Guess Who’s Responsible? Right, Political Parties!


Partyforumseasia: Sure, any among the growing number of index comparisons is debatable in details and might contain some flawed information or not doing justice to every special circumstances in some countries surveyed. But the ranking is very telling nevertheless, especially for Southeast Asia, condensed in the following table:

The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2016
http://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/media/wjp_rule_of_law_index_2016.pdf

Country and Global Ranking:                      

1      Denmark
9     Singapore
18    USA
56    Malaysia
61    Indonesia
64    Thailand
67    Vietnam
70    Philippines
80    China
98     Myanmar
112   Cambodia
??     Laos (not mentioned)

The criteria for the ranking are: Constraints on government powers, Absence of corruption, Open government, Fundamental rights, Regulatory enforcement, Order and security, Civil justice, Informal justice, Criminal justice.

No Comment:
“Government spokesman Phay Sipha, however, was dismissive of the report’s findings, which he characterised as “biased”. “Cambodia’s government doesn’t care about ranking, because [the report] serves its own purpose,” he said. “It’s biased and selective; they do their own research for their own interest.”
The Phnom Penh Post, 20 October  (LINK)

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.

 

 

 

UMNO’s Party Elections- Another Rising Son?


Mukhriz 2Partyforumseasia: Fierce competition inside a political party is the best time for observers and researchers to get a better picture of what is going on inside. The preparations for the internal elections which should have taken place already in 2012 but were postponed because of the May 2013 general election reveal a few things about UMNO after the extremely narrow victory which keeps it in power.
One interesting detail is that six candidates compete for three vice-presidential posts whereas PM Najib Razak und his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin remain unchallenged.
Among the six vice-presidential hopefuls one is more interesting than most of the others because he happens to be the son of former party president and long serving prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. This son, Mukhriz Mahathir, newly appointed chief minister of the federal state of Kedah immediately after the May election, is on the way up and would be a possible successor of PM Najib if elected as vice-president.

His father, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, like many other elder statesmen, continues to comment on everything political in the country, but still wields more real influence than most of his peers. His direct support for his rising son and his vice-presidential ambitions may help a lot in this special area of political culture. (In most European countries this open support would be counterproductive).
Mukhriz 1

Source: Straits Times (Singapore) today, 26-9-2013.

But there is a nice irony involved which seems to go unnoticed by father Mahathir when he says:
“Eventually people get bored of these outdated leaders who refuse to accept the reality.”
A European proverb is saying that you should not throw stones if you sit in a glass house…

Another interesting detail is the contest for chairing the women’s wing. Incumbent Shahrizat, who was involved in a massive corruption scandal under the headline “Cowgate” seems to enjoy endorsement for another term by PM Najib. But her challenger, senator Mazlah Maznan has good chances to replace Shahrizat exactly because of Cowgate.
UMNO is the biggest Malaysian party with 3.4 million members and the results of next month’s convention promise to be interesting!

Malaysia: DAP Can’t Win Against RoS


DAP 1Partyforumseasia: The GE 13 election results have been a big shot in the arm for the DAP. But ignoring the Registry of Societies’ verdict on the internal party elections could not be a viable policy, as different as the internal perception may have been. The danger of being deregistered seems to have changed the minds of the leadership.
As in most similar cases the complaint to the RoS came from disgruntled members of the party. Internal party elections regularly highlight and reveal the ambitions of members and candidates which, more often than not, do not overlap with their image and popularity. Standing for elections is a highly emotional risk and affects the sensitive egos of party activists.

DAP 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source / Link: Straits Times 16.08.2013

Pardoned Challenger Returns for Cambodia Elections on 19 July


RainsyPartyforumseasia: The Cambodian election campaign is getting a bit more interesting. Two weeks before election day on 28 July, King Norodom Sihamoni has pardoned opposition leader Sam Rainsy King Norodom Sihamoniwho will return from exile in France to Phnom Penh on the 19th. The pardon comes at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen “in a spirit of reconciliation”. Sam Rainsy is not too optimistic on his Facebook page that his return can really challenge the expected CPP victory: “In the short time that has been made available, I hope to be able to meet my fellow countrymen to discuss their concerns and to hold discussions with leaders of all political parties on the best way foward for Cambodia.” He knows quite well that PM Hun Sen would not take the risk of losing just for the spirit of reconciliation. Nevertheless, some gains for the united opposition which runs as Cambodia National Rescue Party can be expected – an interesting development after the Malaysian GE in May and the Singaporean by-election in March this year.

