What’s next for Malaysia? Policies or politics?

As the first rays of the morning sun on the 6th of May 2013 bathed the hallowed grounds of Putrajaya, it was clear that there was no new government. The status quo was preserved. Barisan Nasional (BN) remained in power, albeit with a slightly lower majority compared to 2008. Pakatan Rakyat on the other hand, must feel aggrieved at the very least, considering this was seen by many as their best chance of coming to power.

To say that Malaysia’s 13th General Election was without its usual dramas and suspense would be an insult to the local political landscape. Cries of foul play and alleged incidences of ‘blackouts’ are rife, Pakatan Rakyat claiming this as the major reason why they lost. The allegations have yet to be proven, and the opposition party machinery is hard at work as we speak, trying to build a case of election fraud against EC and BN. The ultimate goal would be to discredit the results in some areas and hopefully give them victory.

BN on the other hand have started a process of ‘national reconciliation’, a term coined by PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak which was undermined to a large extent by the usual Utusan Malaysia headlines with racial undertones. Allegations of election fraud have yet to be proven, but either way it must worry the PM that despite all the spending by Barisan Nasional for this election campaign they still suffered a reduction in majority. The good news is Kedah has fallen to BN (largely due to PAS’ incompetence in that state) and Perak has also not fallen into the opposition’s grasp.

Trapped helplessly in this political quagmire are the rakyat. You, me, your parents, my parents, and that chap who sells your newspapers by the roadside. It is worrying that over the last week or so, a disproportionately small amount of attention has been given by the media to the people who matter the most and how this election result will affect them in the next 5 years. Headlines have been pretty much about political parties’ continuous squabble over power rather than the people who voted for them. I feel politics at times should not matter so much, it’s the policies that count. It’s the policies that make the difference. A perfect example would be the Liberal Democrats in the UK who have now gone down the pecking order (read: UKIP!) after the people called their bluff and actually realized they were just a political party who were not willing to stand by their policies and were more interested in getting into power at all costs. Of course it doesn’t help that they are sleeping in the same bed with the Tories, but this further emphasizes my point that it’s the policies that matter, not the party.

Malaysian politics however is not cut from the same cloth (had to use this expression this week in light of David Moyes taking over at Old Trafford) as other places, nor should it be, as politics are merely reflections of a nation’s history, struggles and culture. We have a unique situation where two of the nation’s biggest parties are largely sentiment-based and not founded on strong traditions of policy-making. The policies tend to come later, once the parties are able to persuade the rakyat that they share the same sentiments. Whether this is largely their fault or not it is hard to say, but I do feel it is largely due to the rakyat’s political maturity, or lack of. The rakyat need to engage with the political issues, and not just trying to benefit from the politicians’ desperation for votes. This lack of political maturity  and conscience is a topic for another day.

Sure enough, after the results were announced Facebook was inundated with various status updates from supporters of both sides, each claiming whatever’s left of bragging rights. I am going to stick my neck out and say that the outcome was actually the best that could have happened to the nation. Yes, Datuk Seri Anwar will not be happy, neither will the PM to a certain extent but on hindsight this is the best result for neutrals and patriots. Despite what the opposition will claim, they are not ready to govern at federal level. Kedah is a perfect example. Even PAS in Kelantan, have actually not done a great deal for the last 20 odd years they are in power, I know because my family are Kelantanese. They are still in power because as I mentioned earlier, Malaysian politics is very sentiment-based.

Pakatan have lots of outstanding individuals, but they lack the structure that makes BN such a well-oiled machine. BN on the other hand have the structure and know-how but have so many incompetent individuals that it is embarrassing. We are not yet robust or mature enough as a society to manage an acute change. Change is greatly needed but needs to come slowly. This result will give the much needed kick up the arse that BN needs, while at the same time allow Pakatan to learn the ropes and mature. End result will be the same i.e. the rakyat will benefit.

Which is the main point really of all of this hullaballoo. The big question for a society is how do you create an ecosystem that continuously benefits the rakyat, makes the nation better and progress? There is no point of having your favourite person in power, if he is absolutely useless in the grand scheme of things.