and Suharto but by then Malaysia would have been reduced to a dried husk.
Of course we can avoid such a grim future if voters give a strong mandate to PR at the 13th general election. Anything else and we look towards an uncertain future while we will remember the 2008 tsunami achingly as a “Prague Spring”.
[Source: Malaysia Chronicle]