The irrationality of partisan politics

Zainul Arifin, NST

IT is plainly obvious that the whole drama surrounding the appointment of the new Dewan Rakyat speaker is but a proxy for politics as usual.

Our elected representatives might have been talking about the illegality of his appointment, or not, but they were essentially channelling their political stance outside the hallowed hall — essentially, those in government would support the appointment, and those in the opposition, would not.

The ideological demarcation is as clear as day. It was along the political fault line, even as many try to disguise it with technicalities, rules, procedures, and such.

Did anyone really believe otherwise, especially the weary and cynical public?

Consider this: Datuk Azhar ‘Art’ Harun, previously the darling of Pakatan Harapan when he was appointed chairman of the Election Commission, is now public enemy number one, as per social media postings and public statements of politicians.

When he was previously a reformer, he was now an opportunistic turncoat who moved to the dark side.

For now, he has become the de-facto face of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s government, and his appointment was the first opportunity to have a go at the PM. It was nothing personal, presumably.

Art Harun is someone to pin grief and anger on arising from the PH self-inflicted wound of losing a government. His social media past has been dredged and has become WhatsApp fodder.

It clearly shows, if we still need any more proof, that supporting political parties requires us to abandon any sense of level-headedness.

Someone who could walk on water would turn into a despised person overnight, if he happened to cross our political lines.

Similarly, tainted personalities could continue to draw support and attention.

Is there a dearth of rationality and reasonableness among politicians and their supporters? Or, is irrationality the default mode of our politics?

The inability to be rational, I suppose, is the symptom of the state of our politics, which at times has the making of a failed situational comedy.

Alas, if only it was not true, and not happening to us.

We have politicians who operate in a bubble that is politics above all — it is partisan politics and politicking 24/7.

There is no respite for the dreary masses. You would think it is a surprise that the country could move on in spite of this.

I must admit that I know not of Art Harun’s motive for accepting the speaker position, but as when he was appointed to head EC, I hope that he is doing it for the right reason. He seemed to walk the talk well at the EC, then.

It is fairly normal for a new government to appoint its own parliamentary officials, as with the previous administration, and the ones before that, and presumably, the ones after this.

We are free to impute motives, but it is never a question of why they do it, but more so because they can.

I do believe too that there is nothing much wrong with the previous speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, but he must know that he was there at the pleasure of the previous government and he should expect, as a political appointee, to be replaced as a matter of fact with the changes, no matter how good a job he has done. It came with the territory.

I have a theory, though. I believe the government must have wanted to replace deputy speaker Nga Kor Ming, a PH and DAP stalwart, more than Ariff. No government would want an opposition figure to be presiding over parliamentary sessions, it is plainly obvious.

However, it would be rather odd to replace a deputy but keep the main guy.

Second deputy speaker, Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon, who has broken ranks with both PKR and PH, remains.

It is disingenuous for those expecting the current government to keep Nga, who incidentally knew the score and resigned before the motion to remove him was tabled. It nevertheless makes good fodder for politics.

I believe everything is a ruse to extend the quarrel into the lower house, each side trying to capture the moral high ground, to posture on soapboxes for the audience outside.

We, the people, are again stirred to wrath. It is an excuse for a ruckus, and to score some political points.

If we had taken a step back, and let our cooler heads prevail, we would see that this is just politics as usual.

Why do I believe the politicians care more about scoring points with the electorate, and aren’t really concerned about how good Ariff was, or Art would be? Maybe it is the cynic in me.

I bet in a week or so, few would be talking about the speaker’s appointment, and it could then be issues on Tabung Haji or ECRL or Covid-19, etc, but we can be sure to fall along political allegiances, yet again.