Tue, 11 Sep 2012 03:33:08 GMT | By Amirul Ruslan
A tale of two elections

File photo of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak delivering his speech during UMNO's 66th anniversary celebrations in Kuala Lumpur



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The rhetoric in on the other side of the Pacific Ocean is starting to ramp up — with November polls looming, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have entered the final stage in their respective campaigns. It is no exaggeration to say that this intensifying heat is being felt all over the world. Malaysia is no exception.

If anything, the US presidential election is a reminder for Malaysians that Prime Minister Najib Razak inches his way closer to the end of his five year electoral mandate. The media has speculated that Najib would call a snap election since his elevation in 2009, yet Najib is now six months away from his deadline and still the topic of the 13th general election remains speculation.

Malaysia’s next general election is set to be as vigorously contested as the American election. The primary parallel between the two are visible: a clear-cut winner has yet to emerge, even if the incumbents (Barack Obama and Najib Razak) appear to hold the advantage for now.

 

THE PERPETUAL PRIME MINISTER IN WAITING

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim — at 65 still sporting the well-coiffed, polished look of Mitt Romney — remains a charismatic, combative figure and his chances should not be underestimated yet.

For this perpetual prime minister-in-waiting, the next election holds particular importance. Anwar has gone on record saying that he would retire if he lost this election. Asked about his political future, Anwar responded, “I will try my best. I am confident we will win. But if not, I will step down,” in a livestreamed Google Hangout interview in August.

Anwar is more well-known outside Malaysia owing to his time as deputy prime minister as well as international attention to the two sodomy cases widely held by Malaysians to be trumped-up charges.

He spearheaded the 2008 political tsunami which saw opposition parties take five states and deny the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition a two-thirds majority. The Opposition, now aligned together as Pakatan Rakyat, the people’s pact, has held firm in the last four years despite constant fraying as a result of conflicting ideologies between the three component parties — the Anwarist PKR, the Islamist PAS, and the socialist DAP.

Pakatan Rakyat’s record in power has been somewhat spotty. The DAP administration of Penang, helmed by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, has won plaudits from national and international media. Meanwhile, PAS-ruled Kedah remains on shaky ground with the protracted internal struggle within state PAS over the status of embattled Chief Minister Azizan Abdul Razak, who is said to be in poor health.

Now is a crucial time for the Opposition. If they intend on forming the next federal government, Anwar and his partners must capitalize on Barisan Nasional’s failings, of which there are many.

 

UNREFORMED REFORMS

Najib has been banking his campaign on a number of platforms, including the reforms he has introduced, including repealing the much-hated Internal Security Act. Critics have accused Najib of merely replacing these laws with new ones. The world is watching.

The Wall Street Journal declared that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill tabled in April was “real progress” but could still be abused for political purposes — as the ISA had been.

The Peaceful Assembly Act, hailed by Najib as being “revolutionary” when debating in November 2011, was proposed with the intention of safeguarding the right to regulated public protests in Malaysia. Opposition critics assert that the new law would crackdown on the right to protest, rather than allow it. Indeed, Anwar Ibrahim was charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act after the Bersih 3.0 protest in April.

The latest legal controversy for Najib lies in the Section 114A amendment to the Evidence Act, which sparked public outrage. Section 11A allows for the presumption that the owner of a device, computer or WiFi network can be presumed to be the publisher of any defamatory content traced to it. Critics, including Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, believe that the new law violates the human rights principle of freedom of expression.

De facto Law Minister Nazri Aziz has repeatedly stated that there were no plans by the government to review the law.

 

FREEDOM IN THE LAND OF FREEDOM

Legislation with the potential to restrict freedom of expression on the Internet have hurt the United States government before as well. The introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) saw massive protests by users and corporations over the bill’s empowering of law enforcement agencies to intellectual property infringements.

Like Section 114A in Malaysia, attempts to muzzle the Internet can lead to damaging results. Congress pulled the legislation following the outcry. President Obama recently restated his support for Internet freedom. At this stage of election fever, SOPA-style legislation is likely to alienate him from his young, Internet-dependent liberal base.

 

A TALE OF TWO ELECTIONS

As Malaysians swing their attention between the American presidential race on November 6 and Malaysia’s own upcoming general election — likely to also fall in November — studying the key issues in both elections might find common ground. Like Americans, Malaysians worry about the growing religious right in the form of extremist Islam. Racial harmony matters deeply, with both nations’ populations famously comprising a cosmopolitan mix. Voters in both countries now have the task of choosing a leader who will be able to fulfill the promises made in the run-up the election — be it Obama, Najib, Romney or Anwar.

7Comments
Sep 11, 2012 8:01PM
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Drawing a parallel between the two elections - American and Malaysian - is fundamentally flawed.  In US, it is a fair contest between two democrats in a democratic country; whereas Malaysia is in truth a authoritarian state, where the opposition has to compete in a monumentally lopsided playing field – beside being constantly bullied by the entire state machinery and the local mass media, the opposition has to face a scandal-ridden election commission whi**** so biased that it is as good as an agent of the incumbent power.  Under the circumstances, if the outcome of the election turns out to be a tie, it will be taken as a resounding victory for the opposition, as the vast majority of citizens has clearly rejected the ruling coalition.

Sep 11, 2012 11:02PM
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Am Old , Tired and Sick. My one and only Vote, I  Vote wisely for the future of ALL  beloved  Malaysians.

Sep 14, 2012 1:37PM
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In the Malaysian English newspaper, it was reported that the state of Selangor whi**** being held by the opposition will hold their election at a different date if the general election is to be held in November. So the question is will the other opposition-held states also do the same? And will Ah Jib Gor delay the election date to avoid that?

Taking into consideration all the unresolved corruption scandals of the BN government and the unpopular implementation of the amendment to the Evidence Act, among many others, the BN coalition can expect to lose a lot more seats than the "Tsunami" of 2008. In fact, I foresee an even bigger "Tsunami" for GE13.

SO LETS VOTE TOGETHER FOR PR's LANDSLIDE VICTORY!
Nov 5, 2012 7:44AM
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One thing I would like to make my stand, CHANGE THE GOVERNMENT !!

 

That's all I can say. Please read our latest Malaysia financial report status from other parts of the world.

 

See how much our Malaysian Government has the e****my deficit. In fact we are already approaching 1.8 trillion USD.

 

Can you imagine currently what the government paying for subsidy and the payouts, they are all our future money !! Come on guys WAKE UP !! All these got to end, all our hard earned money has gone into their pockets and nothing comes back into us. The only thing that flowed back to us are BAD DEBTS.

 

Seriously if our government still continue to do these, we are going to be like Greece, and FYI, Malaysia is well known to have highest percentage of government servant headcount in Asia. The extras government servant should be release back to private sector to drive growth and not degenerate growths....

Sep 15, 2012 10:30AM
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Everyday,everywhere....politics,politics....clear cut the opposition getting more and more popular.WHY ? The people are so fed up with the enormous unresolved sandals.Even though Najib is trying hard to please the rakyat by implementing alot of goodies yet this cannot work  bcos its already too late to unwind the mistakes. I foresee the worst shockingTsunami in history come GE13 !

Sep 11, 2012 10:36PM
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MSN has been known to be biased in reporting almost anything about Malaysia especially on political analysis. We are looking for more accurate and balance writing.
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