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The mother of all elections in 2023:. how a democracy must defeat a 'kleptheocracy'

  • A weak electoral mandate in 2023 will see the country being set back once again not just by kleptocracy, but the “kleptheocracy” of PAS and Umno.

By Datuk Wira Dr. Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff

With 7.9 million voters automatically added to the electoral roll in Malaysia by the next general election, widely expected to be 2023, those who are 18 years of age will have nearly 50 per cent of the electoral power of the current electoral registry; which stands at 14.9 million.

Whether Senator Liew Chin Tong was referring to the "median point" of these two groups of voters, or, the need to maintain the Middle Voters to undercut the extremism of Umno and PAS by 2023, the gist of the automatic registration of the youth is indeed a new Malaysia to be decided by a young Malaysia.

Here the demonstrations in Hong Kong are useful, as a gauge. No one in the world gave the high school and university students much of a chance to challenge the Hong Kong government, by extension Beijing.

Yet since June 4th, for nine weeks in a row, millions of Hong Kong students have inspired their parents, teachers, anyone older than them to face the Hong Kong government eyeball to eyeball. As this is written, the Hong Kong youth, and their older generations, have refused to budge

They now want the controversial extradition bill to be withdrawn (not merely announced by HK governor Carrie Lam as dead); they also want her to step down; indeed, the demonstrators further demanded a full and independent police inquiry on why the HK riot police had hand handled before in July 2019, consequently had beat hem to a pulp; indeed they further want a clear process to have a free and fair Hong Kong election; more importantly to free the 44 demonstrators who had been charged under the draconian Anti Riot Act which carries a jail sentence of 10 years.

Unless these demands are met, the HK demonstrations will spread to civil servants and other sectors of the economy too, crippling Hong Kong.

What is happening in Hong Kong over the last nine weeks isn't an outlier event. Be it Reformasi, su qiu, Bersih I-V, culminating in the May 9, 2018 tsunami that eventually upended the kleptocratic government of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was not a fluke. It required strategic planning and concerted effort.

GE2023 would be more important than the GE14 of 2018; although the stakes of latter would be equally high, if not higher.

By 2023, Malaysia has two years left to achieve the status of a developed country; a time frame that has to be delayed by five years. Aside from the gleaming towers, Malaysian at the age of 18 would demand four things:

A. Conditional offer of a job
B. Free Education
C. Affordable housing
D. Prospect to be sent abroad for their further tertiary training.

A, B, C and D would have to be understood separately or collectively. Either way, there is no escape. Malaysian youth between the age cohort between 18-25 do want to enjoy the upward mobility of their fore bears.

However, Pakatan Harapan can only deliver all of the above, potentially more, only when there is a sincere desire to focus on institution reforms promised in the manifesto too.

The parliamentary select committees, for instance, would have to be given their due weight across the board. Announcement of major figures to lead the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) would have to be consulted with the parliamentary select committees first, not announced unilaterally.

In turn, if PAS and Umno were to attack Pakatan Harapan in 2023 wholesale, neither one of them would be facile enough to focus on religion and race alone.

They would exploit the vulnerabilities of Pakatan Harapan in other ways. The rosy picture once painted by Pakatan Harapan -- which is being skewed by events beyond the anticipation of the draftees of manifesto – would all be their fare game.

Thus the ramifications of the Sino-American trade war; the technology war of the US against the telephony companies like Huawei; the Sino-Korean trade war, which admittedly came out of the blue; coupled with the intense geopolitical and economic rivalries between the US and China would form fodder for allow Umno and PAS to tear Pakatan Harapan to shreds.

They could, as Pakatan Harapan did promise a better and newer Malaysia. What Pakatan Harapan, to the best of its ability, could not foresee was the perfect storm of the US China rivalry, which is now coming to a head.

2023 is the coming of age of the new Malaysia. If young and old voters alike judge Pakatan Harapan harshly, then the process of a fresh and powerful democratic future would be stillborn.

To begin with, the voting rights exercised by all 22.9 million voters would be based on their net assessment of Pakatan Harapan"s total performance, not how many BN big fish had been put in jail.

Secondly, even if voters are forgiving enough to give Pakatan Harapan a golden second chance, Pakatan Harapan themselves need to groom these some young leaders to be the masters of their own fate. They would be required to run for office, not unlike Datuk Rafiq Naizamohideen himself.

For the lack of better word, Pakatan Harapan does need to embrace and enhance the future of Malaysia; starting now, without which a weak electoral mandate of 2023 would see a country being set back once again, not necessarily by kleptocracy but the “kleptheocracy” of PAS and Umno, each trying to purportedly use a pseudo version of Islam to capture the state to their own benefits.

(Datuk Wira Dr. Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff is PPBM Supreme Council Member.)


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