“More and more people that I’m talking to say one of the ways out is for Umno and DAP to come to the same table.” – Anthony Loke
The chance meeting between Wanita Umno chief Noraini Ahmad and Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming (above), characterised by some as some sort of “normalisation” of a possible political hook-up and denounced as fitnah by others, is the kind of immature politics that defines mainstream narratives in this country.
The reality is that there are elements in the Malay political establishment that do not want to see any cooperation between the two biggest race-supported parties in this country.
The biggest stumbling block coming from the DAP – besides the often conflicted and confused rhetoric from political operatives – is that the DAP will not work with tainted leaders. This, of course, is complete horse manure.
The DAP, by making its Faustian bargain and working with Bersatu, demonstrated that working with morally suspect and corruption-tainted politicians was not an impediment to “saving Malaysia”.
Indeed, when Pakatan Harapan briefly formed the federal government, and Bersatu was accepting Umno frogs, the DAP bent over backward attempting to justify why Bersatu accepting Umno members was part of the grand plan to save Malaysia.
Meanwhile, the Umno grassroots who for decades were fattened by the propaganda and resultant entitlements that came with demonising the DAP, have to be reoriented that working with the DAP was not the end of bangsa and agama.
Honestly, I do not see this as much of a hurdle because as far as partisans are concerned, Harapan and Umno, it is much as how Orwell defined doublethink – “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
Any sort of cooperation, of course, would have to happen after the dust settles in the next general election – if we have one – as many strategists in Umno and the DAP have said. And, of course, any form of cooperation would be defined by how PKR positions itself as the only viable contender for the crown of Putrajaya.
What the DAP brings to any kind of coalition is the majority backing of a voting demographic and, hence, they can claim to be the “voice” of the community on secular and egalitarian issues.
The fact that they have to downplay such aspirations proves how well they can play with weak factions of the Malay political establishment.
Now, imagine if they could do this with Umno, which is a vital part of the Malay power structure, and work on a reform agenda which many in Umno know needs to be carried out if Malaysia is to remain a viable democracy and not some sort of theocratic nightmare.
There are many in Harapan who believe that any sort of cooperation with Umno is untenable and what they wish to see is Umno continuing to implode and Harapan achieving some sort of landslide in the next GE, which could mean that Harapan (with its allies) are in a position to dictate terms or secure enough seats to reject any cooperation with Umno.
After decades of witnessing the power plays between two coalitions, I see no need to replicate the formula that brought us to this mess in the first place. And by formula I mean coalitions of “unequals” pretending to be unified in political ideology when there was no common framework beyond appeasement.
The fact that governments could collapse may seem like an unstable political and economic gambit but this is a far better proposition than what the previous stability brought us, which was the radicalisation of the majority and the polarisation of the minority.
An Umno elected official who falls neatly into the moderate camp but who is aligned with someone from the “court cluster”, tells me that working with the DAP would be far better for Malaysia than working with theocratic PAS, even if it meant more “headaches”.
And therein lies the rub. These headaches are not really genuine policy issues but rather manufactured outrages, to demonstrate the superiority of race and religion through the political apparatus. All of this has to stop of course, because in these pandemic days, the economic and social reality of decades of political neglect is coming home to roost.
I welcome the aftermath of the next GE because it would force disparate political power groups to attempt to form a government and nobody will be secure in their positions.
The Sheraton Move was an attempt to define what a Malay uber alles (above all) government could do, and what they have proved is that unity based on race and religion is not feasible, especially when it comes to the urban/rural dichotomy.
What is driving Malaysia apart is the fact that the illusory nature of political stability based on the “social contract” was broken by, first, the ouster of Anwar Ibrahim from Umno paradise and the gradual erosion of federal BN power, which culminated in the brief Harapan win the in the last election.
Do not fear the political instability that comes, but rather fear the further fossilisation, if Umno and DAP never find common ground, however they define it.