The variance of politics

High time to thoroughly clean up the candidates list 

WHEN Malaysia goes to the polls on Nov 19, there is not much to look up to in terms of the state of the economy. 

Ringgit is at its lowest value in histor y, at RM4.74 to the US dollar (as of Oct 21); inflation, driven primarily by food inflation (August 2022: 7.2% YoY), maintained its rise and would inexplicably lead to an increase in the interest rate (Bank Negara Malaysia’s Monetary Policy Committee set to convene again early November), hurting citizens and companies with higher loans and business costs; and the market recovery from Covid-19 isolation is stalled by the labour market crunch due to the unavailability of foreign workers. 

While there are also positives with a depressed currency — ie returning tourism receipts and increasing exports margin — the global outlook for 2023 remains weak as the debilitating impact of the Ukraine war and the US interest rate are still playing out. 

It would therefore be a natural preference on the part of the political and economic analysts to point out that the campaign focus in the run-up to the 15th General Election (GE15) will be fixated on the economic issues — cost of living, employment, business opportunities, et cetera — to guide the nation through the impending economic storm. 

Therefore, logic has it, whoever could offer the best solution to overcome the current economic conundrums would have the best chance of being elected to office. Or not. It’s a situation a bit onerous to predict, as the variables are changing all the time. 

Of the total 21.174 million voters, nearly one-third (29.44%) or approximately 6.233 million are new voters and almost half (48%) or 10.16 million are young voters between 18 and 39 years of age. 

No one is able to predict how these new voters — mainly the millennials and zoomers generation — would react to the fractured state of the political landscape. 

And the worst part of these variables is the politicians themselves – their preference, alliance or rivalry – are never constant. The old adage of politics that “There are no permanent enemies, no permanent friends, only permanent interests” rings very true here. 

As a matter of fact, as at 10am last Friday, the political party landscape was as clear as daylight within the quadrants of a four-corneredfight—PHvsBNvsPNvs GTA — with GRS and GPS waiting on the wings. And yet, four hours on, the ground shifted and moved into a trio of pacts. And its still a good two weeks before nomination day. 

All things considered, there’s a general consensus among the middle-ground observers that the upcoming polls would possibly end up with a hung Parliament, as the landscape remains fractured and consequences are well factored in. It would be a win for democracy, some say, as long as the end result of a stable government is achieved. 

This momentum to democratise the grip on power was visible since the governing coalition lost their two-third majority in GE12 (2008), worsening in 2014 (GE13) and finally losing their grip in GE14 (2018). 

The electorate is maturing, and has generally accepted the electoral arrangement as the best possible way to move forward and that stability can still be achieved under consensus. 

They have also accepted that the most crucial part of the democratisation process won’t stop at the ballot box, as the subsequent power sharing arrangement is a given natural consequence of events. Another Sheraton Move will not be so alien anymore — in fact it is half expected to happen within the following weeks before year-end. 

Till then, it is up to the political parties to position themselves appropriately for the occasion, where they need to make themselves relevant to the current crop of GE15 voters. 

And since these political parties are nowadays on a comparatively even playing field, the final decision should be heavily based on the variants presented. And it is high time to take a real hard look at the demography breakdown of the new electoral roll — 10.16 million eager young voters out of the total 21.174 million — and start to thoroughly clean up the candidates list. 

(Note: PH = Pakatan Harapan, BN = Barisan Nasional, PN = Perikatan Nasional, GTA = Gerakan Tanah Air, GRS = Gabungan Rakyat Sabah and GPS = Gabungan Parti Sarawak.) 

Asuki Abas is the editor at The Malaysian Reserve. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition