Tanjung Piai is not a credible bellwether for non-Malay dissatisfaction - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, November 04, 2019
Malaysiakini : “And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down
their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding out the truth
about anything.” - Thomas Merton
| Some people say that Harapan needs to be taught a lesson in the
Tanjung Piai by-election. The perception is that non-Malays are weighing
their options when it comes to voting for the Bersatu candidate. The
idea is that losing this by-election will teach Prime Minister Dr
Mahathir Mohamad some sort of lesson.
This is problematic for a
variety of reasons. The most important reason is that elections are but a
small section of the old maverick’s political chessboard. Control of
GLCs, the leaping of political frogs, fermenting discontent in various
power groups in his own Pakatan Harapan coalition, enabling the deep
Islamic state and various other bureaucratic malfeasance are the
instruments of strongmen. The big question is, do his allies enable the
Nasional (BN) played a good hand by picking a non-Muslim candidate. The
optics look good as far as playing nice with the MCA, and it gives PAS
an opportunity to demonstrate that it would support a non-Muslim
candidate like how it was in the good old days of Tok Guru Nik Abdul
Aziz Nik Mat..
This is not meant as a slight. The reality is that
while the rhetoric of PAS is politically incorrect, in substance it is
the same as other Malay power brokers of Harapan in the way how they
deal with their non-Malay counterparts.
If the MCA candidate
loses, then Umno/PAS can fall back on the play that if they had fielded a
Malay candidate, they may have won. Now, however, they get to campaign
on a multiracial platform and leave it to their Chinese counterpart to
point out how Harapan is falling when it comes to the very issues that
the Chinese demographic holds dear.
Meanwhile, Bersatu has the
weight of Malay privilege on its back and is going into hostile terrain
where the Malay base is divided, and the non-Malay base exasperated at
the slow pace of reforms, but more importantly views the prime minister
and his party as Umno clones intent on replicating the very policies
that brought this country to ruin.
Tanjung Piai by-election further demonstrates how non-Malay political
structures are merely proxies for Malay hegemons. The sight of Lim Guan
Eng and other non-Malay politicians and bureaucrats canvassing for votes
for Bersatu, which the Harapan base is split on, is an exact replica of
how the MCA would appeal for votes for a flailing Umno. Everything old
is new again.
This idea that sending a message – what message? –
is what this by-election is about is simplistic - because the only
political parties that need to learn any lesson is not the party in play
(Bersatu), but rather, the non-Malay power structures.
Mahathir loses with a Malay candidate, not only would Umno/PAS have
proven – for the time being – that voters are dissatisfied with Harapan,
but they can make the case that they could garner non-Malay votes,
especially since conventional political thinking posits that BN is
essentially a racist, far-right construct.
If Harapan were smart,
it would have fielded a non-Malay candidate, and this proxy fight would
have been a better alternative (for Harapan), instead of being a
bellwether for “Malay” support. Having said that, I can understand why
Harapan would not be eager to field a non-Malay candidate.
the rhetoric of discontent be the same if a non-Malay candidate from DAP
or PKR was in play? It is easy saying that Mahathir/Bersatu needs to be
taught a lesson, but would the rhetoric translate to an electoral win
for BN because Harapan (non-Malay) supporters wanted to show their
dissatisfaction at Harapan and not just Bersatu?
have said it before and I will say it again: it is a deflection to lay
the blame solely on Mahathir. The reality is that the DAP and PKR, both
with non-Malay support, have been complicit in the betrayal of New
Malaysia. Saying that Harapan needs to be taught a lesson and taking it
out on Bersatu is pointless.
The only lesson that would mean
anything, coming from the non-Malays, is that if a non-Malay candidate
were rejected or a candidate (regardless of race) that is from the DAP
or PKR. Rejecting a Malay Bersatu candidate is easy and merely
reinforces convenient narratives that do not reflect reality when it
comes to the role political parties play in the creation of a New
Malayisa or a neo-BN.
What Terence Gomez has illustrated with his public comments about Bersatu’s political influence of GLCs
is further evidence that non-Malay power structures have no real power
or influence besides being enablers and cheerleaders for a “malaise
system”. It is as if all that hand-wringing by ultra-Malay types was for
nothing, which it was because the system has not changed.
no doubt that many people view Tanjung Piai as some sort of bellwether
on the Mahathir administration, and so far what we have seen from
Harapan politicos is the kind of pre-election behaviour that sustained
BN for decades.
Politicians babbling about voting for the
establishment that could pay your salaries, vote-buying shenanigans like
development funds suddenly green-lit for Tanjung Piai and a host of
other “cash is king” politics that were supposedly anathema to Harapan,
but is business as usual after they claimed victory.
Even if the
voters rejected such tactics it would not really mean anything because
for the Malay demographic at least, Harapan – like Umno/PAS – will not
stop attempting to subvert the democratic process by engaging in such
tactics in the hopes of securing the majority Malay vote. If you
are a non-Malay who thinks that Harapan needs to be taught a lesson,
Tanjung Piai isn’t the election which would teach Harapan anything.
test, a test of resolve for dissatisfied non-Malay Harapan partisans,
would happen only when a PKR or DAP candidate is on the firing line.