Malaysia: The Need To Move From Personality To Policy Based Politics – Analysis

All the same leaders who have occupied political leadership for decades have been fighting for power. Political crises in Malaysia haven’t been over any fundamental differences in policy. They are simply about who, with which group will rule. 

Murray Hunter, Eurasia Review

Are the new parties making the same mistake?

Malaysian politics has notoriously been based upon personalities rather than policy. For decades, personality politics has failed to serve the best interests of Malaysia, currently in recession, and facing growing poverty and inflation.

Shifting from personality to policy based politics would be the single most important reform that could be made to enhance the nation’s democratic system.

However, the tragedy for Malaysia is that the proliferation of new political parties arriving on the scene are making the same mistake as the incumbent parties.

It can be strongly argued that over the last two decades Malaysia has been dominated by personality based politics.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi came into the prime ministerial office in 2003 after Mahathir Mohamed’s retirement from office. Malaysians showed Badawi or Pak Lah resounding support in the 2004 general election on the hope he would make a difference to government, dominated by Mahathir for twenty years.

Similarly, Najib Razak succeeded Badawi as prime minister in 2009. He initially brought with him good personal goodwill with the 1Malaysia slogan. However, Najib’s personal reputation rapidly slipped over the 1MDB financial scandal, leading to his 2018 electoral defeat to Mahathir Mohamed. Once again, the Rakyat pinned their hopes on Mahathir, who was at that time perceived as a changed man willing to ‘right the wrongs of the past.’ With around 20 months as prime minister, Mahathir dominated his cabinet and became the prime political face of the nation once again.

In 2020, Muhyiddin Yassin takeover the government from Mahathir after the Sheraton Putsch, where it became a Muhyiddin Yassin regime labelled Perikatan Nasional. Last year, Ismail Sabri Yaakob took over from Muhyiddin with a cabinet of basically re-arranged deckchairs.

Likewise, on the opposition side, PKR is equated with Anwar Ibrahim with policy almost totally reflective upon his ideas. The DAP has been strongly aligned with the Lim leadership, which has passed from father to son.

Abdul Hadi Awang has been the face of PAS for more than a decade now, steering it away from the days where “PAS for all” was resonated to the electorate.

In effect, all six administrations over the last twenty years carried the same set of policies. The only difference was narrative and style.

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