Philippines: Massive Party Switching Towards President Duterte’s Coalition for Change


Partyforumseasia: Political parties in the Philippines are known for their volatility. Not that parties are much more stable in other countries in the region, at least as long as they are not in power and don’t have much money to offer. Party hopping and offering positions to rich candidates are quite common in Southeast Asia, ideology and programs are not important, but that is increasingly true in Western democracies as well.
AntsDuterteAquino

The presidential system of the Philippines has developed a unique and smooth ritual once the new president has been elected. As everywhere, politicians scramble for positions, but faster than in any other country, losing parties join the presidential camp and MP’s leave their party and join the president’s. Call them opportunists, unprincipled, turncoats or traitors, it is a pragmatic and realistic way of providing the new president with a parliamentary majority that works from day one. And at the same time the party switchers retain the perks they are used to. President Jokowi of Indonesia could not even dream of such a smooth transition.
CamelionThe changes look dramatic with the underlying figures: The Liberal Party (LP) more than tripled its presence in congress with the election of president Aquino in 2010. According to Asiasentinel, 17 June (LINK) between 80 and 90 of its 110 MP’s are prepared to join Duterte’s PDP-Laban party. Outgoing house speaker and LP vice chair Feliciano Belmonte declares that the Liberals will eventually coalesce with what president elect Duterte calls the Coalition for Change. His policy priorities, a federal system, fighting crime and corruption, and re-introduction of capital punishment, should easily find support in the congress. After Duterte’s tough crime buster talk during the election campaign, anticipatory obedience seems to set in already among the police. Since the election 42 suspected drug pushers have been killed in shootouts with the police. But what the president elect has promised, eradicating drug related crime within six months, remains a tall order.

Ninety-six Percent! Dream Results in Vietnam’s Parliamentary Election


Partyforumseasia: The election was on 22 May but given remaining logistical problems in rural areas and some other incidents, the National Election Council (NEC) announced the final results only on Thursday, 9 June.
VN election 5.16Political parties world wide can only dream of winning 96 percent of the seats, but most of them have a big handicap, they have to compete with other parties. Vietnam’s Communist Party has no party competitors in the single party system, but this year independents and activists have tried to make inroads into parliament in bigger numbers than ever before. True to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin‘s advice “trust is Leningood control is better”, the authorities have painstakingly screened the 100 odd independent candidates. According to the constitution, every citizen of Vietnam over 21 has the right to run, but the umbrella organization of all Vietnamese mass organizations, the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) has a mandate to screen all candidates, whether fielded by the Communist Party, other mass organizations or self-nominated. In the 2015 Law on the Vietnam Fatherland Front Article 19 stipulates: “The Vietnam Fatherland Front shall organize in accordance with law consultations, selection and nomination of candidates for deputies to the National Assembly or People’s Councils;…” With the authorities already alarmed before the nomination deadline on March 13, the VFF has done the required job by eliminating all but 11 self-nominated candidates for the National Assembly, two of them being finally elected. Since the vetting process is not transparent, the rejected candidates and their supporters are not happy. A prominent victim of the screening, the “five gates”, was pop star Mai Khoi, also called Vietnam’s Lady Gaga. For her campaign posters she had dressed down considerably, showing herself as a serious conservative candidate, which was obviously not enough to make her trustworthy.
Vietnamese Lady GagaMai Khoi

Only two elected self-nominated candidates, one of them a businessman from the North, and a hematologist, means 50 % less than in the last election, when four had made it. Another 19 non-party members have been nominated by state institutions, down from 42 non party members altogether last time.

Among the other results, published so far, are:

– An enormous voter turnout of 99.35 %

National Assembly: 496 members (317 first-timers) elected out of 870 candidates Four seats remain vacant because of insufficient turnout in four provinces. Maybe the same shortcoming has been reported in Singapore’s Straits Times (Link): “Deputy assembly chairman Phung Quoc Hien said the high national turnout showed the ballot was a success, even with some instances of fraud and calls on social media for a voter boycott.” Oh-oh!

– To be elected were also  3,918 provincial councilors, 24,993 district councilors and 294,055 commune councilors for the 2016-2021 period. The official announcements so far focus on the National Assembly. It is not excluded that the local results are not everywhere as expected…

The chairperson of the NEC acknowledges that “There were some errors on voting cards that led to invalid votes and forced a re-election in some cases. There were also some cases of negligence when it came to controlling the number of ballots issued and the number received. Many constituencies didn’t elect enough representatives, especially at communal level, and some people voted on others’ behalf” (VNExpress, June 8)

– 62.5 % of elected delegates have a master’s degree or higher; 36.3 a bachelor’s degree; and 1.2 percent, or six delegates, don’t have a degree at all. The party does not mention workers and farmers any more.

133 delegates are women, 26.8 % and slightly short of the 30 % target

Vietnam’s ethnic minorities hold 17.3 % of the seats

– 182  candidates (36.7 percent of total NA delegates) have been nominated centrally, 312 delegates were nominated by local organizations
But nearly half of the centrally nominated candidates in Ho Chi Minh City have not been elected and about a third in Hanoi, with a few more in smaller places, altogether 15. The alleged national unity seems to have some risky corners. 

– All top leaders were re-elected, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong with 86.47 %; President Tran Dai Quang with 75.08 % ; Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc with 99.48 %; and NA Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan with 91.46 %
The lowest score went to the minister for Natural Resources and Environment, probably because of the dead fish crisis, but his 65 % would still be a dream result in more competitive systems

Open Questions to follow up:
Behind the official fanfares about the feast of democracy in Vietnam it will be interesting to wait for more information about the provinces with insufficient turnout and the four vacant seats. But even more interesting will be detailed results of the Peoples’ Councils elections on all levels from province down to the municipalities. Communication and social networks won’t make it easier for the party to control nearly 100 m Vietnamese.

 

 

 

 

 

Which New Power Arrangements in the Philippines?


Partyforumseasia:    With the high voter turnout of 81.62 percent, president-elect Duterte’s landslide lead was so clear that his victory could be announced long before all votes had been properly counted. The very successful electronic vote counting system left no doubts only 17 hours after the polling stations closed when already 95 percent of the results were available to the Election Commission (Comelec). Technically and organizationally, this is an admirable success story. Runners up Mar Roxas and Grace Poe gracefully conceded defeat immediately and congratulated Duterte.

