Democracy put to the test

PKR’S brilliant job of exposing this strangely gut-wrenching but simultaneously hilarious loot of our wealth in the name of Wanita UMNO Cows ? the NEW media has turned Malaysia’s image into a toilet seat.A friend pointed out that we have only now begun to notice what happened some time ago: that APCO has taken over Malaysia.APCO provides the core inner ring which pumps blood into the heart of the current ruling class of our country.UMNO is: Corrupt Incompetent Arrogant. There is only one reason Singapore is ahead of Malaysia; because it is run by the Lee Kuan Yew: Corrupt, Perverse but Competent.are not in the laudable intention but in the clogged delivery.Good Intentions cannot justify bad delivery the desire to be politically correct has overtaken the imperative to be politically sensible. Method and order, the favourite weapons of Hercule Poirot, might be usefully employed in analysis.
women’s vote are very important. Taken purely as a demographic identity, they constitute the most powerful force in electoral politics. Every second voter is a woman. If she were motivated purely by gender, the majority of MPs would already be women. Theory, alas, tends to have a cool, or even antagonistic, relationship with real life.The basis on which a candidate is chosen, by any party, can be described in a single, if ungainly, word: winnability. division chief offered as nominees, but their names were withdrawn when top leader parachuted an intruder in the electoral competition. This is how politics is conducted. This is why the idea of self interest gained momentum, because the
“winnability” factor is neutralized when all legitimate candidates strangely hasinstanstly ther “winnability” became doubtful.A second structural flaw could further erode the already ebbing credibility of our parliamentary system.

The life-blood of our democracy is a covenant, a pact between elector and elected that the quid pro quo for the vote is service to the constituency. The quality of that service is an important (but not the only) factor in an MP’s re-election. This is the one big check that keeps a MP on some sort of practical leash.The relationship between MP and voter can, thereby, be officially abandoned. This should make party bosses delirious.

The irony is that such flaws can be easily corrected, with some time and thought. Both have been absent from the process. The pro-parachute lobbies have employed hustle topped off by self-congratulation; those opposed think that explosions constitute an argument.

The former worked through cheerleaders in the media; the latter played to galleries beyond the media, and did so effectively.when UMNO President began to waver when the message from the second horizon began to permeate back to him. UMNO President was indifferent to the threat from division chief, but it could not remain immune to a threat from the voter. Empowerment o people leader is powerful and necessary objective, but the route map should be navigated with care.

News of a defeated incumbent calling the new president-elect in any other context would have perhaps not been breaking news. However, it came against the background of much fear for the future of Senegal, a beacon of stability and democracy in an unstable region, which boasts a long tradition of multi-party elections and peaceful transfers of power.

Following 40 years of being led by socialist presidents Senghor then Diouf, Wade was elected in 2000 under the mantra of sopi, a Wolof word that translates into “change”. After seven years in power, that change was not forthcoming, instead a rather heinous attempt at grooming Wade’s son, Karim, to serve as his successor and next heir in line, turning the republic into a monarchy.

A popular resistance movement, named the Mouvement du 23 juin – or simply M23 – rose on June 23, 2011, in response to Wade’s attempt to change the constitution, and was the first mass public mobilisation to oppose Wade. When it became clear that Wade was going to run for a third term, the M23 raised its tone, rallying the citizenry on the 23rd of every month, crying out: “Don’t touch my constitution”, and the even more resonant “y’en a marre” [French: “We have had enough”]. They called for a substantive democracy with social and economic rights for all.

Despite mounting popular pressure, Wade pressed on with his attempt at a third term in the presidential chair. When the country’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Court, validated Wade’s candidacy on January 27, 2012, mass public protests erupted across Senegal, leaving nine dead and dozens severely injured.

Wade was an intruder in the electoral competition, the opposition and civil society maintained. But run Wade did – as if in an attempt to see for himself what he was still worth in the eyes of the voting youth that had parachuted him to power in 2000. Yet he secured only a timid 34 per cent win in the first round of voting, facing a divided opposition, and was followed by Macky Sall, who secured 25 per cent of the electorate.

For the second round of voting however, all 13 opposition contenders rallied behind Sall, giving him a genuine chance at defeating the presidential incumbent in the final face-off. And defeat Wade he did on March 25, in a crushing manner that defied even the most optimistic prognoses.

