Monday, 21 Sep 2020

Sabah a sneak preview of Malaysia's GE15: Sin Chew Daily contributor

KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – According to Wikipedia, “Democrazy” is a 2003 vinyl-only double EP of demos by Damon Albarn, frontman of British rock band Blur and the animated group Gorillaz.

Put simply, it’s about music.

The “origin” of democrazy is a blend of “democracy” and “crazy”.

Hence, there is a political satire novel entitled Democracy Or Democrazy by Iranian author Seyyed Mahdi Shojaee in Persian, which was also translated into English.

I have seen the term democrazy being used in Indonesian portals, especially during the run-up to the republic’s presidential election last year.

Just who coined the term I don’t know, but I must say he or she is a “genius”, for want of a better word.

There are many definitions (or interpretations, if you like) of democrazy.

One puts it as “a democratic system or state considered to be inauthentic or inherently flawed; democracy that has descended into corruption, injustice or absurdity”.

Another definition has it like this: “A mismanaged system; a system of government where the elected representatives turn irresponsible and the civil society is forced to play the opposition. A problem faced by a democracy when it fails to elect sensible representatives.”

I suppose different definitions are used to describe different situations, different democracies, different countries.

I have not heard it myself but I am told now, democrazy is being used to describe the Sabah state election.

To be honest, I don’t know if that term can or should be used for the political situation in Sabah, although I must admit the number of multi-cornered contests (involving more than five parties or individuals for each seat) in the coming election is indeed crazy.

But then again, multi-cornered fights are not something surprising. It has happened before, not only in Sabah but also the country.

However, when friends fight friends, well, that raises many an eyebrow, to put it lightly.

What I am referring to is when parties in the same coalition fight one another for the very same constituencies or seats.

After the recent nomination day for the Sabah election, we know there are 17 seats (or overlapping constituencies, as they are called) where Barisan Nasional (BN), Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Parti Bersatu Sabah face off one another, despite proudly claiming they are together in a coalition named Gabungan Rakyat Sabah announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

As Asia Times, a Chinese language daily in Kota Kinabalu, says it: “In 17 constituencies, BN and PN are killing each other.”

Harsh words, but that is the reality.

However, PN leaders, in particular Tan Sri Muhyiddin, prefer to call such “friends-fight-friends fights” as “friendly fire”.

As we know, that is a military term. According to Merriam-Webster, friendly fire is “the firing of weapons from one’s own forces or those of an ally, especially when resulting in accidental death or injury of one’s own personnel”.

I must say there is nothing accidental in fielding candidates from the same coalition to try to win the same seats, as far as the Sabah election goes. If there is any similarity, then it must be the casualty.

According to a political observer, Mr Muhyiddin cannot dismiss Umno challenging other PN alliances as simply friendly fire, “for it leads to mistrust among parties and towards the captain of the ship himself”.

Anyway, on to the big question – is what is happening in Sabah a sneak preview of what is to come at national level?

I’ll rephrase that: Will we see what is happening in Sabah happen during GE15 at national level?

Sabah-born political analyst Oh Ei Sun certainly thinks so.

“Yes, I think there is a high chance what is taking place in Sabah now will be replicated at national (level) when we talk of GE15 – in the sense that different political parties would like to stake claims in overlapping constituencies with their coalition partners,” says Dr Oh.

As Dr Oh sees it, “the main point is if they win even small, and by small I mean one or two constituencies or seats that can be brought to the political negotiation table and perhaps they can get ministerial posts as opposed to be subsumed in a large coalition”.

I take that to mean that the number of seats won (even a few) will be used as leverage during negotiations to get the best deal possible.

To the political observer I quoted earlier in this write-up, the BN-PN fights in Sabah reflect badly on Mr Muhyiddin’s leadership because “if his alliances are ignoring him in Sabah, they are likely to do the same when national polls are held”.

Even worse, he says, Umno and PAS will be looking to take the giant share of seats, therefore putting more pressure on the Bersatu party led by Mr Muhyiddin.

“Looking at things, the promise of a strong Perikatan alliance or parties supportive of Muhyiddin’s Bersatu means little when it comes to fighting for as many seats as possible to lay claim on the post of chief ministers or prime minister as well as other spoils that come with winning elections,” says the observer.

I concur, and thus, have nothing more to add.

The writer is a veteran journalist and a freelancer. The paper is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media titles.

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