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3:08pm 08/05/2022
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Multiethnic and moderate democracy
By:Saifuddin Abdullah

Ahead of the GE, the establishment of ‘coalitions of political parties’ is often discussed. The goal of each coalition is to win the GE.

In this context, it would be good if another goal is also discussed, that is the building of a multiethnic and moderate Malaysian democracy.

I have spoken about this for a long time, including in my last book New Politics 2.0: Multiracial and Moderate Malaysian Democracy (2017).

On one hand, it aims to replace the Barisan Nasional-style political configuration of consociationalism, which is incapable of addressing racial political issues.

On the other hand, it aims to build a more inclusive Malaysian democracy – centripetalism (Reilly), tried by Pakatan Harapan.

Centripetalism is a call for political parties to move towards moderate policies as well as to explore and strengthen the ‘center’ in a divided political situation.

It emphasizes the importance of institutions that promote integration across racial and religious differences.

This requires reforms of the law, system and political practice.

It is a political system or strategy designed to focus on competition ‘in the moderate middle’ rather than competition ‘at the extreme end’.

To realize this political configuration, it requires three components:

First is the political incentive for politicians to campaign outside the interests of their race/religion, causing them to be moderate and to have broad and inclusive policies.

One way is to have more constituencies where the composition of the electorate, in terms of race/religion, is more mixed.

Second, consultative platforms in parliament; where politicians from various backgrounds discuss issues across the racial/religious boundaries and formulate more substantive policies.

The establishment of more Parliamentary Select Committees and Cross-Party MPs Groups, working closely with CSOs, as is happening now, is a good development.

Lastly, multiracial and moderate political parties or coalitions of such political parties that can be attractive across the racial/religious imagination and offers a comprehensive and balanced package of policies for all citizens.

Today, there are parties considered to represent certain races that have fielded multiracial candidates in past elections, while there are parties that were originally only made up of certain races but have opened special wings for members from other races and have fielded multiethnic candidates in several elections.

The movement towards a more mature democracy must continue.

(Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament for Indera Mahkota.)

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