We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.
― JK Rowling, British author and philanthropist
Phew! What an election! The 15th general election (GE15) was a memorable one indeed.
There were so many twists and turns in the run-up to the elections. The events after the election were no less dramatic.
After an exciting, intense and, at times, divisive election, the GE15 results rolled in. There was no clear winner. Although almost 74 percent of the voters turned up to exercise their democratic right, the result was a hung parliament.
The supposed objective of calling the election early to ensure a majority-party government was not achieved. No political party or coalition of parties had managed to cross the line with 112 members of parliament as a single entity out of the 222 seats available.
Thereafter, there were about five days of political upheaval and chaos without any coalition having an absolute majority. Parties with various formulations of alliances claimed they had the numbers to form the government. The ‘I have the numbers’ gambit.
Eventually, the King, amidst the uncertainty, appointed Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia. He is the chief of Pakatan Harapan (PH), the largest coalition in the Dewan Rakyat. This time he had the numbers.
Unity Coalitions or Grand Coalitions are not new in the world of politics. In fact, they have been used in many countries from time to time to enhance national unity, especially in times of potential crises.
Currently, the Unity Government has 148 seats, well above the 112 required to form a majority government. Anwar’s PH coalition with 82 seats, Barisan Nasional (BN) with 30 seats, and Gabungan Parti Sarwak (GPS) with 23, Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) with six, Warisan with three, Parti Bangsa Malaysia and Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Malaysia with one seat each, and two Independents ensured his appointment as prime minister.
GPS’ initial reluctance to ally with PH due to past lies and insults about the capability of Sarawakians to run their own economy was mitigated by an apology. This happened after DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke apologised to the Sarawak government and its people for making statements that had offended them.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has made some pledges to Sarawakians. I am sure GPS, under Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg will play a vital role in regaining our rights under MA63 and also facilitate the flow of more development funds into Sarawak.
Moving on, the anti-hopping law passed by parliament recently also undoubtedly helped to determine the final outcome. You would agree that without this law, some MPs would still be horse-trading their statutory declarations. The practice of ‘frogging’ would have been in full swing.
We may still not have a new prime minister in place or a different one without this law. Thanks and kudos must go to all the civil society groups and politicians who had lobbied hard for the anti-hopping legislation over the years.
The realities of politics have now come into play, and the political parties have chosen their role for the next five years. Be it as part of the government or the opposition.
The political parties’ leadership has more or less accepted their role in this new political landscape. However, some members and voters on the various sides of the political fence have been left scratching their heads.
Some voters and members need help understanding how a party they voted against or vigorously campaigned against is actually now part of the government. If you are one of them, all I can say is welcome to the world of politics, where it is said, ‘politics makes strange bedfellows’, no pun intended.
For the uninitiated, this quote means that people with nothing in common may come together solely because of shared interests, either political or personal.
Moving on to democracy, ultimately, the electorate decided, as it should. It is via these “free and fair elections” that we need to continue selecting representatives to manage our nation. Democracy is the most appropriate way forward.
We must not be taken in by people or organisations that hold up undemocratic, theological or ‘so-called one-party democracies’ as the ideal government system. We need to take heed of these dangerous ideologies and neutralise them at the source.
Based on the voting trend, all parties will face a higher level of uncertainty in future elections. There will be no such thing as a sure win anymore, especially with an enlarged electoral base.
In addition, looking at the trend of voting over several general elections, it will become increasingly difficult for any party or coalition to become a permanent government after every general election or cling on to power over a long term.
We may be entering an era of ever-changing coalition partners in government after a general election.
I hope we have a stable and fair government for the next five years. Coalition governments are usually under constant threat of removal by political shenanigans.
A practical and rational approach is necessary for peace and stability to ensure economic progress for all. There has been enough pain and suffering due to the pandemic and political instability.
We in Sarawak still need to maintain a Sarawak First approach. This is to ensure the focus is on improving and developing Sarawak to archive our 2030 developed status via a peaceful coexisting multi-racial and multi-religious society.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.