But there is a high probability that PM Hun Sen Hun Sen neuwill keep smiling after the election.

Myanmar: President Aung San Suu Kyi?


Aung 3Partyforumseasia: The long way from prison and house arrest to the presidential palace seems to open up for democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, “The Lady”. At the same time, her leadership of the National League for Democracy (NLD) comes under criticism by former supporters. “Foreign Policy” in its May/June edition (pp 32-34) publishes an article by Min Zin with the telling title “You Can’t Go Home Again”. The author, a former student activist in Burma, is now a journalist based in California. His feelings are nostalgic and disappointed at the same time when he comes back to a changed country: “And the more I spoke with Burma’s intellectuals, with the dissidents who had struggled alongside me so many years ago, what I heard was not simply joy about a country finally opening up to the world (…) but also the striking disappointment, in particular with our beloved Aung San Suu Kyi. (…) Today (…) even among those who love and respect Aung San Suu Kyi, her sainthood appears tarnished by an increasing aloofness and distance from the rest of the political opposition. Her leadership style makes her unapproachable. In the party congress of her National League for Democracy, held in March – the first in more than 20 years – she alone handpicked her central executive committee. But even worse than this worrying authoritarian streak, she seems willing, even eager, to please the former generals at the expense of moral and political principles. One of the most striking examples is her silence on the racist discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority…”.
Exile, that shows history everywhere, makes it hard to leave the difficult past behind and see the new reality with open eyes. Many exiles remain bitter and may (often secretly) expect a compensation for their sufferings, one that Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be getting now.
But Min Zin’s question remains valid: What type of party will the NLD be in the next few years and how will The Lady and her handpicked executive committee lead it? The transition from decades as suppressed opposition to ruling a difficult country will not be easy.

Political Party Funding Regulations in Southeast Asia


Best congress 001

Partyforumseasia: The International Institute for Democratic and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) in Stockholm has published a very detailed database on legal regulations encompassing practically all aspects of party and campaign funding, see
(http://www.idea.int/political-finance/).
To reduce the complexity of the provided data, here’s a selection of the most basic information for Southeast Asia:

IDEA

The table shows “only” the legal situation and certainly not the whole reality of party and campaign related financial activities in Southeast Asia. Looking at the ‘ban on vote buying’ column alone reminds more of the “perfect” theoretical human rights protection in the constitution of the late USSR –  both a far cry from what happened on the ground…

Indonesia: Democrat Party in continuing decline


Partyforumseasia: Personalized “presidential” parties tend to deteriorate with their leader-founder, see the “Three Kims” in Korea for example. With president Yudhoyono (SBY) having to go soon, his Democrat Party seems to disintegrate already with a string of scandals speeding it up.

See the following article in (link:) Asia Sentinel
PD Indonesia

Partyforumseasia: At the same time the losses of PD seem to translate into gains for the PDI-P. Sunday’s gubernatorial election in Central Java preliminary results see PDI-P candidate Ganjar Pranowo with a huge lead close to 50%, obviously with tailwind by support from popular Jakarta governor Jokowo and grand dame of the party, Megawati Sukarnoputri. Pranowo’s campaign slogan “no corruption, no lying” seems to have struck a chord with the voters.

Political Party Funding in Southeast Asia


Corruption 4

Partyforumseasia is preparing an overview on party funding in Southeast Asia, a region where public funding for political parties is widely unknown, though Indonesia and Thailand are experimenting with it. The party laws prescribe certain minimum infrastructures like the number of branches in so many provinces, etc. And election campaigns cost in the billions, not only in the US but also in Southeast Asia. So, where do the political parties get their funding from? Donations, sure, but why give businessmen and corporations money to the parties?
At the same time, the general perception of corruption, except Singapore, is comparatively high. See here an excerpt of Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index (CPI):
TI 2012

Partyforumseasia: What can be expected in the practice of political party funding in this environment?
Contributions, examples, comments will be most welcome for our study. Please send them to:

webmaster@political-party-forum-southeast-asia.org
Corruption 1

Political Science Papers Thailand: New Paper on Democrat and Phuea Thai Party by Michael H. Nelson


Nelson, Democrat and Phuea Thai

Partyforumseasia: Is Thaksin Shinawatra indirectly back in the driver’s seat, just using his sister Yingluck as facade? An in-depth study by Michael H.Nelson from Walailak University.