Leni R

Vice president elect Leni Robredo

The race for the vice-presidency, which is a separate election in the Philippines, not a running mate solution like in other presidential systems, turned out to be a more complicated story. Only on Friday, May 20th, at 7 p.m., eleven days after the election, the paper thin lead of Leni Robredo was finally confirmed by the Comelec. She won over Ferdinand Marcos, eldest son of the infamous dictator with the same name, with just 263,473 votes. This is a mere .92 percent of all 28.57 million valid votes, but clear enough. With some local results contested or coming in late from remote islands, the lead was sometimes attributed to Marcos and sometimes to Robredo. She can now smile, first for herself and her victory, but also for possibly keeping open a door into the new government for her party, the Liberal Party of the Philippines (LP).

President-elect Duterte, who will take over from president Aquino end of June, had offered her a post in his cabinet but changed his mind already. He may have preferred Marcos. Duterte is considered to be a social democrat and open to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), to which he has offered four cabinet portfolios, namely agrarian reform, social welfare, environment and natural resources, and labor. “Thanking his former student for the “magnanimous offer,” exiled CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison politely declined the cabinet positions, clarifying, however, that the offer would be studied seriously.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 21st, 2016, LINK).
A government with Socialists and Communists would be quite a game changer in the Philippines and threaten the cozy power arrangements of the elites and the traditional politicians called “trapos“. Duterte himself is backed by his party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan or PDP Laban with now 82 out of 292 seats in the House of Representatives.PDP-Laban_logoThey have already signed a coalition agreement with the conservative Nacionalista Party (20 MP’s and 5 senators), the center right National Unity Party (24 MP’s) and the conservative Nationalist People’s Coalition (36 Mp’s and 2 senators). Altogether 162 members of Parliament will give Duterte already a comfortable majority of 55 percent, but the opportunistic political tradition will certainly see more elected members switch into the presidential camp.
A big question is now whether Leni Robredo as vice president will open a door for her Liberal Party which, otherwise, would lose all the jobs in government and administration it held during the six Aquino years. In terms of ideology and compatibility it might look awkward to coalesce with Socialists and Communists, but since at the end ideology is not that important, not in the Philippines and no longer in Western democracies, a flexible solution will be found. May it help the country  to catch up and improve the living conditions of the neglected part of the 100 million Phillipinos.

Philippines Political History

A timeline of the country’s governments since 1945 (The Economist)

 

Happiness and Politics in Southeast Asia


GrMasken

How far apart are happy and unhappy?

Partyforumseasia:      Is happiness a political category or can it be a political goal?

The Irish philosopher Francis Hutcheson introduced a new political interpretation of happiness in his 1725 treatise An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue. His formula “The greatest Happiness for the greatest Numbers” influenced the political thinking of the 18th century and made it into the American Declaration of Independence.

In 1972 the notion was re-introduced into the international arena by the King of Bhutan as “Gross National Happiness (GNH) and an alternative to the western concept of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Today, March 20, we celebrate the International Day of Happiness (or Happiness Day) which was instated by the United Nations on 28 June 2012 in a rare unanimous vote of all 193 nations as resolution 66/281 (Link).

In our predominantly Hobbesian world with endless wars, exploitation, hunger and oppression the ideal of a better society is nice and worth supporting. The UN and charitable organizations have created programs and comparative rankings of happiness among the world’s nations. The criteria used by the UN are as follows:
Criteria

 

 

Not surprisingly, the richest countries are rated as the most happy ones, starting with Denmark (no. 1), Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland, followed by Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden (no. 10).

Southeast Asia’s top scorer, no surprise as well, is Singapore – just by a few points on top of former colonial master Great Britain:
SGUK

Singapore’s GDP-beam in yellow is rather visible, but good and clean governance as well as increasing social support for the needy have at least created a strong absolute majority of  voters happy with the ruling People’s Action Party. The small and splintered opposition may be unhappy politically but quite happy privately…

Runner up is Thailand, politically not the happiest country in Southeast Asia right now. The military regime and the uncertain way back to democracy are weighing down the mood of many citizens.
Thai

Second runner up, Malaysia, has also seen happier days in its political development. PM Najib may survive through all the scandals surrounding his government, but many Malaysians are not really happy with the status quo.
Mal

 

Indonesia, politically and economically at an assortment of crossroads, should be relatively happy in 2016, probably more than Thailand and Malaysia.
Indo

 

The Philippines have been known as mastering economic and political hardship with a big smile. The administration of President Aquino has presided over quite a number of positive developments. Partyforumseasia would rate the country better than no. 82!
Phil

 

Vietnam is burdened with an antiquated bureaucracy and performs below her true potential. Maybe this has caused the low ranking world-wide an in the region.
Viet


Laos
is in many ways similar to Communist ally Vietnam but poorer and slower. The regime keeps the country and its true potential somewhat hidden, maybe the Laotians are more happy than we think?
Lao


Myanmar
is just entering a new political era under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi. The popular mood is very upbeat and optimistic, so the low UN-ranking seems to be outdated. In terms of new chances and happiness Partyforumseasia would rank the country much higher.
Myan


Cambodia
comes last in Southeast Asia, probably due to the domestic struggle between the ruling CPP and the opposition CNRP, as well as Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy. International help and ODA have been flowing in for decades now, there is progress, true, but the situation could be better. The young generation is certainly more optimistic and happier than the older one still haunted by memories of the Khmer Rouge nightmare and the Vietnamese occupation.
Cambo

 

Politics and Happiness? Understood as life chances and choices for the individual citizen, political happiness is not a pipe dream. As we see all over the world, wrong policies and the wrong type of political leaders are spoiling or destroying the lives of hundreds of millions of people. May the happiness ranking contribute to more awareness of the importance of good governance and political responsibility.

 

 

 

Myanmar Election: How Free and How Fair?


