Malaysia’s tragedy of power politics
Malaysia’s political upheaval and what you need to know
28ᵗʰ February 2020
This week, Malaysia and the wider region were shocked as political upheaval exploded and the Prime Minister resigned from his role. Malaysians had not been able to predict that by 1pm on Monday 24 February 2020, they would be without a Government. Four days since the news unfolded, the people are still waiting for a resolution that will determine if the country can, for a second time, resolve the shift in power peacefully.
It is an unprecedented time for Malaysia, which is now a country without a Government or any form of consensus in sight. With alignments in a flux, vested parties continue to jostle for majority support in Parliament in order to nominate their candidate. Malaysians have made it known that a backdoor Government will not be tolerated and are reminding the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Government of their mandate voted in by the people in the 14th General Election (GE14) in 2018.
PH Manifesto in GE14
PH is bound to its GE14 Manifesto, which was a mandate voted in by the people of Malaysia. The manifesto includes the agreement that Tun Mahathir would accede the role of Prime Minister (PM) to Anwar Ibrahim after two years. A newly formed government through a new coalition or a unity government in this scenario will mean that the new government will not be bound by the manifesto and will not have the same mandate from voters.
The role of Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA or the King)
The institution of the YDPA is crucial in providing the much-needed balance to the power play of this political crisis. As the supreme head of state, he plays a key role as a mediator. YDPA has showcased his commitment to the people by taking on the mandate to interview all 222 Members of Parliament (MPs) individually to understand their stance and alignment, and to seek a solution to the crisis at hand. The appointment of Tun Mahathir as the interim PM by YDPA is also to ensure political stability in the country.
Market and Economy
Malaysia’s benchmark index, the FBMKLCI ended Monday at its lowest level in almost 10 years as spooked investors opted to sit on the side-lines to wait out the political volatility. Malaysia will possibly see heightened economic uncertainty, further exacerbating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Nonetheless, dissatisfaction had been brewing for months as the cost of basic needs, job unemployment and unaffordable homes continue to plague the Rakyat of Malaysia. The new government will have to respond to, and manage, these challenges.
Amid the turmoil, Tun Mahathir, goes ahead with the announcement of the stimulus budget for the nation. Analysts heralded Malaysia’s RM20 billion 2020 Economic Stimulus Package announced yesterday as a ‘soothing balm to the Rakyat, business and economy as a whole’. The package is expected to revive investment activities for the year. With more money put back into the hands of the people, private consumption is expected to remain solid. Markets ended Thursday higher, in response to the better-than-expected package.
Civil society groups continue to protest the proposals of a backdoor, as well as a unity, government as it would be against the spirit of democracy. They have emphasised that politicians must fulfil their promised mandate to the people and voters, and maintain stability in the country.
It is all hands on deck for the shrinking media fraternity in Malaysia. Journalists from all desks have been pulled to cover the ongoing events which are happening concurrently in different locations in order to capture the unfolding events. Frontpages and news headlines on the dramatic twists and turns of events continue to dominate despite it being reporting season. The week in passing has been a write off for most, as the country continues to grapple with the sudden political shift.
There is no indication yet of which coalition will form the new government, or who will end up as the next PM. And because there is no distinct majority, the right forum to determine who has majority support will be at the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House of the Parliament or ‘the House’). A special sitting of the House was initially called by Tun Mahathir to determine the next PM; however the sitting has been called off by Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, Dewan Rakyat Speaker as the sitting did not meet the conditions of Parliament’s Standing Order 11(3) and requires the official decree from YDPA. In the event the Dewan Rakyat fails to determine the candidate with a clear majority support, it is likely that Malaysia will see the first ever snap election in its democratic history.
At the time of writing, the Malay Rulers are convening for a special meeting at Istana Negara, before Friday prayers. Malaysians are awaiting the outcome of this meeting on Friday 28 February 2020 to bring a resolution to this ongoing political turmoil. Matters under consideration of the Malay Rulers and the YDPA include the possibilities of a new government or the dissolution of the Dewan Rakyat.
Ultimately, it is in the best interest for everyone, especially for those in power, that the people’s mandate and stability of the country are upheld by all.