It will take more time to realise New Malaysia

For any idea to stand any realistic chances, it must be something either initiated or adopted by a majority of Malaysians.

John Teo, NST

THE recent spate of state elections in Melaka, Sarawak and now Johor has given analysts of all stripes plenty to spin their respective pet theories about the state of politics in the country.

As with most things to do with national politics, this is akin to blindfolded seers groping various parts of an elephant’s body and divining what each of us pundits regards as the whole picture.

While it is without doubt true that Barisan Nasional (BN), which was unceremoniously turfed out of power after the 14th General Election (GE14), has come roaring back, especially with the “landslide” victory in Johor, there is more than meets the eye.

Given the peculiarities of our first-past-the-post electoral system, such a landslide in terms of actual seats won can occur even with just a plurality of total overall votes secured.

Viewed in this light, not much can be said to have changed by way of overall voter sentiments between GE14 and now. The combined opposition in Johor won a majority of total votes cast, as it did in GE14.

The only difference this time is there has been a role reversal of sorts today. Pakatan Harapan (PH) triumphed in GE14 because it was able to marshal a rather disparate hotchpotch of parties into a sufficiently credible and unified messaging platform.

BN’s critical support base then was fatally splintered by Pas acting as a spoiler. Pas ate into BN’s vote pie, to PH’s benefit.

Today’s seeming revival of BN’s fortune, therefore, owes probably as much to its relatively clear messaging as to the opposition’s desultory efforts in that regard, best exemplified by the latter’s almost suicidal tendencies in going for free-for-all contests for nearly all seats in Johor.

What does this all mean? For me, at least, the idea of a New Malaysia born out of GE14 is probably misplaced.

A New Malaysia, if it means voters decisively tossing out our racially-defined politics in favour of truly multiracial politics, may increasingly have to be viewed as a non-starter, as it always had been.

Some Malaysians (and for a while post-GE14, that included myself) were and continue to be so enamoured of this very idea of a non-racial Malaysia being born that we gladly lap it up and reject any notions that it may, at best, be still rather premature a concept to realistically entertain.

Why do I say this? For any idea to stand any realistic chances, it must be something either initiated or adopted by a majority of Malaysians.

PH and its earlier incarnation, Pakatan Rakyat, had shown, in general election after general election, that they could not win. They did so in 2018 only on the back of welcoming on board Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which has made no secret of the fact that it wants to be Umno’s political rival only because of what it perceives to be the latter’s incurable corruption.

And what the Johor election has shown is that out of the opposition free-for-all, the one that emerged the strongest in terms of overall vote tally is the Bersatu-led Perikatan Nasional.

Does that necessarily mean a BN-PN political divide offers the most realistic chance for building Malaysian democracy, at least for now?

I will not hazard a guess in this regard, but do honestly feel that all Malaysians of sincerity and goodwill must at least accept such a possibility, while at the same time accept that a New Malaysia premised on non-racial and multiracial parties may need to be postponed for perhaps another generation, at minimum.

Our rather complicated racial composition and the equally complicated divisions of political and economic spoils among the races may still have that long, if not longer, to fully run their courses before we can realistically start dreaming about the birth (or rebirth) of New Malaysia.