Partyforumseasia:  Myanmar’s democratic opening has received regional and world-wide attention and praise, and subsequently attracted the interest of all shades of businesses, from the well-known fast-buck-entrepreneurs to long-term investment interests. Especially the latter are vital for the country if it wants to catch up with the neighbors in Southeast Asia. ASSK and Thein
The recent purge within the military dominated Union Solidarity and Development Party and the sacking of rather popular speaker of parliament Shwe Mann are widely interpreted as a step back from the reform drive promised by President Thein Sein.
Now speculations for the upcoming election on 8 November start to get more heated. Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is sure that her party will win “if polls can be free and fair” (Agence France Press). And the country’s army chief, senior general Min Aung Hlaing recently declared:
“We wouldn’t mind even if the National League for Democracy won in the next general election, as long as it is free and fair. The Tatmadaw’s (Army) desire is to see the upcoming elections be held free and fair.” (Straits Times, 26/08/2015)

On the background of heavy-handed interference since the 1990 elections when the military had underestimated the NLD and simply ignored the results, such a statement sounds a bit too good to be true. At least the generals have learned to speak to the international media and the investors who want to see stability. The 2010 ballot was widely seen as rigged and a quarter of the parliamentary seats is reserved for unelected army officers anyway.
But to be fair with struggling Myanmar, organizing free and fair elections with a level playing field is certainly not as easy as in Denmark or Sweden. Ongoing problems with 135 (!!!!) distinct ethnic groups officially recognized by the government, festering and nearly intractable pockets of civil war with some of the minorities, the Rohingya question unsolved, rural underdevelopment and lack of infrastructure wide-spread, all that makes national elections more than a challenge. The definition of free and fair certainly has to be adapted to the local circumstances.
If the NLD wins a decisive majority, we have to take into account that its uncontested leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still full of fighting spirit but already 70 years old. The constitution does not allow her to be president and the president is head of the government. Details of the constitutional set-up are sobering:   “The Commander-in-Chief appoints the Ministers of Defence, Home Affairs and Border Affairs, selecting candidates from within the Defence Services (Tatmadaw), while the President appoints the remainder. The President also appoints the Deputy Ministers of the respective ministries, following the same qualifications as those of Union Ministers, with the exception of age (35 years, instead of 40).” Source:Wikipedia, Cabinet of Myanmar.
On this background it may be easy for the military to look good with free-and-fair statements and that they don’t mind if the NLD wins…

Socialist Party Cooperation: China-Cambodia and Vietnam-Russia


A week ago Partyforumseasia had taken up the “development cooperation” between China’s Communist Party and the royalist Funcinpec Party of Cambodia. Another interesting cooperation is starting between Vietnam’s Communists and the A Just Russia Party or Справедливая Россия, СР in Russian. The latter, supposed to be social-democratic, was established end of 2006 as a collection of merging and rather heterogenous smaller parties. It promises to develop the New Socialism of the 21st Century. According to the Institute of Modern Russia (Link here) the party “has faithfully played the role of the (Putin) regime’s “left foot”, legitimized by its membership in the Socialist International (SI), but enjoys an opposition image in Russia.
SEDSocialist cooperation: This handshake on the flag of the Socialist Unity Party of East Germany symbolized the not all voluntary merger of Socialists and Communists in 1946, “faciltated” by the Soviet Union which occupied the East of Germany between the end of WW II and unification in 1989.

The party to party cooperation seems to be less advanced than the Funcinpec – CCP training program, but desired on both sides. On 28 April the Voice of Vietnam (Link here) reports that “A delegation of the Communist Party of Vietnam has attended an international workshop in Moscow at the invitation of the A Just Russia Party.” The report reveals a certain socialist formality of the meeting: (Chairman) “Mironov affirmed that the A Just Russia Party backs the comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and Vietnam and treasures ties with the Vietnamese Communist Party, hoping that bilateral relations can be elevated to a new height.He spoke highly of the Vietnamese struggle for independence as well as the achievements made by the Vietnamese people in the four decades since.”
D
eputy head of Vietnam’s Central Committee’s Commission for External Relations Nguyen Tuan Phongcongratulated the Russian people on the 70th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War, and hailed the success of the international workshop organised by the A Just Russia Party.”
With improving ties between Vietnam and the US, as well as their Pivot on Asia, Russia may be somewhat nostalgic about the cold war alliance with Vietnam. And with the Ukraine crisis threatening to isolate Russia, ideological partners are most welcome. China, though, seems to be far ahead with training courses for the Cambodian Funcinpec officials – and maybe other fraternal parties…

“Southeast Asian Elections Worst in the World” ?


Partyforumseasia: Max Grömping, researcher and co-author of the Electoral Integrity Project (see our last post) has published an article on elections in our region in University of Sydney’s New Mandala (Link here). El. SEA 1

We take it up as an important follow-up, though the headline “Southeast Asian Elections Worst in the World” sounds a bit too bad to be completely true. The 2013-2014 survey is covering only 107 countries, so the worst performers in Africa and Latin America are not in and drag Southeast Asia to the bottom of the comparison.

El. SEA 2Even with this caveat the Perception of Electoral Integrity (PEI) index for Southeast Asia is certainly disappointing enough and cries for reform and improvement in order to match the growing economic weight of the region.
Please read and evaluate Grömping’s assessments and conclusions yourself. Unfortunately, there is nothing much to add in favor of the five countries covered and the local electoral shortcomings. As Partyforumseasia repeatedly highlighted, the political finance or money politics issue is probably the most important Achilles’ heel, where even top rated Western Europe is not fully in the green area.

But Max Grömping offers some hope in his conclusions as well: “But if nothing else, the post-election protests in Malaysia and Cambodia, the small but continuous signs of discontent in Thailand, as well as the vibrant civil society efforts to strengthen electoral integrity in the Philippines and Indonesia show that citizens across the region are fiercely protective of their vote. This demand for democracy is currently met with an under-supply. But it does not need to stay that way.”

First Book Covering Eight ASEAN Countries Is Out


Partyforumseasia: Before the start of this blog there was a research project in the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore. It tried to add a more hands-on approach to the often theory laden political science literature on political parties in Southeast Asia, to study and describe their organizational structures, the internal hierarchies and funding mechanisms, and especially to cover as many countries as possible. We managed to bring together a team of authors from eight of the ten ASEAN countries. Since Brunei Darussalam has no parties, only Laos is missing because we could not find a local scholar willing or allowed to join. ISEAS accepted our manuscript for publication already in 2012, but due to unexpected delays did not finalize copy-editing and printing in time. This is why we decided to publish the book with the super-efficient Create Space, a subsidiary of Amazon. The book is now available at http://www.amazon.com, a very affordable e-book version should be out shortly.

Amazon Party Politics SEA

American Dirty Campaign Experts Helping Prabowo?


Partyforumseasia – Strategy-Wise: Indonesia’s presidential election 2014 has generated a couple of surprises. From the meteoric rise of Jokowi and the unexpectedly successful catch-up counterattack of Prabowo, all developments can be explained within the system of the country’s new democratic paradigm. The personal charisma of Jokowi and the yearning of the voters for less corruption as well as cleaner and more transparent politics explains his probable though narrow victory. Ex-general Prabowo’s coming back from hopelessly lagging behind in the polls only some months ago is seen as the result of unlimited funding and a clockwork-like campaign machinery. Unfortunately, the Prabowo success was also based on the dirtiest campaign ever in a country which is known for a highly developed culture of social harmony, at least in Java where the majority of voters live.

devil1The campaign devil not in the PDI-P…

Partyforumseasia had taken up the topic of dirty campaign tricks on 8th and 11th May with the wicked fake obituary for Widodo and the incredible arsenal of poisonous campaign tools in the United States of America. But at that time we did not connect the US and Indonesian dirty campaign experts. Now we learn from Indonesia observer Marcus Mietzner from the Australian National University that the Prabowo campaign was supported by American experts in smear campaigns:
Advised by American consultants who previously had taught Republican candidates on how to drown out opponents in smear campaigns, Prabowo’s electoral machine spread false rumours that Jokowi was a Singaporean Chinese and a Christian. Jokowi, pushed into the defensive by the effectiveness of these attacks among Indonesia’s devout Muslim community, could never really develop his own narrative and platform. As a result, his once seemingly unassailable lead over Prabowo in the polls (in December 2013, he was ahead by 39 percentage points) melted away rapidly.
Link: EASTASIAFORUM, 13 July 2014:
Indonesia’s presidential elections: Jokowi in, Prabowo out
This type of development co-operation can only be called highly undesirable in a country still uncertain on her path to a stable democracy, but it should also backfire on the American party development support industry. Traditional black magic looks rather harmless in contrast to this specific export item!

Thailand’s Dilemma – Coherently Explained


Partyforumseasia: Thailand’s dilemma is certainly caused by severe elite failure. But it is difficult to decide whether Thaksin and his allies or the Bangkok elite and the Democrat Party are more to blame for the frightening cleavage dividing north and south and the society at large. Under the headline The Story of Thaksin Shinawatra  British journalist Richard Lloyd Parry draws the longer lines of the political impasse which help to understand the developments during the last months.
See his conclusion here:
“Many people bear responsibility for Thailand‘s divisions, prominent among them Thaksin, who must dearly wish that he had rubbed his enemies‘ noses in it a bit less gleefully during his years in office. ThaksinBut the suave villainy of the Democrat Party, and of men like Abhisit and Korn, is insufficiently recognised. They understand how democratic opposition works, and how defeat, over time, strengthens losing parties, by purging them of what is unrealistic and superfluous, and forcing them into congruence with the aspirations of voters. Twice they have had the opportunity to reject military force and to insist on the primacy of elections; twice they have held the generals‘ coats for them, and watched civil rights being trampled on, in the hope of gaining some respite from their own chronic unelectability. The Democrat Party‘s leaders – young, attractive and cosmopolitan could have positioned themselves as mediators between a corrupt, complacent old elite and a corrupt, arrogant new power. Instead, they chose their natural side in the class war, and achieved the feat of losing the moral high ground to a man such as Thaksin. Their responsibility, and their disgrace, are very great.”                 London Review of Books, 6 June 2014   Link here:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n12/richard-lloydparry/the-story-of-thaksin-shinawatra

Partyforumseasia is notoriously optimistic about regional politics, but Lloyd Parry’s comment on the possibility of a North-South civil war reminds us of an earlier post on this blog which tried to wrap a warning into (hopefully!!) gross exaggeration.

WorldNewsAgency-WNA-WorldNewsAgency-WNA-WorldNewsAgency-WNA-WorldNe
15 February 2064:
The Southeast Asian Miracle: Thailand’s Re-Unification sealed!!
After the recent breakthrough in prolonged negotiations between the two sides and efficient diplomatic support from ASEAN, the heads of state of the Kingdom of Tightland (formerly known as South Thailand) and the Kingdom of Thaksimania (formerly known as North Thailand) have signed a comprehensive re-unification treaty. The signing ceremony took place in the UN Headquarters in Beijing in the presence of unification advisers from Germany and Korea.
After the former Thailand split in 2015, the founding father of Thaksimania, business-politician Thaksim Shinawatra was soon elected King of Thaksimania. The people loved him because he could fund the government out of his own pocket and reduce the tax burden to a symbolic 5%. This led to a massive migration of the business community from Bangkok and the South to Thaksimania, where they were warmly welcomed by his Majesty on the condition of participating in the funding of his government.
The impact on former South Thailand was more than difficult. The Royal Finance Ministry witnessed a rapidly dwindling inflow of taxes which could not be balanced by the most investment friendly policies worldwide. So the impoverished country succumbed to pressure from Thaksimania to drop the aggressive use of the outdated name of Thailand. To secure a sufficient flow of development aid from the rival in the North, the King agreed to change the official name of the state into Tightland. Starting around 2035 already, many countries in Asia were able to reduce or abolish taxes and military spending because the regional security was no longer threatened by the US but guaranteed by China. This ended the decades of saber rattling and aggressive symbolic politics between Tightland and Thaksimania which made the re-unification possible at the end. It remains to be seen how the population of the two nations will adapt to the changes and the big difference in affluence. 😉

Strategy-wise: First-Time Voters for Change?


Partyforumseasia strategy-wise: All over the democratic world consistent vote patterns are more and more disappearing. While the “polling industry” has become more professional, the long term prediction of election outcomes is increasingly difficult. Competing poll results and their interpretation by politicians are useful in campaigns, but the only reliable figures come from exit polls, that is when the race has been decided already. 43690-20140522
For the parties and their campaign design it is therefore most important to focus on target groups which can be reached and influenced to vote for them. Data collection of vote patterns in residential areas are so easily available nowadays that campaigning in a wrong suburb comes close to wasted time and effort.
In Southeast Asia, where political fossils like Mahathir of UMNO or Lim Kit Siang of the DAP are still influential, “safe vote banks” like Thailand’s North East or Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak still work but come under more pressure as well. So the campaign efforts are focusing more on one big group which is open to be influenced: the first- time voters and the young. In Malaysia first-timers and under 30 year-old voters represent 20 percent of the 13 million electorate and their preferences are more volatile than in any generation before. Especially in the urban areas they tend to prefer the opposition Pakatan Rakyat, but they are also open to switch to the ruling Barisan Nasional if any special issue comes up. The eternal Islamic Law (hudud) discussion is one of these issues which deters non-Muslim voters from PAS as the biggest component in the opposition coalition.
It is interesting how the Malaysian parties try to woo the young voters. They have started to get them engaged and work for the party instead of just harvesting their votes in one election. As one of the key tasks of a political party in democratic systems is the recruitment of political personnel and prepare “new blood” for leadership posts, the implementation of internships and volunteer movements is an important new instrument. PKR and DAP were the first to offer internships with their MP’s and that creates in many cases new activists. The two parties carefully select interested young voters for a ten-week internship, but the ruling BN coalition followed suit since 2013 with a fellowship program for 70 internships in government offices, quite attractive for further career ambitions.
The DAP, in a long term bid to break the BN strongholds in East Malaysia, sends young volunteers for development internships to Sabah and Sarawak. It is understood that all these programs are yielding dedicated party activists and future leadership material.

