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Who started the political “show hand” model?

  • The choice is with BN. If it still upholds a “government for all” principle, it wouldn't have given itself to such aggressive agendas to rake in more power.

By Dr James Woon Sy Keen

After the changing of the guard in Putrajaya post-GE14, Malaysians have been looking closely which way BN is heading to.

To have a healthy two-party system in place, it is utterly necessary for BN to remain competitive, and recouping the support of majority of voters becomes the key to its continued survival.

Last week, BN has provided an answer to this question. In facing off a multiracial PH coalition, by right BN should come up with a better multiracial alternative solution for the voters. In its stead, it has outright made the Malays and Islam its primary objective of political struggle.

In other words, the next general election is not going to be the same as the previous ones, because the Umno-PAS alliance has compelled the nation to take a detour from the political guidelines of moderation for a heads-on clash between pluralism and singularism, which I would call Malaysia's political “show hand”.

“Show hand” is a kind of poker game in which the player with the highest-ranking upcard will be the winner. The biggest player will first decide the bet amount. After the second card is dealt, the other players can choose to follow, increase or abandon the bet. After five cards have been dealt, the player with the highest-ranking card will take all the bets on the table.

If we were to put the the country's political ecosystem in the “show hand” game, who is the biggest player at this moment? Sure enough it is the ruling PH administration!

Prior to this, PH has increased its bet on the bumi agenda to expand its support base in the Malay electorate. As for Umno in a relatively disadvantaged position, it could either choose to follow or abandon, or even increase the bet.

The outcome couldn't have been more obvious now: BN has chosen to up the bet, and has indeed done so in an all-in way by forging an alliance with PAS before the next round of game.

For so many decades BN has positioned itself as a government for all Malaysians. Apparently what it is doing right now shows that it has departed from its original goal of struggle, more so general representation. Such an alliance will only push the nation further down the path of division and polarization.

Although it is not uncommon for an election to polarize the population, such divisions occur in every ethnic community in the country, but never a direct confrontation between communities. The current development is poised to trigger a direct intercommunal confrontation in the Malaysian society.

Some have argued that this whole thing could be attributed to the voting preference of 95% of Chinese voters. If they had not voted for PH in droves, perhaps BN would still be a pluralistic coalition today and the existing equilibrium could be maintained.

What I want to ask is why BN has embraced the political “show hand” model, and why it does not simply follow or abandon the bet. The choice is with BN. If it still upholds a “government for all” principle, it wouldn't have given itself to such aggressive agendas to rake in more power.

The many earlier policy reversals and bumi-first agendas from the PH administration might have galvanized BN into such a drastic action. If PH has set its goal on fair policies and reforms, perhaps BN would not have come up with this counter-measure to prove its worth.

Now that Umno and PAS have officiated their tie-up, what PH should do now is to consolidate its philosophy of bringing prosperity to all Malaysians regardless of race and religion, instead of fighting with BN for the ultimate extremism supremacy.

We will see 18-year-olds on the electoral roll come the next general elections. Following the introduction of automatic voter registration, the country will boast 22 million voters, seven million more than in GE14. To win the hearts of voters, it is essential for the PH government to address the many issues faced by the country's youths.

Addressing the problem involves a lot more than just freely distributing cash to young people, but must also offer them assurances in education, employment, remunerations, housing and other issues.

Most importantly, the government must strive to change the attitude of our young people, and instill the right value system in them through a variety of channels to keep them away from religious and racial extremism.

(Dr James Woon Sy Keen is Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia lecturer.)

 

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