A “GE13-Autopsy” with Four Preliminary Conclusions


Popular vote

Source: http://malaysiasdilemma.wordpress.com 10 May 2013

Partyforumseasia:

  1. Majority of mandates and minority of the popular vote
    Barisan Nasional had to win this election at any cost and it did so, never mind the further eroding simple majority. It had to win it in order to keep its grip on the political power, its control of the administration, and the connected business networks which have oiled its machinery for decades. A victorious opposition with a probably cleaner and more transparent government style and consequently cutting the cronies off the pork barrels would have meant much too radical losses for the beneficiaries of the established system. And a losing Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition will certainly face problems to keep its ranks closed.Eventually, PM Najib’s strategy of an all-out campaign with a mix of threats and goodies, neglecting the short and long term costs for the taxpayer, was successful against the groundswell of opposition sentiment in the population. The much discussed popular vote majority for the opposition (50.9 against 47.4 % for BN) is rather irrelevant in terms of power politics as long as Malaysia does not change the British-heritage first-past-the-post system, though it affects the legitimacy and credibility of the continued BN-rule. So, for the next five years don’t expect changes to the electoral system. As Lee Kuan Yew from neighbouring Singapore once said, a ruling party cannot be expected to make it easier for the opposition.
  2. A stolen victory?
    If an incumbent ruling party or coalition has to win at any cost, at least some preparations for manipulation must be expected. And many Malaysians did expect it. What came up during election night and triggered the complaints of the opposition is probably haunting the BN as well and will continue to do so for a while. The congratulations from president Obama and the EU were urging PM Najib to carefully address the alleged fraud cases. That is a quite unusual diplomatic formulation which affects the international image of Malaysia. But in the face of a critical Bersih (Malay for clean) movement monitoring the elections with tens of thousands of local observers specially trained to detect attempts of fraud, the BN strategists and campaigners may have been prepared for very cautious procedures and for mudding the water after the end of the vote counting as well. More than a week after the election now, the EC chairman urges the opposition to accept being defeated. Opposition and Bersih, on the other hand, seem to be slow with presenting proof of fraud, saying they are still compiling evidence. But the EC by-laws give them ample time for that. Much material published online has disappeared from the internet, but as of 13 May the PKR Election Fraud Investigative Team is looking into 237 complaints, especially in cases with a winning margin under 5%. Future investigation by Election Commission (EC) and courts may bring up more evidence than we have so far. Nevertheless, the anger of hundreds of thousands of outraged protesters clad in black show the public sentiment and the lack of trust in government and EC.  That is a difficult and dangerous situation showing quite brutally the cleavages in Malaysia’s society.
  3. Reconciliation despite bitterness and mistrust?
    Fortunately, Malaysia has enjoyed many years of peaceful development without open conflicts. But unfortunately, political interference, like preferential treatment for Malays, housing and settlement policies, the crony-networks, and the religious undertones in the UMNO-PAS competition about who has the better Muslim credentials, have created and intensified resentment and critical opposition to the decades of BN-rule in growing sectors of the population, nota bene including urban Malays. This is why PM Najib’s first reaction in disappointment and anger, holding a “Chinese tsunami” responsible for his lacklustre victory was a serious mistake. All his calls for reconciliation and unity sound hollow after this, and may cost him the leadership of UMNO eventually.
    On the other hand, the world political history of the last few years is full of narrow and dubious election outcomes with opposition protests fizzling out sooner or later. In the Malaysian case, the final price for the May 5th narrow victory may turn out to be costly for UMNO. Much depends on Anwar’s and Bersih’s perseverance in questioning the results. But even if their protest dies down sooner or later, the BN administration will have to continue to pamper its supporters with material goodies or risk being let down even further. This type of indirect and thus not illegal vote buying will turn out to be more and more costly, after the outrageously costly campaign we have seen already.

4.    Toward a two-party system?
During the last few weeks many commentators were talking about an upcoming two-party system. We can safely assume that the heavy losses of BN’s component parties are gradually pushing UMNO into admitting that it is more or less alone in charge. MCA and Gerakan have been kept alive with the financial and logistic support of UMNO and both have relied too much on this relationship. This political miscalculation has been punished on May 5th and may lead to their dissolution sooner or later.
On the opposition side it is rather difficult to see any tendency toward a merger. As long as Anwar Ibrahim does not retire from politics and joins academia, as he had announced (or threatened?) for the case of losing the election, PKR will remain a strong player. Whether PKR or DAP is the more stable and stronger party is not clear despite the better results of DAP. Merger tendencies or even merger talks between the two have not been published so far, and a merger of any of them with PAS is even more improbable. Racial issues, the urban-rural divide and its gerrymandering advantages, as well as religious preferences will continue to create high barriers against the formation of a united opposition party. But in the longer perspective it may be possible with a new leader even more charismatic than Anwar and who can galvanise the resistance against the prolonged BN rule even more successfully. With the popular vote already on the side of the opposition, the BN strategists cannot lean back and rule as usual. They will try to divide the PR parties as much as possible, but this may backfire with the growing number of voters who suspect UMNO of working more for their own survival than for the progress of the country.

Are Voters Stupid and Greedy or Smart and Wise?


Voters...Partyforumseasia: Tonight, 5 May, we will know more about the mindsets and the intentions of Malaysia’s 13.3 million voters. Are goodie bags and promises enough to convince them and produce a clear majority? Are the leading politicians and strategists reading the ground correctly? Are the pollsters more and more wrong like in most European countries? Will the first-past-the-post election system generate an outcome which does not reflect the majority of intentions and voter sentiments?

How the voters are being seen by candidates and partisans will depend on the outcome. Opposition voters are stupid if you are on the ruling party’s side and vice versa.

Churchill‘s famous quote that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute discussion with an average voter sounds more than arrogant today. Having a choice after more than five decades without a real choice is already a victory for the Malaysian voter.

Malaysiakini is suggesting the following websites which will carry the live results tonight:
http://www.malaysiakini.com
https://www.malaysiakini.com
http://m.malaysiakini.com
http://www.mkini.co

https://www.facebook.com/MalaysiaKini
https://twitter.com/malaysiakini
https://twitter.com/Yahoo_MY

http://www.kinitv.com
http://www.youtube.com/kinitv
https://www.facebook.com/kinitv
http://www.youtube.com/malaysiakini

http://live.undi.info
https://ge13.s3.amazonaws.com
http://bit.ly/ge13result

Malaysia’s GE13: Cleaner Election With Indelible Ink?


Partyforumseasia: After decades of extremely predictable election results with more than two-thirds majorities for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, 2008 has changed the game. In the 5 May election BN is fighting for survival and continuing access to the huge spoils of power, the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition feels that victory is possible. Election campaigns in Malaysia have always been intense and costly with visible party propaganda like flags and posters all over the country. But this time the population is more divided and politicized than ever before. To calm down widespread suspicions after a long history of election anomalies, the Election Commission (EC) is introducing indelible ink for the first time. And the very first test run when 230.000 Army and Navy personnel came for advance voting on 30 April, immediately produced doubts about the durability of the ink – seven days according to the EC.
GE13ink

Source / Link: Straits Times 1 May 2013

Malaysia’s GE13: Of Frogs and Princes


Partyforumseasia: The ugly frog turned out to be a handsome prince, at least in the fairy tale. In a country where party switching has a long tradition (see national cartoonist Lat’s 1992 cartoon), turncoat politicians are not unknown, even welcome by other parties if they seem to be winnable candidates. But this universal feature, often accompanied by cash handouts, seems to be less acceptable with the Malaysian voters this time. The turncoats are now called katak = frog…

Lat 1
Partyforumseasia: One of the frogs has been nominated by PM Najib to the surprise of many. This rather controversial politician was with PAS first, then with PKR, and is now running as religious and Malay supremacy wild card for BN against a moderate from PAS… This pairing could hardly be more ironical.

Zulkifli

Source / Link: Straits Times 24.4.13

Indonesian Parties Struggle for Electability


Partyforumseasia: Here’s a new contribution to our (young) collection of scholarly contributions to the topic of how political parties in Southeast Asia work. Ulla Fionna is a visiting fellow in Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, which has published this paper in its series ISEAS Perspective available at the homepage http://www.iseas.edu.sg

Link: Read the paper
Ulla Fionna

Candidate (s)election in Southeast Asia… Today: Thailand


Partyforumseasia:  Winnability is certainly the most important criterion for the selection of candidates. Whether the candidate elected by his or her branch with participation of the party members has better chances than the one appointed by the party leadership with its higher overview and wisdom is debatable. With all the appointments going on in the overheated campaign preparations in Malaysia (and the “sulking” dropped incumbents…) on both sides, in Thailand there is still the demand from the ground to hold proper elections, this time from the “Red Shirts” in Chiang Mai, obviously unhappy with the way PM Yingluck is promoting her sister…
Yinluck&sister

Chiang Mai

Source / Link: The Nation 16 April 2013

Malaysia: PAS Fields First Christian Candidate


Partyforumseasia: Since UMNO is competing for the same voter pool among rural and pious Malays, opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) has tried for some time already to open up to non-Muslims, also showing at the same time that nobody should be frightened by its Sharia policies which would apply only to Muslims. Fielding for the first time a Christian candidate in the upcoming election is certainly a significant symbolic step. It is also in line with the Pakatan Rakyat and Parti Keadilan Rakyat line of multi-racial party development in Malaysia.
Link: Straits Times 5.4.2013
PAS 5.4.13

Malaysia: How strong is ABU?