One difference compared to older democracies is that the political youth organizations in Europe often cultivate their critical distance to the mother parties. They feel like the vanguards of their party and are sometimes much more progressive than their elders would like them to be…

Election Casualties in Indonesia and Elsewhere


Partyforumseasia: Gratitude is not the most outstanding quality of voters. From Themistocles, the Athenian general Themistocleswho led the city-state against the Persian invasions and was later exiled by ostracism for perceived arrogance in 471 BC, to Winston Churchill who was voted out after the allied victory in 1945, many top politicians have been ousted by their electorate. Sometimes they were just around for too long and the voters were simply bored by their faces.
The tradition in Southeast Asia used to be more respectful of outstanding political leaders. Mahathir in Malaysia is still influential, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore is still around but behind the scene, survivor Hun Sen in Cambodia fends of all attempts to topple him, and in Indonesia it took three decades to end the authoritarian rule of Suharto. But there are signs that awe and respect seem to soften or fade:
The April 2014 election in Indonesia saw quite a number of prominent and incumbent casualties, among them the law minister and the sports minister, both from the shrinking Democratic Party. The chairman of the Consultative Assembly (PDI-P) as well as the House Speaker (DP) and his deputy (Golkar) were also voted out. Practically half of the incumbent MP’s  are out, and among the “new blood” winners taking over as members of parliament now are colorful figures from sports and the arts scene like former movie star Dede Yusuf (DP) and racing car driver Moreno Suprapto (Gerindra). Whether they are the best candidates for real change, e.g. against corruption, is an open question, but media attention in the complex Indonesian environment is the most valuable asset.

Enrile & co.Another but related development in the Philippines is the indictment of until now “untouchables” on the political stage like political fossil Juan Ponce Enrile (90), former president Estrada’s son Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla for graft and corruption. The latter is accused of diverting 224 m Pesos (approx. 5 m US$) through bogus NGO’s into huge kickbacks. Senator Revilla has been detained yesterday, 20 June, Estrada and Enrile may follow soon. President Aquino’s government is delivering on election promises to end corruption, the Philippines moved 11 levels up to 94th among 177 countries in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, but, unfortunately, some of his close allies are also under investigation…

 

An Internet Revolt Against Singapore’s PAP?


Partyforumseasia: Singapore is one of the most successful small countries world-wide, if not the most successful anyway, and much of its success is due to the foresight of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). PAPNearly five decades of practically unassailable rule have allowed the political and administrative elite to plan and implement with a long term view and according to priorities of necessity. One striking example is the water supply for more than five million people plus industry on the island. From the beginning in 1965 fresh water had to be imported from Malaysia which gave the latter a dangerous blackmail capacity, fortunately always avoided. Now efforts of water catchment,  recycling and treatment have made Singapore autonomous and independent, as Malaysia is facing water shortages herself.
The younger generation, mostly grown up in affluence, may take for granted many of the advantages of living in such a well managed country. While the splintered opposition has made it into parliament in sizable numbers since 2011 (eight MP’s from the Worker’s Party – out of 87 ), the relative result for the dominant PAP has gone down to 60 percent.
Among the older generation, the heavy-handed style of founding father Lee Kuan Yew had created a lot of fear and hatred. But as long as the government provided the goods the party could cement its grip on power. Now the fear has faded under the more relaxed and accommodating political style of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, but the hatred seems to resurface among the young. In April, very visible anti-PAP graffiti on housing blocks were fast removed, but the blogosphere reveals more than resentment. A 30-year-old blogger has accused the government of mishandling the billions of dollars in the compulsory retirement fund CPF. Obviously touching a nerve, he collected more than 70,000 S$ in donations for his legal cost when the Prime Minister sued him for defamation, an instrument very efficient under his father. The young man was also sacked by his employer, a hospital.
The social media attacks, called already “internet revolt” by a paper outside Singapore, go on. The newest incident happened on 12 May, when the Wikipedia site of the PAP was massively and rather viciously re-edited, changing the name into “Party Against People”. Parts of the pampered youth of Singapore, used to more freedom than any other generation in Southeast Asia, are obviously allergic against state interference in the blogosphere. But the lightning in the PAP’s logo  mPAPay not be the right answer to address the problem.

Campaign Booster Religion


Partyforumseasia: State religions” have played important and decisive roles in European politics for centuries. Rulers have used religion as a powerful political tool. And churches have shown a great propensity to be close to the power holders, often in a cozy and successful symbiosis.
Only a few decades ago, Christian parties in Italy and Germany could rely on campaign support from their alliance with the church, especially on Sunday services before elections. Without necessarily naming the party, the priests would just say that a true believer should know where to mark the ballot paper. With urbanization and secularization the influence of churches and Christian parties has decreased. But the parties were also punished for relying too much on conservative and more religious rural constituencies and giving them more political weight than the cities.

Prayer 2In several Southeast Asian countries we witness developments in the opposite direction. In Malaysia and Indonesia where Islam is dominant anyway, religion is often used as a campaign tool. In a negative way by casting doubts on the religious credentials of candidates, in the worst case by alleging that they are covert Christians like in the case of presidential front runner Joko Widodo. But last week Muhammdiyah leader Din Syamsuddin revealed that he had “tested” Jokowi by asking him to lead a Friday prayer. Result: “It was all correct”. So the members of this Muslim mass organization can trust that Jokowi is a sufficiently pious Muslim. Muhammadiyah (30 million members) and Nahdlatul Ulama (40 million members) have declared that they won’t officially support any of the candidates, but in a country which is seeing a split between pious (santri) and possibly more lukewarm (abangan) Muslims, 70 million potential voters cannot be neglected.

In Malaysia, probably more than in Indonesia, the Islamic agenda in politics is frightening non-Muslim minorities. The introduction of Hudud laws is one of the most controversial issues in the ongoing political debates, fueled recently by their introduction in Brunei. Hindu, Christian and other minorities are concerned that amputations and stoning might be applied to them as well, though they are certainly hard to apply within a predominantly secular legal system. See details in an essay by Mohammad Alami Musa, “Hudud and Inter-Religious Relations” from the Rajaratnam School of International Sudies.( Link )
Playing the religious card in politics can be dangerous. If overdone it opens the Pandora’s box of fanaticism and intolerance. Both, unfortunately, are not unknown in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia: How many “Kingmakers” for one President?


