Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I think, if asked to say what makes me saddest about my country, my answer would be the nature and level of political dialogue in general, and the upcoming election in particular. The God-honest truth is, to me, this election is really a choice between a rock and a hard place. 

Now, let's not be hasty to judge my calculus here. If I could vote in the election, my vote would go to the Opposition coalition, but only in the interest of opening up the political climate and eventually forcing both parties to start coming up with really intelligent, non-populist policy discourse.

My belief is the Opposition is not going to really bring the change I'd like to see in this country. The truth is, they've based their pitch on two pillars: the first, that the National Alliance has ruled long enough, and the second, that the Alliance's long rule has led to unforgivable corruption in nearly every level of government.

The Opposition's contention on corruption is welcome and essential for the nation, but I wonder how much they are overstating their immediate ability to combat the problem.
This corruption focus has been the core of nearly everything the Opposition has talked about. Deficit growing too big? End corruption. Funds needed to improve public services. End corruption. And so on. You hardly hear much else from Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and Co.

Now, I'm not saying the increased heat on corruption is a bad thing. But there are two main reasons I won't give the Opposition as much credit for it as many others do. The first is the sheer scale of the problem. Much of the Opposition calculus underestimates the simple reality that in a nation where corruption is as prevalent as ours, getting rid of it is not going to happen as easily, quickly, or thoroughly as many of their other presumptive policies require. 

Second, after corruption, what then? If you ask me, much of what's in the Opposition's Common Policy Platform isn't really very different from what the National Alliance could come up with. No successful democracy can thrive with one party in support of heavy government intervention in the economy, and the other proposing more government intervention in the economy (which is clearly a separate issue from PARTY intervention in the economy). 

The Pakatan Rakyat's Common Policy Platform and their First 100 Day promises range from the  'not enough' to downright scary.
I want the abolition of the special rights and privileges. I want a serious discussion on ending any and all subsidies and price controls. I believe we need a party that's going to fight for a minimally sized federal government (again, which is quite different from fighting for keeping parties away from business). I believe we need a party that can start putting forward the case for ending most forms of redistribution of wealth, instead of simply deciding what's the best way to redistribute income. And I want parties to allow members to speak their minds freely, without being tossed out for challenging official party doctrine. 

Sometimes, I wonder if Mr. Ibrahim will have the political courage to  ask the people to do some difficult but necessary things.
I desperately want to see this somewhere, ANYWHERE, in our political situation. But I don't. So for me, an Opposition vote isn't a vote of faith in them, but more a desire that, with the rise of a real two party system, we can see a move towards some real, realistic policy. I'll credit the Opposition for their boldness and commitment to cleaner government, but Malaysia needs far more than just that.

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