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Saturday, July 30, 2011

A hung Parliament: Can it happen in M'sia and what will it be like

A hung Parliament: Can it happen in M'sia and what will it be like

In a two-party parliamentary system of government, a hung parliament occurs when neither major political party (or bloc of allied parties) has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament.

This was exactly the case in Australia in 2010 where there are 150 members in the House of Representatives, so to have an outright majority one of the parties needs to hold 76 seats. Neither Labor nor the Coalition reached that point. Instead, they'll had to negotiate with the three sitting independents who have been re-elected - Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott - as well as the Greens' Adam Bandt, who won the seat of Melbourne.

Eventually the Labor party lead by Julia Gillard won over the independents to form a minority government.

BN at its height controlled 92% of Parliament

In looking at the political landscape of Malaysia, it can be divided into two - Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.

Barisan Nasional is made up of 13 major component parties whilst Pakatan Rakyat has 3 and there are probably 5 major parties that do not affiliate themselves to either BN or Pakatan and a host of other non-significant parties that are not represented in parliament.

To date, both BN and Pakatan have contested in every parliament seat in Malaysia, in a bid to win a clear majority rule in parliament.

In the March 2004 general election, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi led Barisan Nasional to a landslide victory, in which Barisan Nasional recaptured the state of Terengganu. The coalition controlled 92% of the seats in Parliament.

It is indeed ironic that in 2005, Mahathir stated that "I believe that the country should have a strong government but not too strong. A two-thirds majority like I enjoyed when I was prime minister is sufficient but a 90% majority is too strong. We need an opposition to remind us if we are making mistakes. When you are not opposed you think everything you do is right."

The Malaysian public took Mahathir’s up to his word and gave the opposition huge gains in the 2008 general elections by granting them 5 states and denying BN a two-thirds majority rule.

Taib's 14 seats

A hung parliament almost was the case in Perak after the General Elections of 2008, when several Pakatan elected MPs chose to turn-coat and pronounce themselves Independent. But it quickly became a minority rule when the Independent MPs then pledged support to Barisan Nasional. This gave BN rule over Perak.

Malaysian voters can send the majority vote either way. Yet, it is still plausible on a micro-level that a tussle for individual states may cause a hung parliament or minority rule.

In the plausible case of a hung parliament, who then would determine the winners? There are two scenarios that can come about in the advent of a hung parliament. Firstly, if Sarawak decides to turn-coat and secondly if UMNO MPs revolt.

If 2008 and the recent Sarawak elections are taken into account, a hung parliament will be decided by the Malay vote. And most likely the 14 seats held by Taib Mahmud’s PBB party in Sarawak will be king-maker.

If Taib's 14 seats decide to turn-coat and declare themselves Independent, then we will have a hung parliament. Both BN or Pakatan will be unable to form a majority rule government. Instead, they will be forced to negotiate with the Independents. And this would be an interesting situation because it means that the fate of the government will be dependent on who can come up with the best deal for Taib Mahmud.

UMNO MPs

The second scenario takes into account the dissatisfaction within the UMNO ranks towards Najib’s administration.

In all likely-hood, if a number of UMNO MPs turn-coat and declare themselves as Independents and let both BN and Pakatan vie for their attention, then Malaysia will have a hung parliament.

It is into this situation that Ku Li’s latest startup, Amanah, may play a significant role.

Ku Li is best identified as the man who in 1987 challenged former Mahathir Mohamad for the leadership of UMNO and lost by a very small margin. Out of pique, he quit UMNO and founded the splinter party Semangat 46 before returning to the UMNO fold a decade later. But he was never able to act as much more than a figure on the fringes till now. In the light of an embattled Najib, Ku Li has come forward presenting an alternative cause to that of the BN and Pakatan.

Already, Amanah is generating a buzz among fence-sitters who have lost faith in BN, yet are wary of Pakatan. Will Amanah be a strong enough influence to create a third political force? This is something that only time can prove.

The 2008 General Election has proven that BN’s strangle-hold on the two-thirds majority can be broken. And that may well have been the first step to a change in government. The case for a hung parliament in Malaysia is slim, yet it is something that is very plausible owing to the fluid and morphing nature of Malaysian politics. But it needs an ideal setting where we have fair and free election practices.

So until Malaysia sees free and fair elections, it will really be BN who would fight tooth and nail with all their resources and tools to never allow a hung parliament in Malaysia. Just in case even money won't be able to buy over the Independents!

- Malaysia Chronicle

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