Partyforumseasia strategy-wise:  The presidential race has narrowed down to the two top candidates Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo (or Jokowi). As Prabowo, a former general with accusations of human rights violations, underlines an image of decisive and tough leadership, the so far hugely popular Jokowi comes across as humble and approachable. Prabowo 2While he is still leading in the polls by nearly 10%, Prabowo is catching up, harping on leadership and the Sukarno legacy. Underlying traditions, especially in Java, may add to the attractiveness of this campaign strategy.
Golkar leader Aburizal Bakrie had to give up his own presidential ambitions after hopelessly trailing in the polls. Nevertheless, the business tycoon, one of the richest Indonesians, refused to simply drop out and accept defeat. In a surprise move, which seriously affects the cohesion of his party, he now supports Prabowo and tries his luck as kingmaker. According to his own information for the media Bakrie will be compensated with a new cabinet post of “Menteri Utama” or first minister, though the presidential system in Indonesia does not foresee a Prime Minister. Unable to be the “king”, he has managed to belong to the kingmakers like PDI-P leader Megawati and outgoing President Yudhoyono who cannot run again after two terms.

The question is, whether the Indonesian electorate will be impressed by this traditional horse-trading style of coalition building, which on top is burdened by a new corruption scandal concerning the leader of the United Development Party (PPP) which supports Prabowo’s campaign coalition.

Indo JokowiAccording to Indonesian analysts there is a swing development among the country’s voters away from traditional back room and horse-trading politics, “facilitated” with huge sums of money, and what Jokowi seems to represent: a new, more democratic and cleaner political style with more attention to the people. If he wins the presidency the expectations will be sky-high.

 

Indonesia’s Election Marathon: Who Will Win the Presidency?


Partyforumseasia:  The final results of the parliamentary election, published by the Election Commission last week, don’t come as a surprise any more. Indonesia’s polling industry has done a good job with rather accurate exit polls. For an overview of results and party descriptions go to: https://partyforumseasia.org/last-election-results-indonesia/

Indo presidentThe final decision on who will rule the country for the next five years will depend on who wins the presidency. So far, only PDI-P front runner Joko Widodo has enough support for the nomination according to the elaborate rules of the game. Runner-up Prabowo from Gerindra, a former general and projecting the image of a strong leader, will certainly find the necessary support of 25% of the national vote by May 20th, the nomination deadline.
But the strategic or tactical choice of Mr. Widodo’s vice presidential candidate is now at the centre of all guesses. Since Golkar candidate Aburizal Bakrie lags far behind the two top candidates in all polls, rumours about a PDI-P – Golkar – arrangement may not be far-fetched. If tycoon Bakrie is realistic enough to avoid a tree-cornered fight which he can only lose and swallow his pride, Widodo may make it in the first round with over 50%.
The alternatives, Prabowo the strongman and Widodo the approachable new style politician, make the decision of Indonesia’s voters psychologically interesting.

 

Too Many Islamic Parties in Indonesia?


Partyforumseasia: 169 out of 560 seats in the outgoing Indonesian Parliament or 30.1% for four of the five Islamic parties  are not a bad result at first glance. Under a different angle, in relation to more than 200 million Muslims among the 237 million Indonesians, they might have done better. PKSFor the upcoming elections, though, the polls predict not more than 22 %. Why are they so (relatively) weak?
The biggest factor may be that they are competing against each other and don’t get direct support from the two huge religious mass organizations Muhammdiyah (founded in 1912) and Nahdlatul Ulama (founded in 1926). Together these Muslim movements have 70 million members but decided to stay out of party politics this time.
Other factors are corruptPANion scandals which demolished the pretended moral superiority. Politicians with religious credentials turned out to be as vulnerable to money politics as all the others and didn’t perform better when they held public office. And last but not least, the mainstream parties are promising enough bread and butter improvements which the splintered Islamic parties can’t guarantee even if some of them should make it into a government coalition as junior partners.
But religion is still playing a rather important role in the public sphere of the Republic of Indonesia. Hope bearer Joko Widodo is carefully integrating it into his campaign.
For more details see Straits Times, Singapore, 28 March 2014 (boxes)
PPP                         PKBPBB

Malaysia: A Lady’s Gambit against Desperate Ruling Coalition


Partyforumseasia: In 2012, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had been acquitted of a rather dubious sodomy indictment. Just two weeks before probably winning a Azizahby-election (scheduled for March 23) enabling him to eventually become chief minister of Selangor, last Friday, March 8, a court of appeal reverses the acquittal and sentences him to five years in jail. A more desperate move of preventing Anwar from being elected is difficult to imagine, since the shooting of political rivals, fortunately, is out of fashion in this part of Asia. Unless the court can prove that the coincidence of by-election and new conviction is based on correct legal procedures and internal court timing , the public can only see it as a desperate move of the BN-Government to politically kill Anwar off with the help of a judiciary widely seen as pliant.
The opposition coalition PKR’s strategic director Rafizi Ramli is said to be the mastermind of fielding Anwar Ibrahim in the Kajang by-election and create an even stronger power base in Selangor.  The government’s reaction is proving this by-election strategy right and dangerous for them. Obviously they are so frightened that they use the old sodomy weapon again, and against growing public disgust.
The opposition’s reaction to the appeal court intervention comes swift and smart. Instead of Anwar they will nominate tomorrow, 11 March, his wife Dr. Wan Azizah who is also president of the People’s Justice Party, PKR.
Partyforumseasia has argued already in 2013 that the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition cannot afford to lose because of the tens of thousands of party cronies and the billions at stake. Hard ball and money politics once again show their resilience in Southeast Asia.

Politics and Religion in Southeast Asia


Partyforumseasia: Groups and organizations as well as political entities like nation states need similar mechanisms to keep their members together and loyal. They have to be different from others and hostile others are especially useful to strengthen the cohesion. Religious groups cannot avoid these mechanisms either. If they don’t need enemies they have to feel at least better than others, more pious or closer to God. One of the charming internal Vatican jokes goes like this: ChurchSaint Peters shows around a newcomer and explains the different groups on the clouds sailing by. These are the Hindus, these are the Buddhists, etc. When a big cloud comes closer, the newcomer asks in a sort of excited tone: Saint Peter, so many, who are these? Peters answer with a finger over his lips: Ssh, not so loud, these are the Catholics. Don’t disturb them, they think they are the only ones in heaven…
Reli

See the full article at: http://www.rsis.edu.sg/publications/commentaries.html

If religious harmony is traditionally a delicate issue in multi-ethnic and multi-religious Southeast Asia (but becoming more and more delicate in Europe as well by massive immigration) the responsibility of the political leadership in handling latent or violent tensions is growing considerably. In this light, the Allah-privilege debate in Malaysia looks like being underestimated by its proponents. Middle Eastern Muslims don’t have too much to laugh about Malaysia, but denying Christians as people of the book the use of God’s name in Arabic makes even the Muslim Brotherhood frown in surprise.

