One lesson of the Malacca general election

There are many lessons to be drawn from the Malacca general election last Saturday but it is counter-productive to zero in on any personality by putting all the blame and faults on him, in this case the Pakatan Harapan leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

First, there is a need for a change of political mindset by all political leaders.

The days of political hegemony by UMNO should be ended by the May 9, 2018 general election where Pakatan Harapan toppled a seemingly invincible UMNO-hegemonised Barisan Nasional (BN), but the Malacca general election of 20th November 2021 seemed to herald a return of UMNO’s political hegemony.

This is not the case as can be seen by the votes secured by the three coalitions from the total votes cast – Barisan Nasional 38.39% or 122,741 votes; Pakatan Harapan 35.65% or 113.968 votes; Perikatan Nasional 24.47 or 78,220 votes.

Political analyst Bridget Welsh has debunked two interpretations of the Malacca General Elections, firstly, that UMNO had returned to its hegemonic past when this was not the case as illustrated by the 38.39% of the votes it secured in the Malacca general election although this led to its gain of five seats to 18 from 13; and secondly, the political come-back of MCA and MIC which won two and one seats respectively, when in fact, MCA lost ground marginally, from 10 per cent to 8 per cent while MIC kept to its 1% of votes when compared to the 14th General Election.

We are in new political situation where no political party can exercise political hegemony but the coalition political mindset has still to be developed as the political mindset is still set as if political hegemony of a single political party exists.

Although the Pakatan Harapan government should be the first to explore the new coalition politics mindset in Malaysia, it failed to do so and was mired in the hegemonic mould of the Barisan Nasional of the past half-a-century.

The Prime Minister of a coalition of equals like the Pakatan Harapan should operate differently from the Prime Minister of a Barisan Nasional based on UMNO political hegemony, but this mindset continued in the 22-month Pakatan Harapan government from May 2018 – February 2020.

In a coalition based on the hegemony of one political party, the Prime Minister decides on everything subject to the acceptance level of the other component parties.

In a coalition of equals, the Prime Minister would have to consult and secure the agreement of the other component parties on the Minister to be appointed, the Ministry to be allocated and the policy to be followed by the coalition government.

The confession by Muhyiddin Yassin during the Malacca general election campaign highlighted that in the “hegemony” mould of the coalition government, it was possible for component parties of the coalition to work at cross-purpose from the coalition objectives, like the arrest and incarceration of elected representatives of component parties on trumped-up charges of terrorist links with Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers.

The coalition mind-set can only be developed under the Pakatan Harapan coalition and not the hegemony-based coalition of the Barisan Nasional.

Pakatan Harapan should also accept an unanimity rule for decision-making by its presidential council.

Such a rule would avoid the Pakatan Harapan blunder like accepting “political frogs”, which was decisively rejected in the Malacca general election.

Pakatan Harapan should never lose the moral high ground of integrity, public service before self and being Malaysian First in a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri