What to expect in 2024? Race-laden politics to lead the way

The next government could very well be a new coalition altogether — one stitching together parties previously on the opposing sides. 

Habhajan Singh, The Malaysian Reserve

WE ARE now in 2024 and the most unexpected political combination for the nation is still intact. The coalition of coalitions under Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has withstood the initial test. Cobbled post-election, it has survived political machinations to disrobe the so-called Unity Government. 

What’s next? What is ahead for this coalition that has placed politicians from DAP and the one-time Malaysian political juggernaut Umno in the same room? Strange bedfellows are now propelling the Madani government. 

Race and religion: These elements will continue to feature prominently in the nation’s politics. The various quarters have success- fully deployed them in the past, so it’s a no-brainer that politicians will continue to weaponise them. 

PAS first-time MP Siti Mastura Mohammad was the latest in a string of politicians turning to race and religion. Her sad antics of pulling Chin Peng from his grave is telling as to how low they are willing to stoop. Chin Peng was the last secretary general of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). Communism, in Malaysian politics, is a card commonly used in the past against the Chinese. It also serves as an anti-Islam call card. 

Bumiputera Economic Congress: 

The up-coming forum will be closely watched. The last time it was organised, it took a racial tone. The race colouring came less from the event itself, but more from the political undertones of that moment. Some politicians had used the event for personal political gains. Politicians being politicians, can you fault them? 

Umno has been tasked to lead the congress. Umno initiated the congress in 1965. Back then, the intention was to mobilise the Malay-Bumiputera agenda. The congress is credited with establishing institutions like Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara), UDA Holdings Bhd (UDA) and Federal Land Development Authority (Felda). 

When addressing Parliament in September 2023, Anwar said the government was set to organise the congress to determine a new direction for the agenda. He emphasised that the previous plans to empower the Bumiputera were only focused on their participation in the economy sector, and based solely on equity ownership. 

The next congress should pave the way to a new set of Bumiputera entrepreneurs who will eschew rent-seeking, unfavourable access to government contracts and 

government concessionary loans. The congress should encourage the emergence of a new set of Bumiputera entrepreneurs who will be willing to subject themselves to a more equitable and transparent system, backed up by full disclosure and regular updates. 

May the congress assist in efforts to right the ship. 

Lukewarm Reforms: Looking at the year that went by, the Unity Government has not delivered on reforms. Reforms have been slow in the making. 

Real and substantial reforms in the next few years will be the saving grace of Pakatan Harapan (PH), the coalition that is leading the Unity Government. 

Remember the Anti-Hopping Law? That is a classic example of how a reform has saved the day. If that law did not make it to the statutes, we can kiss goodbye to the coalition of coalitions that is now running the federal government. Hence, the promised reforms will be PH’s deliverables when they face the rakyat in the next polls. Absence of serious reforms will dent their credibility, forcing even die-hard voters to abstain from voting or maybe even giving it to another party.

The clock is ticking for Anwar and his team to deliver on the promised reforms.

But isn’t the grand coalition a hindrance to pushing forward reforms? Well, it may turn out to be the exact opposite. A large enough of a political spectrum may help push reforms that they can all agree on.

The Anti-Hopping Law came about after PH parties — PKR, DAP and Amanah — agreed to support a PM from Umno, in the person of Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. This is an example as to how coalition governments can force lawmakers from all sides to learn how to collaborate. This may be a win-win for the people and pave the way for a better functioning Parliament.

But politics can leave you with unexpected cuts, as well. The Undi 18 is one such example. Most in PH thought that Undi 18 — another product moved under the agreement with the Ismail Sabri-led government then — would work in their favour. It instead delivered votes to the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition led by Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang’s PAS and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

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