My Anthem

Thursday, April 25, 2013

GE13: A former US Ambassador to Malaysia's PERSPECTIVE

Desi always believes that foreign countries' perspectives on Malaysia's general elections give an important input as Malaysia is a proud trading nation, so foreign interests are always a key factor in international relations, especially in terms of attracting foreign direct investments in a competitive world environment. From Malaysia Chronicle, here's one perspective (please don't accuse Desi as a foreign agent, OK!? I get no tip or payment in cash or kind/unkind?, even from George Sorrows, a fave whipping boy among some segments of Malaysian society who can't stand on their own two feet after 55 years of Independence!

Am I a menace to NegaraKu? ~~ YL, Desi, still THINKING ALLOWED

Thursday, 25 April 2013 07:47

Malaysia's GE13 too close to call - former US ambassador

Written by  John Malott
Rate this item
(8 votes)
Malaysia's GE13 too close to call - former US ambassador
Malaysia's 13th General Elections on May 5 will be the most important -- and the most hard-fought -- in Malaysian history. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and its coalition partners have ruled the nation since its independence in 1957. But now, for the first time in history, the Malaysian opposition is united and strong, and it believes it has a real chance of coming to power.
And also for the first time, UMNO, as well as those who have benefited politically and economically from their connections to the ruling party, fear that the voters might reject their party and the system that have governed the country continuously for over five decades.
Major differences
This is not simply a question of who wins. There are major differences between the ruling party's and the opposition's approaches to political and human rights, economic policy, and affirmative action. An opposition victory would bring change in many areas. The opposition promises to shift the focus of the government's affirmative action programs from a race-based to a needs-based system. It pledges it will crack down on the corruption and crony capitalism that is holding back the country's economic potential, and open up more political space by easing the restrictions on political freedom.
Fortunately for the United States, there are no appreciable differences in the foreign policies of either side. But what happens on May 5 will have a major impact on Malaysia's future political and economic direction, and that is why we in the outside world need to pay attention.
No matter who wins, a realignment of Malaysian politics is inevitable. Win or lose, there will be pressures on the current Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, to step down. Win or lose, UMNO will have to decide whether to "re-invent" itself, something it failed to do after the last elections in 2008, when it suffered major losses.
If it does decide to change, then the question is whether it will be in the direction of more openness, or whether it is towards appealing to the more chauvinistic Malay elements in its party. If it is the latter, which I believe is more likely, then we can expect to see more racial polarization in the country as well as continued emigration by minorities, and especially college-educated minorities, to Singapore and elsewhere.
Too close to call
The election is too close to call. The ruling party has many structural advantages, including control of the television and radio networks and mainstream press; influence over the election commission and other instruments of state power, such as the police; and access to public monies for political purposes. One academic has estimated that the Najib government has spent almost US $19 billion on election-related incentives over the past four years. That is equivalent to 20% of the Government's annual budget.
The opposition, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, has the greater political momentum, and the Government is on the defensive for the first time in history. Judging by the turnout at political rallies, opposition enthusiasm is high, and it is making inroads into what used to be safe areas for the ruling party. It has become adept at using the internet and other alternative media to reach voters. But an opposition victory will depend not just on the will of the voters, whatever that might be, but also on ensuring that electoral fraud and intimidation are kept to a minimum.
John R. Malott was the United States Ambassador to Malaysia, 1995-1998. He has written analyses of Malaysia for the Wall Street Journal, Malaysiakini, and the East-West Center.
The above is his speech made at the National Press Club in Washington DC on April 24, 2013.

No comments: