What’s wrong with the two-party system?

bn vs pakatan

Lim Sue Goen, Sin Chew Daily

After the 2008 general elections, Malaysians still had something to expect from the emerging two–party system, but with the 2013 general elections now almost a year behind us, many are instead filled with fears for the country’s future.

Although Pakatan Rakyat was still yet to be established during the 2008 elections, voters frustrated with the BN government voted in large numbers for the opposition. Najib took over as the country’s prime minister a year after that, trying to lead Umno towards moderation. In the meantime, PAS formed an official alliance with DAP and PKR, and started to see hopes of taking over the federal administration as it attempted to cover its real intentions under the veil of a welfare state.

The 2008 general elections gave rise to the prototype of two-party system in the country. Although this has failed to bring about actual changes to the political mentality and culture of people on either side of the great political divide, it was fundamentally a move in the right direction. For instance, the prime minister mooted the concept of “1Malaysia” and proposed the political and economic transformation programs, and legal reforms while Pakatan state governments strived to improve transparency in their administrations and implement open tenders for public projects.

Although Umno secured more parliamentary seats after the 2013 general elections, BN’s performance was generally poorer than in 2008, with parliamentary seats reduced from 140 to 133. Right wingers in the party began to get vocal, as they tried to force Najib to sway from his middle approach. As a result, we saw the bumiputra economic empowerment plan while conservative religious atmosphere gained momentum in politics.

The race to win Malay votes has always been a zero sum game. Any gain on Umno’s side should be seen as a defeat on PAS’. In order to gain back the depleted Malay votes, PAS has proposed to implement the hudud law in Kelantan.

Umno, meanwhile, is making its own political calculations in hope of getting the best of both sides and crush the opposition pact. Even if in the end the bill is not adopted by the Parliament, the religious card played by both parties will only intensify religious tension and spawning more religious fanatics.

I believe some people might want to put the blame on the two-party system. Nevertheless, if we go into the root of the problem, we will realize that the actual causes are our power-hungry politicians, flawed system, entrenched racist politics and impressionable populace.

Even if the two-party system began to take shape after the 2008 general elections, our politicians have failed to move in tandem with the changing times and have failed to put the rakyat first. For example, Anwar came out with the September 16 government change plan, while a change of administration took place in Perak in February 2009 following the crossover of three Pakatan assemblymen.