NajibAnwarPartyforumseasia: In many democracies the ruling parties have to face dropping popularity and voter support. That is quite normal and tends to get worse with the years in power. Malaysia, today, is deeply divided, given the general information available about arrogance of power, money politics, corruption scandals and election manipulation seen as typical for UMNO which is ruling the country since independence. In an article for the Straits Times, Singapore, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, head of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) in Kuala Lumpur, remains cautious about an opposition victory, but points out the average voters’ frustration with UMNO: the “Anything But UMNO” or ABU sentiment. Combined with the opposition strategy of attacking long term strongholds of the ruling coalition like Johor, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak and doubts about the cleanliness of the upcoming election, ABU may tip the scale for the Pakatan Rakyat.

Link: Straits Times, 4 April 2013
Wan 4.4.13

Indonesia’s Democratic Party: President SBY new chairman


Links: Straits Times(30.3.2013), Straits Times (31.3.2013), Jakarta Post (31.3.)
SBY ChairPartyforumseasia: The rescue operation for the somewhat “anorexic” Democratic Party by an extraordinary convention in Bali on 30 March 2013 has worked as planned.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
(SBY), with acclamation ( not vote) of the delegates,  has taken over the chairmanship after former chair Anas Urbaningrum had stepped down under corruption suspicion. Other candidates were being discussed, but only SBY himself was supposed to be elected without exposing the internal cleavages of the party in which Anas still enjoys major support among members and local leaders. SBY, after being elected, called for unity and cohesion, but critics say that the concentration of power is not healthy. The president who looked reluctant to take over and only under the condition that an executive chairman (to be appointed by SBY!!) does the day-to-day work, now chairs the party’s central executive committee and supreme assembly as well as the board of patrons, and his son Edhi Baskoro Yudhoyono is secretary-general.

As a sideline, the reports reveal a few details about the organizational structure of the Democratic Party: The chairpersons of the 33 provincial branches had prepared the convention by seeing the president beforehand in Jakarta “to pledge support for him”. The Bali convention assembled 754 party cadres with voting rights from provincial, district and city heads plus several other party elites. Interesting and allowing a glimpse into the internal cleavages was the exclusion from the Bali convention of former Cilacap district chairman Tri Dianto because he had no more voting rights. He happened to be one of the possible successors of Anas as new chairman…
Strategy-wise the exercise could unite the party in preparation of and until the 2014 elections, but, as it happens in medical practice, it could also turn out to be a successful emergency operation leaving the patient dying nevertheless. With SBY’s presidency definitively ending in 2014, the struggle for his succession is visibly on in the Democratic Party.
Follow-up:
Link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/03/31/sby-names-minister-dems-executive-chairman.html
SBY names minister as Dems executive chairman
Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua | National | Sun, March 31 2013, 12:17 PM
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as the new Democratic Party chairman, has appointed Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Syariefuddin Hasan as the party’s executive chairman. “The executive chairman will be more active in dealing with the party’s organizational matters and its other day-to-day business,” Yudhoyono told a press conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Sunday. Yudhoyono also announced that House of Representatives speaker Marzuki Alie had been appointed to serve as the deputy chairman of the supreme assembly, the party’s highest organ. Transportation Minister EE Mangindaan has been named the executive chairman of the party’s board of patrons. Yudhoyono has asked for the creation of the three positions to ease his duties in the Democratic Party after he was appointed as the party’s chairman in an extra-ordinary congress in Sanur, Bali. Yudhoyono said he accepted the proposal to name him the party chairman as long as it would not hinder him from his main duties as a state leader.Currently, Yudhoyono also serves as the party’s supreme assembly chairman, honorary council chairman and chief patron. “The formatur (formation of new appointments) has begun and these three positions are part of the initial results. We will continue to work in Jakarta and announce the results in the days ahead,” Yudhoyono said. Both Mangindaan and Marzuki said they did not know what other positions Yudhoyono would reshuffle. A rumor was circulating that the party’s secretary general, Edhie “Ibas” Baskoro Yudhoyono, the President’s youngest son, would leave his position because he would study in the US. Marzuki said Ibas should stay in his position as secretary general. “He has capability and his work in the party has been good so far,” he said, adding that he did not know about the rumor of Ibas’ plan to study in the US. (ebf)
Partyforumseasia:
More appointments than elections and rumors, the price parties pay for strong leadership.


