By-elections do not a govt make

pic by BERNAMA

IT WILL not be the end of the world to any of the parties that lose the Saturday by-election for Tanjung Piai, the southernmost tip of Asia.

The one that wins may feel it is on the top of the world, but it will not be permanent and it may even end up being a pyrrhic victory.

For the sake of clarity, the focus of the by-election is on the two main contenders — the incumbent and ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) versus the vanquished government coalition and now the Opposition Barisan Nasional (BN).

The sideshows — Gerakan, Berjasa and the independents are unlikely to make much headway and at best, merely spoilers.

Back to PH and BN, the former is represented by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Bumiputra (Bersatu) and the latter by MCA.

The seat is a Malay majority though the non-Malays are a substantial minority. The seat was an MCA/BN stronghold until the last general election, which saw the Bersatu/PH candidate taking over with a slim majority.

The sentiments then were that almost the whole nation was tired of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd kleptocracy, corruption and abuse of power by the ruling elites, that Tanjung Piai joined the majority of other parliamentary seats across the nation to bring an end to BN’s 61-year rule.

The dynamics had changed somewhat since the fateful May polls last year as the 18-month rule of PH had led to its performance being scrutinised and the shenanigans of the previous administration in the back burners of some of the general populace.

Within a year since the change of government, the PH government had been under intense pressure — the DAP accused of promoting non-Malay interest over that of the Malays, while Bersatu and other Malay leaders were accused of not standing up to the DAP and selling out on the Malay interest.

And within the same period too, Umno had gone on the overdrive to rebrand itself as the last defender of the Malay cause and teamed up with PAS, which used to derogatorily describe Umno’s brand of Malay nationalism as assobiyah — racist and tribal.

In Malaysia, apart from war and love, all is fair in politics. So, such a realignment of philosophy is not something unnatural albeit a slight discomfort when it involves PAS, given its self-styled positioning as the defender of Islam in Malaysia and most of its pronouncements are somewhat taken to be derived from divine sources.

The teaming up of Umno and PAS showcases the unity of the Malays in the name of the Muslim ummah.

That narrative had persisted until Tanjung Piai and the selection of MCA’s Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng as BN’s candidate.

Now, it seems there’s a caveat to the pursuits for the Malay and Islamic agenda — the enmity is only with the Chinese from the DAP and not that of the MCA.

At least that’s how PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang justified his call to PAS voters to support BN’s non-Muslim candidate.

Thus far, in the campaign, both PAS and Umno had tried to limit their religious and race rhetoric in their public appearances except one

quite damaging and not so well thought off utterance from Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi regarding a court case which seems to have not gone down well with the Chinese electorate.

One dissonance that afflicts Bersatu and the DAP is the fact that the former is accused of not doing enough for the Malays leading to the community to lean more towards Umno and PAS while the Chinese, which had strongly supported PH are today unhappy with the DAP for not standing up to Bersatu or, in particular, its chairman and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and wants to teach it a lesson.

It is quite baffling that such a situation can coexist at the same time. If the Chinese feels that the DAP is incapable of standing up against Dr Mahathir and Bersatu then the Malays should be embracing them.

On the other hand, if the Malays felt that Dr Mahathir and Bersatu had failed them, then the Chinese should be comforted that the DAP had been able to contain the dominance of the Malay-based party and its leaders.

The situation can only make sense if it is accepted that these group of people, from either of the races, are actually only happy when they get everything their way regardless if the other races feel they are undermined.

In other words, if they don’t get what they want for their race, then they will withdraw their support.

What the other race may feel or suffer is of no consequence. It means that the concept of consensus in a multicultural coexistence is of no consequence to these types of people. Give and take is not of the essence and they would only be satisfied if they get their wish.

The inability to look beyond their nose has led to the idea of punishing PH and prepared to ignore that the other choice is still unrepentant over its financial shenanigans and abuses of power.

If PH wins, the problem of such primordial sentiments is unlikely to end. And if BN wins, sins of a recent past are, past.


Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.