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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Opposition should not hold their anti-kleptocracy rally

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
- R Buckminster Fuller
The opposition does not need another rally. I know they want a rally, they want to make some noise but as the last Bersih rally demonstrated, you could be handed a loudspeaker but when you have nothing to say, you end up thinking you have accomplished something but ultimately whatever gained is superficial and just furthers Umno narratives about the opposition in this country.
The big question which has never been answered is why “people don't feel the 1MDB issue is related (to their lives).” Will holding roadshows provide clarity to these people? Would roadshows suddenly make them think independently and question the toxic eco-system of racial and political privilege that subsidises their community while shackling them to religion that teaches them that they are constantly under siege?
Some people have told me that unless the opposition manages to articulate the 1MDB issues in terms that “average” folks can understand, then there will never be a political awakening in the base that Umno relies on to maintain hegemony. I find this line of thinking hard to understand.
The opposition in their rhetoric have more or less called the current Umno poohbah a “thief”, demonised his spouse as a Lady Macbeth figure who corrupts the party from within, and virtually controls online narratives that paint this country as a state in failing because billions of ringgit have been looted from public coffers.
One would think that with all this, the opposition would have made inroads with the so-called rural Malay demographic. These people are not all Luddites who only get their information from the state’s propaganda organs - which are failing by the way - and as portrayed by some opposition supporters as too “stupid” to know the truth when its right in front of them.
Something else is going on here. While ignorance, of course, plays an important role in the election of kleptocrats, the reality is that the opposition is suffering from credibility issues that make voting for a corrupt hegemon - something Malaysians have done before - a better alternative than trusting a fractured opposition.
I reiterated this point I made during one of the numerous by-elections in my piece about the hurdles faced by the opposition in overthrowing a kleptocratic regime - “So if Umno delivers everything it says it will deliver, the cycle of complicity will continue. Disenfranchised people will continue voting for a regime which puts rice in their bowls. I am not talking about the urban class but rather those people who have depended on real power, federal power exercised corruptly for their benefit. That is the culture some people forget that we are dealing with. We nurtured this culture.”
Some analysts have made the point that an opposition rally to appeal to a broad demographic which merely means that more Malays have to be involved, less this rally be spun by the warlocks of Putrajaya as a Chinese attempt to usurp power. Conventional thinking is that Bersatu and Amanah could pull in the rural Malay votes or those “Malays” who are enamoured by the former prime minister and current de facto opposition leader.
I made the same point of the last Bersih rally, which really did not pan out as I had hoped for - “What this Bersih rally needs to be about is the dignity and integrity of the Malays. It needs to address the reality that Malay leadership has failed this country and the only way to restore any semblance of dignity to the Malay polity would be for the so-called ‘leaders’ of the Malay community with the help of their non-Malay counterparts to mobilise the Malay demographic into coming to the mother of all street parties.”
Echo chambers
However, what the opposition intelligentsia is overlooking is the fact that “Chinese” participation may not be what they expect. Many people do not like the idea of the opposition hooking up with former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who they blame for the kleptocratic state we are in, the racial and religious politics of Bersatu - even though they overlook the racial politics of the DAP - the idea that the opposition is fractured and in disarray because of the political missteps with PAS and finally, something that most opposition operatives do not want to consider, that is the feeling of distrust that Amanah engenders.
Of course, in the echo chambers which are the alternative press, more often than not, the opposition is given a free pass and the 1MDB narrative seems to be the only issue that the opposition can play in order to remain relevant. Disillusioned Malay supporters of PAS and Amanah tell me that they find it difficult to talk about the 1MDB issue because people keep asking them about how this is different from the corruption that has gone on in the past and if they voted for corrupt leaders in the past, why not now?
So what does the opposition tell them now? We have:
1) PAS telling their base that the opposition they once were a part of has a foreign-backed agenda to overthrow a Muslim regime.
2) Bersatu telling them the current regime has lost it way because of “corruption” and their "rights" as “Malays” is in jeopardy because the current Umno leader is selling Malay land to foreign - Chinese - interlopers.
3) DAP attempting to assure them that the Chinese do not want to usurp Malay power but have been making strategic missteps that only seem to prove the Umno narrative that the DAP is the power behind the Pakatan Harapan throne.
4) Amanah telling them that Islamic leaders of Umno and PAS are ganging up because they are corrupt and that Islam has to be saved from this “kleptocracy”.
So this supposed demographic that is supposed to be the keys to Putrajaya is sent conflicting messages about the whole 1MDB scandal. It would also be a mistake to assume that the so-called urban polities are merely accepting the dissonance coming from Pakatan Harapan with the goal of removing a kleptocratic regime as the existential threat facing Malaysia today.
This may be the sentiment when it comes to the echo chambers of the alternative press but there are many people out there who have this "plague on both your houses" and are hoping for the return of that old alliance spirit which received the popular vote.
Holding a rally would be a mistake. There are far too many variables that gives the Umno establishment the upper hand. The only way the opposition can win this election or at least remain a significant presence in the political landscape of this country is if they somehow manage to find a populist platform that appeals to a wide demographic.
As it is, this rally will only benefit the Umno regime because it affords them numerous opportunities to point to the dysfunction of the opposition which means very little in echo chambers online, but is of great influence for people who are sitting on the fence or disillusioned with the opposition and finally supporters who may not even turn up to vote, much less march on the streets.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.- Mkini

1 comment:

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