A happy outcome: Democracy’s win in Senegal

After being held hostage for three months of electoral hold-up under President Wade, Senegal has emerged from a bloody tempest of pre-electoral violence as a stronger democracy.
Senegal’s Wade concedes election defeat
Indeed, Senegal’s young democracy was severely put to the test in the months past. But the Senegalese citizenry proved its maturity by peacefully going to the polls both on February 26 and in even larger numbers during the run-off. They proved the power of the ballot over that of the street or the rifle, and again provided an exemplary lesson of democracy on the continent.

The patriotism and professionalism of the Senegalese army, remarkable by its absence from the streets during the polls, was also notorious – leading many to think that the Senegalese army was really the silent hero of the nation’s democratic transition. Indeed, a development such as that in neighbouring Mali could have been easily imaginable had the army decided to come out of its barracks in the heights of Senegal’s politico-constitutional crisis.

Senegal’s democracy is the big winner today – not Macky Sall, not even Abdoulaye Wade – but popular sovereignty, as demonstrated in this nation, this truly democratic African nation. The people of Senegal have spoken; so loudly did they speak that their voice could not be ignored, indicating the way forward to resolve future political stalemates.

Noteworthy also is that Senegal will now have its first fully-fledged Senegalese ‘first lady’. Mrs Sall, born Mareme Faye, is indeed a true daughter of the land, who will, as the talk of the town has it, bring the enchanting smell of Senegalese women’s incense to the presidential palace. This also breaks the long tradition of French first ladies, pervasive in this former French colony. Is this also an omen of an end to FrançAfrique, the French-African political mafia infamous for its closed-door deals? Doubtful, given that some contend that Sall’s campaign financing came from the French group Bolloré [Fr.], reportedly desperately trying to regain control of Dakar’s Autonomous Port, after President Wade’s son, Karim, had placed it in the hands of Dubai World’s DP World.

Malaysians who voted for change would not take an UMNO-instigated coup lying down. Just imagine the students’ uprising alone. The reaction from an increasingly vocal youth guarantees the failure of a coup and the UMNO’s everlasting disgrace, should they continue to bulldoze their way through in complete disregard for the people’s wishes.

A peaceful transition scenario with Najib to take responsibility

Some in UMNO are optimistic of a peaceful transition. They say that if UMNO-BN loses, then Najib would be forced to resign immediately. UMNO would need a scapegoat and Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor would have to take the fall. If they refuse, then UMNO will use its “internal mechanism” to bring the duo down. The power brokers know that if the loss was blamed on Najib’s weak leadership, all they would need to do is to ‘sacrifice’ him, which they would happily do while leaving their business empires intact.

After all, to their thinking, UMNO-BN can always make a comeback with a new and better image. Then, reformed and cleansed into a new leaf, UMNO can better take on Pakatan in GE-14. This scenario has been played out in several other countries like Taiwan, Philippines, Uganda, Jamaica or even USSR, where there was a regime change but without much bloodshed, unlike the Arab Spring.

So whether Malaysia enjoys a peaceful transition or follows in the footsteps of the Arab Spring countries, the reality and eventual outcome will still be the same. A regime change would take place whether Najib and UMNO likes it or not, and the changeover to a new Pakatan federal government would follow through regardless of the obstacles, including bloodshed, thrown at Anwar and team by their foes.

If Najib and UMNO admit defeat peacefully, it would of course be easier for Pakatan and better for Malaysia in every way. If they refuse to, then there will likely be a reprisal of the Arab Spring situation although on a much less violent scale and of a very short-lived duration by comparison.

People will also revolt if UMNO tries to bribe their way through

There also other more sophisticated views, which perhaps depict the situation more realistically. Some pundits predict that in the event of a Pakatan win, Najib, Mahathir and Daim are bound to rush off to the Palace to beg the King to grant them control of Parliament on the basis that Umno is the political party with greatest number of seats, and Pakatan cannot be considered because it is not a registered coalition.

Despite the constitution clearly stating that whomsoever commands the majority in the House gets to form the government, the King may be persuaded to agree with the trio, after which a massive round of horse-trading will take place. Mahathir and Daim are expected to offer huge sums to get MPs from the Pakatan to join them, and this has been the basis for recent speculation that UMNO had approached DAP for ‘unity talks’.

But not only will DAP be targeted, elected representatives from PAS and PKR will also be enticed. This is why, it is essential for the Pakatan to ensure they select only the reputable candidates – no more Zahrain Hashims, Hee Yit Foongs or Hasan Alis, please.

Unity government, but not mergers

At this point in time, Pakatan has said a unity government may be acceptable but not mergers. However, should UMNO persist and succeeds in buying the MPs they need to gain the majority at Parliament, they will still be unlikely to succeed, say other pundits.