Vietnam: “Tet Offensive” Towards More Democracy?


Partyforumseasia: It has not been a secret that Vietnam ‘s recent economic performance was dismal and much below her potential – largely due to red tape and mismanagement by the ruling Communist Party. Understanding that the Vietnamese people understand that very well and that resentment against the party is growing rapidly, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Dungmay be trying to change course and make himself the savior of party and country at the same time. Vietnamese researcher Huong Le Thu from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore sees a number of announcements in Dung’s new year address which might open up party, economy and civil society for a more dynamic development in the next few years.

Huong: “Indeed, Dung has sensed the desire of the nation well — he knows that at the current atmosphere whoever carries the ‘democracy flag’ will have the people’s support.”                                See her assessment in the EastAsiaForum here: LINK

Fast Growing Internet Risk for Politicians – PM Najib in Hot Soup


Partyforumseasia: Internet and social networks have attracted politicians all over the world as an instrument for personal propaganda and the feeling of closeness to their voters. For Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia 2.1 million “Facebook likes” seem to signal popularity. The difference between these likes and the 3.4 million party members may simply reflect the focus of UMNO on rural Malay voters and their lacking internet access, not necessarily his lack of support within the party .

Najib 1Social media politics is a double-edged sword
The avalanche-like speed of communication when a post goes viral can ruin the image of a politician within hours or days. In an era where silly remarks ruin careers (an arrogant Australian wealth manager just lost his cushy job in Singapore for calling commuters on public transport “poor people”), politicians in the limelight must be extremely cautious.
PM Najib may not be fully aware of the danger. Facing a sh*t storm over his remark that food prices are not all up, since kangkung (water spinach) is getting even cheaper, many Malaysians saw it as adding insult to injury. But Najib insists and continues with more alledgedly cheaper items like sotong (squids). The public is not amused, but laughs about countless jokes ridiculing the Prime Minister.
Reports by the Malaysian Insider may be satirical, but if PM Najib is seriously asking his ministers to take a media training course, more jokes can be expected to target him in the coming weeks and months.
PS: Former PM Mahathir has already admitted last June that he might have made a mistake in giving guarantees for Internet freedom…!!

Compromise in Cambodia, Deadlock in Thailand?


Partyforumseasia:  Yesterday The Phnom Penh Post surprised with reporting on a possible compromise between PM Hun Sen and the opposition led by Sam Rainsy:
Cambodia 14.1.14

Hun SamWith the crackdown on striking garment workers two weeks ago the situation in Phnom Penh looked worse than the crisis in Bangkok. But the Thai deadlock is far from over and the intransigence of Suthep Thaugsuban (“No win-win situation, it is either they win or we win…”) signals a further increase of unrest.
Whatever the outcome in Cambodia may be, it is encouraging to hear Sam Rainsy give credit to the CPP leadership. “But they are also responsible people to some extent” he said in a press conference. The demands of PM Hun Sen to step down and snap elections being held was dropped. Instead the negotiations should focus on electoral reform, adjustments in the parliamentary set up and a TV license for the opposition.
All this may be Southeast Asian shadow play, but it could be a reminder to big neighbor Thailand that democracy is substantially compromise – for the benefit of the country.

Who is Funding Bangkok’s Street Protests?


Partyforumseasia:     According to Akanat Promphan, spokesman of the  People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), the protest activities cost between two and five million Baht (up to 160,000 US$) per day. Where’s the money coming from? That is the headline of the Singapore Straits Times’ Thailand correspondent in an article on January 9th, page A18.
THB donations

Rumours on the internet seem to suspect big companies, especially the ones sidelined by the Puea Thai government. Akanat denies that as “rarely” and holds that ordinary people support the protesters with money, food, tents, or blankets for the cooler nights. He also reports that protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, with declared assets of more than six million US$, has even sold family land to start funding the protests.
The truth is probably a mix of the two and more possibilities, but the sophistication of the operations, including toilets, mobile kitchens, stages, big tents, sound systems and tens of thousands of people, suggest that there is quite a big logistical and planning effort behind it. And given the level of money politics in the country, the cui bono (for who’s benefit) question must be appropriate. If Suthep and the Democrat Party are right in criticizing the Shinawatra corruption (Suthep criticizsed Thaksin’s insider trading already in 1997 in Parliament), they themselves have quite a big skeleton in the cupboard. They narrowly escaped dissolution for an undeclared donation of more than 8 m US$ by a cement company (the legal donation threshold stands at 300.000) in 2005 and were acquitted in 2010 on technical grounds, because the prosecution had failed to follow proper procedures. Many Thais are not convinced that the Democrats are cleaner than Puea Thai and the Thaksin clan.
With the planned shut down of Bangkok coming Monday, 13 January, all friends of Thailand can only hope for a predominantly peaceful continuation of the standoff which is a most dangerous result of the country’s elite failure and political brinkmanship.

De-mock-racy or Demo-crazy? Political Brinkmanship in Thailand


SuthepPartyforumseasia observes with sadness the ongoing political drama in Thailand. Obviously former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban from the Democrat Party tries to topple the Yingluck government at any cost for the country. By increasing the regional division between the predominantly Democrat controlled South and the overwhelmingly Puea Thai leaning North as well as between Bangkok and the rural majority he plays with fire. And by whipping up political passions hitherto unknown in the country, the future governability of a nation of 70 million people will be at risk. Many internal analysts speak already of the threat of a civil war, the spreading violence between the groups already being frightening enough.
PM Yingluck Shinawatra and Puea Thai, according to all polls, will win the February 2 election, if it materializes. This dominance over the ballot boxes can be seen as engineered by risky populist policies like cheap (30 THB) health care for the poor and rice subsidies for farmers which cost hundreds of billions and are not sustainable even medium term.
But Suthep and his supporters in the Democrat Party will be held responsible for the damage they risk to do to Thailand’s democratic and economic  development and the country’s future governability. 

