Michael Backman is a well-known and respected business and political writer in this region and elsewhere.He regularly writes for the Age, an Australian newspaper and have written many articles on politics in Malaysia.
I produce below a recent article on Malaysian politics.
Malaysia needs a strong Opposition
Yes, no, maybe? Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has called elections for March 8.Michael Backman
- February 27, 2008
- Page 1 of 2
SHOULD Malaysians bother to vote? The corollary of this question is: does the Malaysian Government deserve to be re-elected? The answer to the second question is no.
In the past few years, the Malaysian Government has presided over an extraordinary number of scandals that are appalling by any standards: the trade minister's allocation of car import permits to friends, relatives and supporters; the billion-dollar fraud at the Port Klang Free Trade Zone; the outrageous and much-flaunted wealth of ruling party politician Zakaria Md Deros; the claims that a High Court judge allowed the lawyer representing a rich businessman to write for him his judgement in a defamation lawsuit; an immensely rich chief minister in Sarawak state who is allowed to rule as if it were his; and so on.
The Malaysian Government richly deserves to pay for all of this at the ballot box.
So the next question is: should the Malaysian Opposition be elected to office? Again, the answer is no.
The Opposition is a shambolic assortment of the disaffected rather than a competent, alternative government. In no way is it ready to govern.
All these questions are pertinent because Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has called elections for March 8.
Elections are fought tenaciously in Malaysia as if the South-East Asian country is a fully fledged democracy. But it isn't. It is democratic in that elections are held, but they are not fair. The ruling coalition has been in power in one form or another since independence 50 years ago. One reason for this longevity is that there are legal and institutional biases that favour the Government.
Malaysian electorates are severely malapportioned. The smallest electorates are rural; the largest are metropolitan. The largest have about six times the number of registered voters as the smallest. This means that the votes of those in the smallest seats count for many times those in the larger seats.
This sort of bias meant, for example, that in the last general elections held in 2004, the ruling coalition won 198 or 91% of the parliamentary seats with just 64% of the votes cast. The Opposition won only 21 seats or 9.6% of the seats compared with 36% of the popular vote.
Had the Parliament reflected voters' actual voting intentions, there would have been 79 rather than 21 Opposition members elected. Read more.....