The reason being that a regime change after 55 years would have to be a really momentous occasion, one that could only be prompted by a people who have had enough and really want a change. In other words, the people would be prepared to rise and fight for their rights, just like it has happened in Egypt’s Tahrir Square and in nearer-by Manila and Indonesia, where the people took action into their own hands to remove stubborn despots.

Some among the 222 elected representatives – which is the number of seats in the Malaysian Parliament – might privately dream of making instantaneous ‘big money’ from a desperate Umno, but make no mistake, they won’t get to enjoy the money. The people will revolt. Not for nothing did they go to the ballot boxes to choose the coalition of their choice, only to be let down and be denied by an unscrupulous few.

In event of a people’s revolt, UMNO would again be worse off than before – its image irreparably damaged and the flow of MPs will instead reverse to the Pakatan.

Dong Zong – another clear sign the people want change

So, UMNO can plot and scheme all it wants. Mahathir and Daim can get all their funds ready. Najib and Rosmah will play their own political game to try and keep their jobs for as long they can. But ultimately, it is up to the people to decide. The people voted the reps in and they have the right to vote the reps out.

As the Dong Zong rally held on Sunday underscored, it is not just Anwar Ibrahim or Pakatan Rakyat that UMNO and BN are fighting against and trying to suppress. It is the people themselves who are changing. Malaysians are embracing a new political consciousness and awareness, while finally speaking up about and totally rejecting the corruption that is now exemplified by UMNO.

At the Dong Zong rally, nearly 10,000 ordinary Chinese folk turned up to protest the lack of Chinese primary school teachers, even chasing away MCA Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong from the event. This rally – for the usually politically-timid Chinese – is a landmark event and a real warning for the UMNO-BN. It is the Chinese equivalent of the 2007 Hindraf rally where 30,000 Malaysians – mostly of Indian origin – protested against their economic and social marginalization by the UMNO government.

UMNO to make use of May 13 in its 66th celebrations?

Yet UMNO can be expected to ignore and sweep the event under the rug. Najib is even planning to celebrate UMNO’s 66th anniversary from May 1 to May 13, with the ominous choice of dates remarked upon by many Chinese who remember the May 13 riots of 1969, where UMNO Youth members had killed scores of Chinese civilians in Kuala Lumpur.

Speculation is rife Najib is trying to use the May 13 date to rally the Malays behind UMNO by using anti-Chinese sentiments. Already, the UMNO blogs are preparing the way with scare-mongering stories of an anti-Malay movement being secretly promoted by the opposition parties.

Although such race-centric strategy does not make sense, it has long been used by UMNO. UMNO cannot drop corruption because this has become the soul of the party. Thus, it has no choice but to rely on racial hatred. This is the only trump card that an UMNO blindsided by desperation sees in the pack. And this is why, UMNO will in all probability lose GE-13. It is still depending on the tricks pulled by Najib’s father in 1969, while the rest of Malaysia is already living in 2012.

As for the Pakatan, once the full result of the GE-13 is known, it must swiftly swear-in its MPs and take control of the country. Whether it will be blocked by the army and the police on UMNO’s orders is a different issue and needs to be solved separately. But Pakatan must seize the day, it must be tough and clear-minded. If UMNO refuses to cede power, and creates riots, Pakatan should play smart and not fall into UMNO’s trap. The United Nations, of which Malaysia is a member, will surely be watching and they will help to ensure order by putting pressure on UMNO.

Ultimately, Malaysians – living in the country and overseas – must step forward and show the world that a regime change was what they wanted and that it was Najib and UMNO that tried to twist the outcome and force them to accept otherwise. When the world responds, this will be the death blow and final disgrace for UMNO – an end it is unlikely to survive or ever recover from.

What next for Senegal?

Whether or not this marks the end of FrançAfrique, a new era now begins for the country of Senegal under its new, younger leadership. The challenges remain large and weighty: a dilapidated health sector, an education system in crisis, a non-performing economy highly dependent on petroleum imports, and an idle youthful population thirsty for jobs.

Will Sall rise to the task on all these challenges? Will he deliver on the substantive democracy that the Senegalese youth called for under their resonant slogan y’en a marre?

Sall has five years to show his true mettle. And whatever ensues, one fact remains certain: the new Senegalese citizenry, which the M23 has given birth to and whom we saw willing to fight to the death for its democracy and constitutional sovereignty, will be watching over him, alert and vigilant.


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