Commentary

Will it be new era in Malaysian politics?

Will it be new era in Malaysian politics?
Mr Najib’s immediate priorities, apart from charting national reconciliation, will be to form his new Cabinet and prepare for UMNO’s own election later this year. Photo: Reuters
Published: May 8, 4:01 AM
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Malaysian voters woke up the morning after the 13th general election (GE) wondering whether they had entered a new era in the country’s politics — and whether this new phase is something to be cheered or worried about.

Those who wanted to see continuity and stability were pleased the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) back in power, albeit with a reduced majority. Now, they expect Prime Minister Najib Razak to fulfil his long list of promises of political and economic transformation made during the hustings.

Those who wanted change must have been disappointed that they were getting essentially more of the same. But is it so?

Mr Najib’s BN entered the GE on the defensive; he vowed to regain the two-third majority lost in 2008 when the much-vaunted political tsunami swept the country in favour of the opposition. The Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan Rakyat (PR) appeared on the march to take over federal power in Putrajaya. As it turned out, that 2008 tsunami was stopped in its tracks, with the BN winning 133 seats over the PR’s 89 and the mandate to form the government.

Mr Najib even won back one of four states lost in 2008 — Kedah. In the eyes of many BN supporters, he had rescued the BN ship from sinking. The immediate impact of the results is to put the country back on the road of political stability and economic certainty.

MISSES

But the BN’s 133 seats is a step down from 140 and short of the psychologically significant two-third majority crucial for constitutional amendments. Winning back Kedah may be good for the BN’s morale but Kedah is not Selangor, which is rich, industrialised and politically and economically strategic.

In fact, the BN’s support had actually eroded: Many state assembly seats were lost to the opposition; the BN retained Trengganu only by a close margin; indeed in four states — Terengganu, Perak, Kedah and Negri Sembilan — the BN did not win with a two-third majority.

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