 

Addendum to “Controlled media” vs. “Alternative media” in Malaysia


Partyforumseasia: If this is serious it is probably too late for a decisive impact on the GE13, but it is a rather dramatic introduction for the alternative broadcasting “Radio Free Malaysia”:
RFM

RADIO FREE MALAYSIA  Press release: Sunday 24th March 2013

Malaysia’s newest independent radio station begins broadcasting on Monday night. Radio Free Malaysia will be available on Medium Wave at 1359kHz each night between 9pm and 11pm local Malaysia time. The highlight of the first show will be a full-length exclusive interview with the PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim, who, like other opposition figures, has been largely excluded from Malaysia’s mainstream media so far. RFM represents a ground breaking venture, because it will be transmitted from outside of Malaysia and therefore is not subject to licencing by the federal government. The station therefore aims to be free of the political interferences that have caused Malaysia’s media to become recognised as one of the most restrictive in the world. “RFM will be free of political censorship by the ruling BN coalition and plans to provide a platform for alternative ideas and viewpoints”, explains founder Clare Rewcastle Brown, who is basing the programme out of the UK.
“It is well known that all press and broadcast media currently operating in Malaysia are forced to unquestioningly support and promote the ruling BN coalition and to denigrate the opposition parties, while excluding them from the chance to put their own policies and agendas before the people”.
“It is unacceptable that Malaysia poses to the world as a democracy and is about to hold a general election, and yet it is only members of the ruling coalition (in power for the entire 50 years since independence) who are allowed to have their voices heard by the people”.Radio Free Malaysia is a sister station of the existing short wave programme Radio Free Sarawak, which broadcasts on shortwave for the benefit of indigenous communities in East Malaysia. However, the new nightly programme will operate completely independently on the more accessible Medium Wave band and use only Bahasa.“A separate team has come together to run this show and their remit is to provide two hours a day of the sort of programming that people have been unable to find on any other mainstream radio or TV in Malaysia”, says Rewcastle Brown. “Just a few days ago one independent station was forced to withdraw an interview with Anwar Ibrahim from broadcast owing to political pressures [http://www.theedgemalaysia.com/political-news/232472-bfm-anwar-interview-not-aired-due-to-regulatory-concerns.html.We do not intend to be bullied in this way and now we can bring people the interview that the authorities have tried to ban”
“Anyone wanting to find out what the opposition policies and arguments actually are will now be able to tune in to our show, which can be accessed on any radio set in Malaysia and find out. At last people without access to the internet will have the opportunity to make a more informed choice at the ballot box.It is has also been of widespread concern that mainstream media outlets are being used by BN to spread politically motivated slanders and allegations about opposition figures and their policies, while at the same time refusing to allow them the space to answer the allegations or defend themselves in any way.
“Our short two hour programme provides a very limited opportunity for people who have been attacked in the media to exercise their right to reply. It is not much, but it is better than nothing and I anticipate that people from all over Malaysia will be intrigued to be able to tune in for the first time to the opposition’s response to the barrage of attacks they have been subjected to. We intend to punch above our weight, because we are providing a much needed service unavailable elsewhere”, said Rewcastle Brown.The programme will also focus on stories, which have so far been the subject of a disgraceful blackout in the regular media, because they are judged inconvenient to BN. Only the more free on-line news platforms have been allowed to give proper coverage to such matters as the Scorpene submarine contract scandal; the corruption scandals involving the Chief Ministers of Sabah and Sarawak; the murder of the model Altantuya; the so-called ‘cowgate’ scandal and numerous other cases of corruption and controversy involving those close to the BN government.These matters are waiting to find a place on Radio Free Malaysia, so that a wider public can be made aware of the issues that have been suppressed in their regular newspapers and broadcasts, which are subjected to total censorship by ‘News Controllers’ answerable to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, say the producers.“We would certainly be very pleased to also do interviews with any BN figures of significance who are willing to appear on our show”, confirms Rewcastle Brown. “However, they will not be getting the deliberate soft ride they are always accustomed to from the licenced media. We will ask tough questions about tough subjects, which as the people in charge of making decisions for the country they ought to be answering”.Rewcastle Brown confirms that she will not be determining content. “There is a team of Malaysian producers and presenters who will be running Radio Free Malaysia, we are merely operating out of the UK in order to avoid censorship.”.Radio Free Malaysia will also be operating a call in line so that listeners can take part in the show the toll free number is 1-800-815-309 and callers will be able to leave messages and their number at any time of the day.The Radio Show will also be accessible on-line via podcast at its website http://www.radiofreemalaysia.org/.The station, which is operating independently of major donors, has launched a drive for donations via its website. We will not be able to maintain the project unless enough members of the public come to our help to support our costs. However, we are hopeful and confident that the millions of Malaysians, who are longing for a more free and open media will support us and keep us afloat.

