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Third Force to encircle Umno

 | December 29, 2011

The current political landscape in the country is fertile for all minority parties in Barisan Nasional or otherwise to opt for a direct coalition system.

COMMENT

After the 2008 general election, what we are witnessing are structural changes in the Malaysian political landscape: the emergence of a two-party system in Malaysia – Umno the main component of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, and the opposition pact led by PKR and PAS.

But this is unlike the two-party system in some countries such as the US, where either one of the two parties can win an election and form the government and the other automatically becomes the opposition.

In Malaysia, the dual party system is unique. Firstly, it is a Malay-based two-party system and secondly, neither party can form a government on its own without forming a coalition with the non-Malay minority parties.

Hence the political landscape in the country provides the right scenario for all minority parties in BN or otherwise to opt for a (direct) coalition system of government, whereby the minority parties will contest using their own party ticket.

And after the general election is over, these minority parties can negotiate to join either one of the two Malay-based parties. Thus, the formation of a federal government would be based on the two-party system and a coalition system.

It is common knowledge that there have been so many gross abuses committed by Umno under the name of the government and the BN entity.

Only Umno wields so much political and economic power, leaving the other minor component parties sharing the leftovers.

This has been Umno’s policy and practices since 1981 following the Mahathir undemocratic-authoritarian rule.

The other component parties, though members of the BN, are all tied down under the Umno system of controls which enables the latter to become the de facto federal government.

When Najib Tun Razak took over the premiership in 2009, he initially tried more democratic approaches such as the 1Malaysia slogan and economic, political and electoral reforms, but with little success.

Of late, it is getting clearer that Najib, like Dr Mahathir Mohamad, shares similar beliefs that only through undemocratic-authoritarian rule can Umno continue to hold such political and economic power and maintain its grip on other races and parties .

Two-pronged strategy needed

This special two-party political system requires a third force that has the two-pronged strategy to encircle Umno’s despotic power and to prop up the opposition – Pakatan plus coalition – and strengthen the system.

Let’s look at the components of the Third Force:

i) Direct coalition system at national and state levels.

Across the country there are many minor political parties, whether in the BN or opposition, that can team up and forge a common platform through the direct coalition system.

Parties like DAP, MCA, MIC, PRS, SPDP, SUPP, Pesaka, SAPP and others can contest in an election using their own party symbols.

I believe the people can accept such a united political body to break up Umno and PBB hegemony (in Sarawak). A direct coalition system acts as a check-and-balance against the dominance of an undemocratic, dictatorial kind of government.

After the 13th general election, these third force political parties can work out which of the two main Malay parties they wish to join en bloc or on individual basis.

Under a direct coalition system, a coalition partner is not tied down to a main or even a majority component party in the government.

It is a loose partnership whereby any partner can quit the government and join the opposition.

However, if the partners who quit have a majority of seats, they can proceed to form another new coalition government.

So there is freedom of choice – any party can join or leave the ruling party or the opposition.

Hence, in the formation of the federal government and the respective state governments in Malaysia, the direct coalition system is the best alternative for every minority party.

If all the minority parties in BN or opposition team up to join PKR and PAS, then Umno’s dominance is history at the national or state levels in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.

ii) Cooperation pact in Sarawak

Within the state BN, especially for Sarawak, minor parties can work out a cooperation pact, namely with the newly revamped SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party), PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak) and SPDP (Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party).

The latter two can even merge to form a stronger entity.

This kind of cooperation can form a Third Force at state level to counter PBB’s (Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu) hegemony of power.

If the Pesaka wing of PBB snaps and attaches itself to the grouping, the more the merrier.

If the state Pakatan wishes to join the pact, then PBB is completely encircled.

I believe a majority of the Malays would support such a pact.

This may compel some of the PBB leaders who are not aligned with Taib Mahmud to consider crossing over to PAS or PKR to further strengthen the third force in the state before the 13th national polls, though the state would not be holding any state election.

iii) Minority parties

DAP is already a full partner of the Pakatan coalition. There are many third force minor parties, including those in the BN, which can join the Pakatan allaince before the 13th general election.

After all, the BN minor parties are good as dead in the BN and under the clutches of Umno.

iv) Bersih coalition of NGOs

Bersih can play a crucial role to ensure Umno and PBB loses its hegemony by being part of the third force.

Since its success in launching Bersih 1.0 (November, 2007) and Bersih 2.0 (July 2011) – overcoming all the fears and confidence barrier – it should undertake a bigger and more responsible role.

Definitely the movement will change the voting trend in the coming general election.

v) Young voters

The advancement of information technology has given bloggers and online news portals an avenue to link up with the young voters through cyber space to keep them informed of current affairs in the country that is not available in the mainstream media.

With a good feedback of information, many of the young voters who are not aligned with any political party can change the voting trend in favour of the opposition.

Their concern is mainly their careers and earnings. Under the present administration, the abuses of power are definitely going to jeopardise their future.

vi) Umno factions

There are factions within Umno which are not aligned to Najib. Pakatan can strike a deal with these factions within Umno on the appointment of the next prime minister in the event the BN wins.

In accordance with Article 43.2.(2) of the Federal Constitution, the leader of a majority party cannot automatically become the prime minister but has to go for voting in the Dewan Rakyat (Parliament).

Whoever commands the confidence of the majority of the MPs shall be appointed as the chief executive of the government, that is, the prime minister.

MPs from both camps can work out an amicable solution as to the best and right person to be appointed as the prime minister by the Dewan Rakyat.

vii) General community

Pakatan should also create greater awareness among the people of the gross abuses of power by Umno that are detrimental to the future of all Malaysians.

All civil servants, including the police and the army, and rural folks should be informed of the need to change the government. The people have nothing to lose but to gain if Umno is removed from power.

Awang Abdillah is a political analyst, writer and FMT columnist.


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