Coalition Strategies in Malaysia: Barisan Component Parties No Longer Needed?

Partyforumseasia: The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) 150px-Flag_of_the_Malaysian_Chinese_Association.svghas been thriving for decades as appendix of UMNO, helping to secure its absolute majority by bringing in substantial numbers of Chinese votes as a regular dowry and a counterbalance to the Chinese opposition DAP. Formation and success of the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition and the multi-racial approach of its Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) as well as the growing attractiveness of the DAP for Chinese voters have undermined MCA’s traditional role. Factional infighting has crippled the party for some time already and the extremely narrow results in the recent internal elections may herald the further decline of what was once Malaysia’s second biggest political party. In 2008 it still won 15 parliamentary and 31 state seats, in May 2013 only 7 and 11 seats respectively. But, as it was pampered by big brother UMNO with ministerial portfolios and business opportunities during its heydays, MCA is still very rich. According to a Straits Times article on 22 December the party assets are estimated at nearly 3 billion RM, which comes to over 900 million US$. These assets, land, buildings, companies (Huaren Holdings) and a 42% stake in the Star daily may keep the leadership posts embattled. 2,325 delegates elected president and deputy president, four vice-presidents and 25 central committee members, and Mr. Liow Tiong Lai has won the presidency by just 26 votes.
MCA results

Strategic Lessons: Piggy rides are dangerous coalition strategies. Junior partners have to maintain their usefulness for big brother or risk decline. Assets may keep them alive for some time but not for long.

Difficult to compare but interesting:
The German Free Democratic Party (FDP), a long term successful piggy rider in various coalitions, has lost all seats in the federal parliament in September this year. Its survival may be more difficult than for MCA because it has no assets…

Respect: UMNO’s Internal Election Reform

VitalsratistixPartyforumseasia: UMNO is getting serious in renewing the less than perfect internal election procedures. After 26 years of pre-democratically choosing the party president and his deputy without voting and by acclamation, this method described and  ridiculed in Asterix’s old Gaul, comes to an end. In the upcoming party elections, probably between mid July and mid August, UMNO will come back to a proper election of the two top leaders. It will remain to be seen whether the election will be competitive or not, and if yes, who will have the courage to openly challenge Prime Minister Najib.
Whether he will like it or not, the voting might show his support level in the party, at least by abstentions, spoiled or no votes.

The other part of the reform will expand the number of delegates with voting rights from 2,500 to 146,500, probably enough to make vote buying too expensive even for the richest UMNO members with ambitions for local leadership posts.
See also the short overview on the reform compiled by Singapore’s Straits Times of 29 June:
UMNO new voting system

Leadership, Charisma, and Narcissism

HitStalinPol Pot

  1. Charisma
    The German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) applied the centuries-old religious connotations of charisma to politics with the following classic definition: “Charisma is a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader.” But he also added a second criterion: “the recognition on the part of those subject to authority” is decisive for the validity of charisma.”(See Wikipedia: Charisma)
    In the 21st century, “supernatural” and “superhuman” are outdated notions, but exceptional powers or qualities are easily attributed to political leaders and dignitaries. From the simple village mayor or MP in the constituency up to ministers, prime ministers, and presidents, leaders are always surrounded by beaming and smiling faces, happy slaves when they are blessed with attention or a handshake. The aura of power produces already a semblance of charisma – not necessarily in need of outstanding personal qualities. And in the era of omnipresence and ubiquity of TV coverage, telegenic qualities and good looks may easily supersede the natural authority of personality. Personal charisma and media charisma may be very different, but the latter can be influenced and has created a whole new industry of coaching and political consultancy.
  2. Dangers of Charisma?
    Elections are highly emotional for the candidates because they are a test for attractiveness and potential of charisma and often end up in rejection. The crux is that among a number of candidates with personal charisma there may be some with more ambition than charisma and less desirable narcissistic potential in their quest to be elected.Oxford don Kevin Dutton has published a provocative book on psychopaths and success in 2012: “The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.” An article in the Huffington Post referring to this book, lists tell-tale signs of “ps-I-chopathy” in your boss. Honi soit qui mal y pense, but some features sound somewhat familiar in the political sphere…

    Signs of Psychopathy According to Kevin Dutton (excerpts) 

    a) Emotional powerplay
    Psychopaths are social chameleons and can change their psychological spots in the blink of an eye if they think they can benefit from doing so. Playing on sympathy is a favourite weapon of choice.

    b) Control freak
    Psychopaths are emotional chess players and a psychopathic boss sees his employees merely as pieces on an invisible psychological chessboard: disposable, dispensable, superfluous.c) Charming
    Psychopaths are past masters at making scintillating first impressions and possess an innate gift for making you feel as if you’re the only person in the room.

    d) Parasitical
    Irrespective of whether they play the charm, manipulation or sympathy cards, psychopaths are corporate vampires and are second to none in their ability to take you into their confidence and suck out valuable new ideas that may have been months in the planning.

    e) Deceitful
    Psychopaths simply do not live by the same moral code as the rest of us, and experience little guilt or anxiety over telling lies – either to big themselves up, or to dump on others, or both.

    f) Narcissistic
    Psychopaths are completely driven by their own hard-nosed self-interest. Though they may feign concern for others, appearing warm, considerate and even helpful, such interest is shallow and superficial and merely serves as the foreplay for future exploitation. For psychopath, read “ps-I-chopath.”

    g) Non-stick
    Psychopaths make expert defence attorneys and are supremely skilled at getting themselves off the hook should accusations of incompetence be levelled at them.

    h) Non risk-averse
    The neural power-cut in the fear zip code of psychopaths’ brains means that things that would scare the hell out of the rest of us just don’t have the same impact on these ice-cool emotional androids.

    i) Power-hungry
    Psychopaths are attracted to positions of influence in which they can satisfy their need to control and manipulate others.

    k) X-Factor
    Psychopaths often do give out a certain ‘aura’ and folk sometimes report experiencing unnerving physical sensations in their presence such as “he sends a chill up my spine” and “he makes my skin crawl.”

The good news: This type of psychopaths is very rare among contemporary politicians and only applies to monsters like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and the like. See photographs…
The bad news: According to a 2008 survey on psychopathic personalities among American college students, the incidence is growing steadily (Journal of Personality, 76:4, August 2008). Nota bene: students, not politicians!