Radio Free Malaysia (RFM)AM/MW 1359 kHz, 2100-2300 nightly

Also: http://www.radiofreemalaysia.org/ Toll free number: 1-800-815-309

Email: info@radiofreemalaysia.org

Date: Sun, 24 Mar 2013 11:42:24 +0000

Subject: Please circulate Widely

From: info@sarawakreport.orgTo: info@radiofreemalaysia.org

And remind people that teething challenges may make for a rough and ready start, but we will improve each day!

Indonesia’s PKS: The serious side of “sausage politics”


Partyforumseasia: The (Islamist) Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) had won 7.34 % in the 2004 election on its anti-corruption stance and promise of good governance, and probably profited as well from its credibility among religious voters. So the arrest and indictment for corruption of former leader Luthfi Hassan Ishaaq in January has heavily dented the credibility of the party. The recent re-election of West Java governor Ahmad Heryawan and his running mate Deddy “Demiz” Mizwar ( see link: “The awesome power of sausage politics“) must be seen as an attempt to counter the loss of credibility by using a popular PR-professional as running mate. It would probably be wrong for the party to take the governor’s re-election as a sign that the voters are forgetful.
PKS 22.3.13

Source / link: Straits Times, 22.3.2013

Southeast Asian Media: Trust is good, control is better…


Partyforumseasia: Probably Lenin’s famous formula “trust is good, control is better” comes closer to the Southeast Asian reality than Confucius’ “rectification of names” concept. But maybe modern media ownership and its possibilities of political control are a clever combination of both. The Confucian concept may be a bit too idealistic about good intentions of ancient rulers. Today’s political parties and their leaders certainly have enough good intentions, but owning and controlling the all important media seems to be considered the safer bet for electoral success.
Nota bene: Media control quasi monopolies are everywhere: Murdoch and Berlusconi, and…

Partyforumseasia suggests to collect ownership affiliations between media and  political parties in the region, starting here with a number of Indonesian media.

BakrieMost prominent is tycoon, Golkar chairman and possible presidential candidate in 2014, Aburizal Bakrie, who controls news channels TVOne and ANTV as well as online news portal Vivanews.

National Democrat (NasDem) chairman Surya Paloh owns Metro TV and daily newspaper Media Indoenesia.

Media tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo, controls the large media network PT Media Nusantara Citra (MNC) and seems to focus his political ambition on the Hanura party.

About 3,000 private radio stations over the country may be open to political bidders during election campaigns.

But there is also good news: Kompas, the most influential and widely circulated newspaper in Indonesia is politically independent. Its owner, Kompas-Gramedia Group, controls a large networks of local papers and the Jakarta Post.

Election manipulation: Is Southeast Asia average or world class?


Manipulation

Partyforumseasia:
Election manipulation and fraud are not unknown in Southeast Asia.
This (Link)new book  by Alberto Simpser looks already so interesting in the publisher’s advertisement that we are looking forward to have it. Here are some snippings from the introduction:
Three interesting findings:
“First, electoral manipulation is often utilized when it is patently unnecessary for victory. Second, even when electoral manipulation is needed to win, it is frequently perpetrated far beyond the victory threshold and in excess of any plausible safety margin. Third, electoral manipulation is often perpetrated blatantly, a practice that does not directly contribute to victory and goes against the intuition that, as with any cheating, the perpetrator stands only to lose if his or her activities become known. These three observations constitute what I shall call the puzzle of excessive and blatant electoral manipulation.” (p.1-2)
On the indirect effects of electoral manipulation: “…the consequences to individual citizens, politicians, bureaucrats, and organizations of their political choices and actions today depend strongly on which party ends up holding power tomorrow, and on how powerful such a party turns out to be. (p.6)
The book provides “a systematic, global picture of electoral manipulation”, based on “more than 800 multiparty, country-level elections around the world from 1990 through 2007” (p.8)

Among the empirical findings: “For example, of all executive elections that were substantially manipulated in roughly the past two decades, more than two in five were won by the manipulating party by a margin of victory exceeding 40 percent of the vote, suggesting that excessive electoral manipulation is quite common.” (p.8)

Philippines: Understanding the flawed party system


Partyforumseasia: Patronage politics in the Philippines, often described, but the parties have hardly been defined so bluntly or brutally as:

“convenient vehicles of patronage that can be set up, merged with others, split, reconstituted, regurgitated, resurrected, renamed, repackaged, recycled, refurbished, buffed up or flushed down the toilet.”

