Political ‘dinosaurs’ holding back rise of new leaders, says analyst

Malaysia will struggle to produce extraordinary leaders because heads of political parties are clinging to power and refusing to make way for the next generation, says a political analyst.

(FMT) – “It is almost like they do not want to place their faith in these new, young and upcoming leaders,” said Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya.

He described the top leaders as “political dinosaurs”, and gave the examples of Dr Mahathir Mohamad playing an active role in politics at the age of 96, and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, still serving as an MP in his 80s. Many leaders of other parties, including Lim Kit Siang, had also been around for decades.

He said the problem was not because Malaysia could not produce extraordinary leaders, but the rise of younger leaders with fresh ideas was stymied by those from “bygone eras”.

Awang Azman Pawi

He was speaking to FMT in response to Tengku Razaleigh’s recent comments that the country needed extraordinary leadership to address the political and economic crises it faced.

Awang Azman said Malaysia’s politicians had created a system that did not limit the number of terms elected representatives could serve, which discouraged fresh talent from rising from the ranks.

He said voters added to the problem by continuing to support leaders who refused to make way for fresh faces.

“Many voters, especially the conservative-minded ones, continue to elect these politicians into power due to their sense of thankfulness and gratitude. They have failed to call upon these politicians to step down,” he said.

Meanwhile, Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs pinned the lack of extraordinary leadership down to voting along racial and religious lines.

Oh Ei Sun.

He said many voters continued to back politicians that pandered to their sentiments, even if they lacked leadership qualities. This made it difficult to have leaders who could transcend race and religion and focus on developing the country.

Oh said political parties could not do much as they would have to appeal to the opinions and sentiments of the voters at large, while it was up to voters to transcend race and religion if they wished to see the rise of better leadership.