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Opinion

Thursday, 17 May 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Staying beyond five years

CAN Barisan Nasional reform? Those at the forefront of Barisan and their activists (“extremists”?) are still around.

Despite what their political parties may be saying, have they or could they reform themselves? I am not so sure. As the saying goes, a leopard cannot change its spots.

I am certain that although some may feel bashed up and are nursing their wounds now, the people who share their sentiments are very much alive and, like Avengers: Infinity War and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, are just biding their time – and most certainly strategising.

Their post-mortem would show firstly that perhaps the strategy to put PAS candidates in many of the constituencies, some of whom hardly stood a chance of winning (in fact, in quite a number of the constituencies, they lost their deposits, garnering less than 8% of the votes), was wrongly conceived.

If you look at a number of seats, the sum of Barisan and PAS votes exceeded that of the Pakatan Harapan candidates. In other words, had PAS not contested or had it voiced support and ganged up (quietly) with Barisan, chances were good that Barisan would have won enough constituencies to ensure it was returned to power. (Of course, some would have said that Barisan would lose more constituencies but now that the results are out, they must realise they could have planned better.)

This situation can be seen in the Indera Mahkota and Kuantan parliament constituencies.

Secondly, their post-mortem would also show that Pakatan managed to get a significant number of fence-sitters because of the various corruption allegations against “MO1” (and spouse) relating to 1MDB, and their trust in an old hand, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. With MO1 now out of the picture and Dr Mahathir most probably no longer at the helm by GE15, chances are good that the fence-sitters may return in significant numbers to Barisan.

Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who heads Barisan now, has already stated at the Supreme Council Meeting on May 14 that they are open to having alliances with other parties to form the government and/or opposition in the federal and/or state governments.

What can Barisan do to return to power in four to five years’ time? It still has quite a strong hold on rural voters and just needs to win over the non-bumiputra voters when Dr Mahathir no longer heads Pakatan.

It is time for Umno to treat MCA and MIC as equals in decision-making.

Umno leaders keep on stating that they lost due to “wrongful perception” by the electorate. Wrongful or otherwise, the fact remains that every time any non-bumiputra politician says anything deemed hurtful to the bumiputras, various Umno politicians and heroes would come out publicly and show their anger by doing unimaginable things in public in full view of the authorities (remember the cow head incident?). Hence, the perception of the non-bumiputras is that Barisan is not really the party that can fight for their rights.

Despite the redelineation exercise by the Election Commission (EC), which reduced the number of non-bumiputra majority seats, it must be remembered that the Chinese and Indians combined exceeds 30% of the electorate. So, if Barisan can get rid of this perception by doing the right thing in the states they still control, it has a chance of winning come GE15.

What can the Pakatan federal government do to reduce the chances of this happening? People who think that Barisan is gone for good would be well advised to look at the experience of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, wherein it was once kicked out but later returned to power.

And it is not beyond Barisan to grab power by hook or by persuasion (you know what I mean!). Just look at Sabah (and even a couple of the other states) where, a week after GE14, the politicians are still jumping ship and changing their party allegiance.

So Pakatan would be well advised to tread with care in the first year and ensure the right things are done – or at least before Dr Mahathir steps down.

Politically, Pakatan can do many things like seeing to the deregistration of Umno due to the breaches in their constitution or going after the “corrupt politicians” with a vengeance by charging them in court for various offences.

But to ensure that we as a nation do not go back to the “good old days” of cronyism and Ali Baba, I would suggest firstly that the two pillars of government – parliament and judiciary – be strengthened. Secondly, ensure that the offices of the EC, A-G, MACC, and auditor-general (or create an office of the Ombudsman) are sufficiently funded. Thirdly, conduct elections for the municipalities. Much has been written on these three proposals and I would not want to add to the pros and cons except to say that it is necessary for the long-term progress of our country.

BRAVE NEW MALAYSIAN

Kuantan