Nathan Quimpo, The left, elections, and the political party system in the Philippines, Critical Studies 37, 2005: 4-5 is being quoted with this verdict in: Hutchcroft and Rocamora, Patronage-based parties and the democratic deficit in the Philippines, in: Robison, Richard (ed), Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics, 2012: 97-119.

It sounds very sad, but Hutchcroft and Rocamora put the deficits into the proper historical perspective to understand how it could happen. And they sketch the necessary reforms to overcome the historical burden. Fortunately, the present administration under president Aquino seems to be set to push through the most urgent reforms.
Partyforumseasia: A must read for anybody who wants to understand the Philippino party system!

“Ants, Partisans, and Party Members” – Tribalism in Human Nature


Partyforumseasia: The great biologist  Edward O.Wilson, (The Social Conquest of Earth, New York 2012) studied ants to better understand human group behavior. The psychological evidence is most interesting for partisanship and party membership:

“Experiments have shown that it is shockingly easy to elicit a sense of solidarity among a group of strangers. Just tell them they’ll be working together as a team, and they immediately start working together as a team, all the while attributing to each other a host of positive qualities like trustworthiness and competence—an instant five-star customer review.
Yet we are equally prepared to do battle against those who fall outside the fraternal frame. In experiments where psychologists divided people into groups of arbitrarily assigned traits—labeling one set the Blue team and another the Green, for example—the groups started sniping at each other and expressing strong prejudices toward their “opponents,” with the Greens insisting the Blues were untrustworthy and unfair. The “drive to form and take deep pleasure from in-group membership easily translates at a higher level into tribalism,” Wilson says, and can spark religious, ethnic and political conflicts of breathtaking brutality.”  Source: Smithsonian
Institute

Partyforumseasia: So far so bad, being member of a successful party feels good, but inside political parties tribalism among factions can be as or even more brutal than with outside enemies. A quotation attributed to Konrad Adenauer, first chancellor of post war (West) Germany, should warn us: His line was: enemy – mortal enemy – party comrade…

Malaysians abroad to vote


Malaysians abroad

Link: Straits Times, 7 Jan 2013

Partyforumseasia:
Expectations on both sides seem to be high and the question is whether Malaysians living abroad are more pro or more anti establishment. If they are really a million voters the effect could be crucial.
For comparative purposes and not predicting anything: When Germany introduced overseas voting in the late 1970s, most expectations were disappointed by a very low turnout.

What type of parties are there in Southeast Asia?


Partyforumseasia: 
Many – maybe too many – scholars have been searching for a suitable typology of political parties in Southeast Asia. Many see at least a semblance of “Duvergerian” types of parties, others don’t.
Historian Wang Gungwu‘s assessment is very clear:
“None resembles the classic parties of the West.”
See also in: Party Theory

Partyforumseasia: The floor is open…
Please send your suggestions to:
webmaster@political-party-forum-southeast-asia.org

 

DAP Malaysia: Never change a winning team…


Partyforumseasia:The party convention on 15 December has confirmed father and son Lim as well as party veteran Karpal Singh as “top dogs”. According to the following Straits Times report the DAP has grown from 300 to 1100 branches and the membership from 84.000 to 150.000 since 2008.

DAP 16.12.2012Link: Straits Times, 16 December 2012

UMNO and BN: Weak only by infighting?


UMNO inf

NewNewStraitsTimes   2 December 2012

Partyforumseasia: Competition for candidacies and influential posts are the normal in all parties. As first chancellor of (West) Germany’s Federal Republic Konrad Adenauer once said, the usual sequence within a party is enemy – mortal enemy – party comrade…
But some leaders are better than others in keeping the party together. And of course: The more you can win or lose, the tougher the infighting.

Singapore: PAP elects new CEC


Partyforumseasia:  In the past the PAP has been described as a secretive cadre-style party, keeping its internal developments mostly in the dark. Here is a rather public glimpse into the election of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) by the “close to 2000” party cadres. Straits Times, 3 December 2012

CEC1CEC2