Strategy or Kamikaze? Thailand’s Democrat Party…


Partyforumseasia: … between the devil and the deep blue sea, or in the more drastic German variation of the saying, choosing between plague and cholera?The problems of the Democrat Party are serious enough: It has not won an election since 1992, it narrowly escaped dissolution for irregularities with campaign donations, Chairman Abhisit Vejjajiva, just re-elected yesterday, is indicted for murder as main responsible for the army crackdown on protesters in 2010, and Prime Minister Yingluck may have outmaneuvered them by calling elections for February.
The Democrat lawmakers have resigned en masse to join Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy Prime Minister and prominent Democrat. Suthep is now the leader of protests against the “Thaksin system”, rallying hundreds of thousands and organizing illegal blockades around ministries and government buildings. This political “pied piper of Hamelin” is demanding that an unelected “people’s council” introduces reforms before the next Parliament may be elected in a year’s time.
SuthepIf the Democrat Party follows Suthep, they will decide on 27 December to boycott the February elections. Participating would probably mean that they lose against Puea Thai, the Thaksin Party. Boycotting would mean losing the Democrat in the party’s name. The party is probably split internally, so their strategy of resignation from Parliament may turn out to be more kamikaze than strategy.

But PM Yingluck had her own kamikaze strategy: her amnesty bill triggered the whole turmoil the country is facing now and more and more affects tourism and economy.

Malaysia: A Good Question Concerning the Pakatan Rakyat Opposition Coalition


Partyforumseasia: Prime Minister Najib Razak’s leadership of UMNO has been strenghthened and confirmed by the recent internal party polls. Najib 6.12.13For the time being there are no visible challengers around and Najib feels more than confident in promising the 3000 party leaders attending the annual meeting a continuation of the “Malays First Policy”. This is seen as race based by the roughly 40% Non-Malay Malaysians and has contributed to a surge in the popular vote for the opposition in the general election in May.
In terms of election strategy this makes sense, though, since UMNO’s main support comes from carefully gerrymandered rural constituencies with huge Malay majorities. As long as the first-past-the-post electoral system remains UMNO can focus on these vote banks while the opposition coalition might win the urban votes but fail to win a majority in parliament.

An interesting question has been raised by Murray Hunter in the New Mandala: Whether Pakatan Rakyat deserves to be in government!!!!
See (link here) New Mandala

PRakyat Whether a party or coalition really deserves to be in government is a difficult question. But there are indeed some big question marks concerning the cohesion and stability of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition. Some see the three coalition partners as somewhat strange bed fellows, united only in their struggle against the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Philippino Supreme Court: Throwing out the Baby with the Bath Water?


Partyforumseasia had taken up the pork barreling saga in the Philippines recently. babyYesterday, November 19th 2013, the Supreme Court has declared  the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel fund “unconstitutional”. Many concerned citizens welcome this decision with a sigh of relief, first letters to the editor thank the Lord for this decision.
See (link here) The Manila Times of November 20th.

For the political parties and politicians it will be a severe blow, cutting them off from the most important funding source for their activities and election campaigns. But their shamelessness in the practical handling of kick-backs from development funds in the billions of Pesos and millions of $ has triggered the loudest ever public outcry and the radical decision of the Supreme Court.

The question is now how the political system can find a legal and socially acceptable way of funding parties, politicians and election campaigns. As e.g. the German example shows, even generous public funding is not sufficient. In 2013 the “Campaign Cost Reimbursement” for political parties will amount to 154 million €, but the combined budgets of all eligible parties are being estimated at 450 to 500 m €. Donations are indispensable in every political system but not easy to control and protect against influence peddling and lobbyism.

Malaysia: UMNO Polls Without Surprise


Partyforumseasia:The internal party polls are over, UMNO president Najib and his deputy were confirmed uncontested. As The Star Online (click for the link) summarises today, 20 October 2013, “Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s call for status quo resounded within the party.”

All incumbents for the top party posts have been re-elected, and the probably most anticipated possible win of “rising son” Mukhriz Mahathir was narrowly avoided with 91 votes for Mukhriz and 100 for the incumbent. Mukhriz 1
Speculations that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s position as party president had been weakened after the May general election were obviously exaggerated, if even the women wing’s leader Sharizat, tainted

by her “cowgate”- corruption scandal, made it easily with a 90% majority.

The real balance of power between the different factions in the party remains mostly behind the wayang kulit screen, though. But according to analyst Bridget Welsh from Singapore’s Management University, the Mahathir Mohamad camp is angry and expected to hit back (Malaysiakini, 20.10.)

What is interesting beyond the incumbents is how the new internal polling system worked and whether it changed the dynamics within the party. It is difficult to believe vice president Muhyddin’s statement that the new system is “not only a mission to eliminate money politics but more importantly, to strengthen the party by empowering the grassroots” (The Star Online, 20.10.) For the first time, not the traditional 2,500, but 230,000 delegates could vote, but only within one of the 191 branches. This gives the rural branches which are easier to control much more weight than the urban ones with more members. According to Bridget Welsh (Malaysiakini) there is also evidence of vote-buying and the usual top-down pattern in the new system.

Malaysia: Another Rising Son – Nik Abduh in PAS


Nik Abduh.docxPartyforumseasia: Nik Abduh (full name: Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz) combines religious credentials and family ties for a promising political career in Malaysia’s Islamic party PAS. Son of the spiritual leader and long term chief minister of PAS stronghold Kelantan Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the 43 year old Nik Abduh has studied in Nadwatul Ulama (Lucknow) and Darul Uloom (Deoband) in India as well as at the Al Azhar University in Cairo. Whereas these institutions do not necessarily prepare their students for political practice, they may encourage them to go into politics with a religious motivation. And since religion plays an important role in PAS and Malaysia in general, Nik Abduh seems to be cut out for a top leadership role and possible succession of his father as spiritual leader of the party.
Nik Abduh’s political credentials are also impressive. He is deputy chairman of the PAS Youth Wing and defeated a formidable competitor in the May 2013 election, Ibrahim Ali, leader of the Malay rights and supremacy group Perkasa.
In the run-up to party elections in November, the coalition issue with Pakatan Rakyat seems to be controversially discussed among members and candidates. Some say that Nik Abduh and other leaders in his age group are against Anwar’s supporters, called Anwarinas. But Nik is also being quoted with a clear preference for PAS remaining in the opposition coalition.
Less reassuring for the Malaysian Non-Muslims may be Nik’s activities in the religious field like a sticker campaign “Love Rasulullah” (the messenger of God) when the reputation of the Prophet Muhammad seemed to be under attack. Or his clear stance against Shiites and Liberals. But his second name Abduh is possibly referring to the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh, a liberal reformer and key founder of Islamic Modernism.