A new dawn, a nation reborn

So, a new day has dawned for Malaysia. The people have spoken: they no longer want the Barisan Nasional (BN) to lead the government; they want a new beginning.

After being under the rule of the BN, and its earlier version the Alliance, for 61 years, the majority of Malaysians have decided they want a new captain at the helm – even if the new captain is an old captain.

Or perhaps because he is the old captain – and, therefore, trusted to effectively bring about a renewal, and strong economic growth.

Voters gave the lie to the predictions of pollsters who said the BN would win, by putting an X where it mattered to tame the unstoppable giant.

Many of my friends will be happy with the result, as they have been hoping for change. One of their main gripes, apart from the rising cost of living, is the abuse of power by the previous government or at least some of those in government and the use of government agencies to stifle dissent.

They said the atmosphere in the nation was becoming too oppressive with many freedoms removed or under threat. Although not all of them are admirers of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, they think he can set the nation on the right course.

Dr Mahathir, who turns 93 in July, will be making history as not only the oldest man to become prime minister of Malaysia but also the first to be prime minister twice. He also becomes the oldest prime minister in the world.

Talking about history, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is expected to make history too – as Malaysia’s first woman deputy prime minister. This will bring cheer to women in the country and could give a fillip to the fight for greater gender equality.

For Dr Mahathir it is also a personal victory – he wanted to get rid of Najib and he has achieved that.

He has shown that age is just a number, as one of the more popular WhatsApp memes has it. Dr Mahathir, is a shining example of grit and determination. He took in stride all the insults, all the obstacles, all the harassment, and triumphed.

Najib Razak, on the other hand, has to face the ignominy of being the man who led BN to its first ever defeat. He won in Pekan as expected, but not the federal power that he was confident of retaining.

It is almost certain that he will not be leading Umno for long; he has the option of resigning as Umno president or being eased out either in the coming months or at the next Umno assembly.

It is ironic, and surely a personal tragedy for Najib, that he led to defeat the very coalition his father Abdul Razak Hussein formed by getting more parties to join the three-party Alliance in 1974.

Others swept away by the political tsunami are the presidents of the Gerakan, MCA and MIC. Mah Siew Keong, Liow Tiong Lai and Dr S Subramaniam all failed to retain their seats.

Like Umno, the MCA, MIC and Gerakan will undertake an analysis of what went wrong and it is possible that at the end of this analysis, one or two or all three of these leaders may cease to lead their respective parties.

It will also likely take a long time for these parties to make their mark in national politics again.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia lost the only seat it held – Sungai Siput. There will be soul searching here too, and it is possible 2018 will mark the end of PSM.

One of the most happy persons today will be Lim Kit Siang. The DAP finally loses its tag as an opposition party, but this is one tag that the DAP will gladly lose as it now becomes a member of the federal government. After years of trials and tribulations and being jailed for his beliefs, the DAP supremo, or at least his party, will finally get to shape policies and have a say in the direction the nation takes.

I am surprised that PAS, which played spoiler in this election, has done well by retaining Kelantan state, taking Terengganu from the BN and it will likely play kingmaker in Perak. PAS has shown that one group of Malays still finds its message attractive.

However, by voting for PH and rejecting the Umno-PAS friendship, Malaysians in the west coast have given notice that they do not want hardline Islam or hudud. They want a truly moderate nation, not one that is moderate just in slogans.

In fact, I believe, people are fed up of slogans. They want a government that will listen to them, a government that will act on their behalf, a government that will act with their welfare in mind, and not, like the BN, decide what is best for them and arrest the dissenters.

In other words, the people are looking for a renaissance in all areas of national life, they are looking for a new dawn, nothing less. I hope Dr Mahathir and the PH leadership will not disappoint us.

A Kathirasen is Executive Editor at FMT.

* The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.