opinion : Boo Su-Lyn

The politics of hope

Boo Su-Lyn

JANUARY 12 ― Talk show host Oprah Winfrey delivered a powerful, inspirational speech at the Golden Globes after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, telling sexual predators that “their time is up” and giving girls and women hope for “a new day.”

Winfrey’s speech was so inspiring that some Democrat officials and activists want the American celebrity to run for president in 2020 against Donald Trump.

While America searches for hope as they deal with Trump as president (to the extent of turning to a celebrity based on a single speech), we too in Malaysia are grappling for inspiration in a lacklustre political environment filled with old men running the show as we head into the 14th general election.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a Winfrey equivalent giving us an impassioned speech to lift our hopes for just a few moments in this mad world.

If Americans seemed crazy for electing Trump as their leader, we Malaysians are just as mad for wanting to put up Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a 93-year-old former prime minister, as prime minister again.

GE14 is essentially a choice between choosing politicians from a coalition that has been running the show since independence, and candidates from another coalition led by a man who used to be in charge of that very same show for one-third of the time.

As powerful as Dr Mahathir was during his 22-year administration, he did not operate alone. He was aided by a Cabinet filled with people from Umno, MCA, MIC and other Barisan Nasional (BN) parties.

So for BN politicians to now turn around and slam Pakatan Harapan (PH) for selecting Dr Mahathir as its prime minister-elect, it is hypocritical, to say the least.

However, it is also disturbing to see some people jumping to PH’s defence so quickly and insisting that it is fine to use any means necessary to achieve the main objective of unseating BN from power for the first time in history. These same people claim that things will be different even if Dr Mahathir is PM (again) because he will not be surrounded by blind supporters this time.

Based on the record of the Penang and Selangor state governments held by PH parties, there is no evidence whatsoever that PH lawmakers will defy policies or Bills by their own administration. Penang assemblymen have been accused of mutiny just for abstaining on a certain motion, while Selangor is run by a peculiar PKR-DAP-PAS administration, each party unwilling to cede power despite severing ties at the national level.

It is not irrational to want to abstain from voting in the current scenario; that should be the default response, in fact. The crazy, illogical reaction really is to pretend as if the past 20 years didn’t happen.

A 27-year-old told me that many “diehard PH fans” in his circle will not vote in GE14, including those who had attended Bersih rallies.

Another said a group of her friends aged between 35 and 40, former diehard PH supporters who used to travel around the country to campaign for PH during by-elections, has decided to abstain or to spoil their votes this year.

These are mere anecdotes and I hesitate to make a blanket generalisation of entire demographics, just like how I don’t pretend to know how the amorphous “rural Malay electorate” thinks, the key voter base that PH is willing to take their biggest gamble ever on.

Losing some youth and urban voters is to be expected in the chase for the more valuable rural vote (ie: one rural vote is worth six urban votes because of gerrymandering). Politics is about winning some and losing some, after all.

If PH does win GE14 by capturing rural seats through its controversial strategy of putting up Dr Mahathir as prime minister and forming a Malay-only party in the 21st century, then they can tell people like me: “I told you so” and go on to prove us wrong by reforming the country.

However, if PH fails to win the election despite taking the huge risk of sacrificing their principles, then DAP and PKR would have to close down or at the very least, every single one of their leaders who endorsed Dr Mahathir and his party would have to resign because both parties would have completely lost their credibility.

Malay and Muslim parties Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Parti Amanah Negara, which should never have been set up as such exclusive organisations in the first place, can be left to flounder on their own as Umno and PAS copycats.

PH will either win everything or lose it all in the next election.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.