The way forward for a progressive democracy

THERE has been a lot of politicking over the last few years, so much so the rakyat are fed up with politicians and the political scenario in the country.

When are we going to see a political ceasefire or a new brand of politics, particularly when we are facing the Covid-19 pandemic? A new political landscape and approach is indeed overdue.

We have been suffering from political instability created by none other than our politicians.

Bear in mind, some of the problems that we encounter today were created by politicians more interested in playing politics rather than solving the nation’s problems.

Thus, efforts by leaders to create a bipartisan cooperation in pursuit of building a new political landscape is lauded. Gone are the days for political manoeuvering because now is the time to show political maturity.

Politics for the sake of politics is meaningless. Politics and political powers should be used to improve the quality of live and livelihood.

Therefore, politics should not be a zero-sum-game. The decree and advice by the King are timely.

“I welcome and very much appreciate the efforts towards realising a new bipartisan approach among all parties, which will soon shape a new political landscape and bring with it changes to the country’s administrative system,” the King said in his royal address when opening the first meeting of this Parliament term.

Collaborative democracy in finding solutions to any issues is the way forward.

“Heed this old Malay advice… for those who won shall not win all, and those who lost shall not lose all,” he said.

The federal government and Pakatan Harapan had engaged in negotiations starting early last month, just days after Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was sworn in as the new prime minister.

The Umno leader secured the job with a slim majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

Thus, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the government and opposition leaders, agreeing to restore political stability in the country for the sake of handling the Covid-19 pandemic as well as to revive the economy is a welcome move.

The seven-point reform package offered by Ismail Sabri on Sept 10 will be included, and additional reforms that Harapan may have requested is surely on the card.

The agreement is expected to bring about the political stability that Ismail Sabri currently needs as his government has only a slim majority in Dewan Rakyat, with 114 MPs. The minimum number needed to form a majority government is 111.

We can’t afford to have another political crisis. The main focus should be on tackling the problems at hand — health and economic issues.

We have had four prime ministers in four years, since 2018 before the downfall of Barisan Nasional. Do we need to have another prime minister?

Politicians should not gamble the future of the rakyat and the nation. A lot is at stake here. So, politicians should not be power crazy and self-serving. We have seen in the last two years or so how political chaos had stymied all attempts for institutional and parliamentary reforms.

The openness and inclusive approach shown by Ismail Sabri is definitely a fresh air in creating a new political landscape. It is a win-win approach at least for the time being when we are facing the pandemic.

When Pakatan Harapan won GE2018, the opposition coalition raised hopes in democratic reforms after 61 years under a single-party rule, Barisan Nasional.

But PH only managed to be in power for 22 months under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. It failed at reforming the political system and various institutions as promised in the manifesto.

Therefore, politicians from both side of the political divide should try their level best to improve the lives and future of the rakyat and the nation. 

Better policies, laws and political systems is the formula to achieve the target. Political leaders come and go. What matters to the ordinary people are good policies and their wellbeing.

In consonant with the principle of the doctrine of separation of power, the government should not abuse instruments of political hegemony for their political survival.

The institutions should instead be used to enhance democracy and we should practise mature democracy. Proper check and balance should be the order of the day in parliament.

Level political playing field is paramount. We should depart from a limited, semi or quasi democracy to a full-fledged and mature democracy.

In fact, the Freedom House regarded Malaysia as a hybrid regime oscillating between democratic institutions and authoritarian practices.

We can no longer be trapped in the old politics; but instead, we should move to new politics and political landscape.

Dissenting opinions should be tolerated in line with the principle of freedom of speech. Discourse and counter discourse within the parameters of the laws should be encouraged in order to improve whatever policies and strategies taken by the government.

Parliamentary, constitutional and institutional reforms and transformations are badly needed in this country. This is the only alternative if we are serious about improving the political and administrative systems in the country.

In the final analysis, the rakyat is bound to gain from all these reforms which need political commitment especially on the part of the government.

Specifically, the benefits of institutional reforms, including equal development fund and representation in parliament special select committees augurs well for the future of Malaysia.

In the past we have heard whereby some government leaders and YBs neglected development in areas where people were not supporters of the people’s representative.

Some even went to the extent of penalising the voters who supported the opposition by not dispensing the development funds to the areas.

Malaysia was formed 58 years ago. As we are going to celebrate our anniversary this week, we hope our democracy is on the right track with pragmatic reforms taken by our political leaders.

As a nation facing various political, social and economic challenges, our political leaders and our democracy should be guided by core positive values including integrity, transparency and willingness to work together for the sake of the rakyat and the nation.

Indeed, this is the way forward for Malaysia Baharu.

The writer is a senior fellow of the Malaysian Council of Professors