Partyforumseasia: Malaysia is going to the polls again; parliament has been dissolved last Monday and everybody is speculating about the nomination and election date which will be decided by the election commission. In a commentary on 13 October in Free Malaysia Today, Shankar R. Santhiram comments on the chaotic political situation of the country. Under the headline “The circus is back in town” he describes the usual metamorphoses of politicians as we all know them: “The usually aloof chaps will transform into congenial and convivial fellas. Everybody will now have time to listen to your problems. And every politician will promise that they are the ones who will look after your needs and rights.” What Santhiram describes with amusing irony has a rather sad undertone though, because the country does not have the responsible political class and the government it deserves and needs at a time of too many dangerous uncertainties outside the control of any single nation. The last part of the article gives a good idea of the four competing possible coalition groups and what they stand for – or not. As in many countries in Europe, Malaysia’s political landscape is splintered to a degree that any coalition which will manage to cobble together a majority, probably wafer thin as before, will consist of strange bedfellows. Unfortunately, the democratically unhealthy typical feature of these coalitions is that they are forced to close ranks and make decisions more for their political survival than for the interest of the country.
The case of Malaysia and its political woes and tribulations is fascinating in many ways, not only for the electorate and the political pundits, and the above quoted analysis is a good introduction for outsiders as well. But let us focus on two remarkably unusual candidatures here, the former Prime Ministers Najib Razak und Mahathir Mohamad.
Najib Razak is in prison since end of August this year when he started a twelve-year conviction for corruption and abuse of power (see the previous post for details). This is only the first conviction, a slew of other indictments is pending, and his spend-thrift wife is also confronted with related indictments. The surprising and unusual fact is that Najib is convicted and in prison but could remain a member of parliament, nevertheless. He is still popular with many voters and, of course, his network of cronies who have profited from the money cascade organized by his ruling party UMNO. It was not a Ponzi scheme, no, maybe the opposite. The money was not stolen from trusting investors but from the state coffers and the taxpayers, who did not notice it until the 1MDB scandal came to the surface. At the moment, related tricky business moves are making waves internationally with the vanished billions in a series of military procurement cases involving foreign companies and their bogus sub-contractors organizing the deals. As if the continuing parliamentary mandate is not unusual enough, Najib’s constituency wants to nominate him as a candidate in the upcoming election. The argument is that after being eventually released the elected MP could give up the mandate and pass it on to Najib. Many Malaysians view the urge for snap polls by UMNO leaders as a maneuver to return to power and protect themselves against the pending court cases and further criminal charges.
The second unusual case is the candidature of the other former Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. His has reached the ripe old age of 97 years, and some assume that his political ambition includes the desire to become PM for the third time… When he predicts a possible victory for UMNO in the imminent election, it is rather an attempt to prevent it. He knows quite well that this could bring about a return of Najib. Both of the two would be bad for Malaysia which urgently needs a convincing political leader and a strong and clean government.