By Sim Why Jean, Khairul Syakirin Zulkifli, Research Analyst, Institut Masa Depan Malaysia
The 15th general election (GE15) is set to be the most important election in Malaysian history.
Given that the Covid-19 pandemic which has exposed strings of shortcomings in our socioeconomic conditions, infrastructure and technology, political will has emerged as one of the first, if not the most, important prerequisite for fundamental reforms.
Undoubtedly, resolving bread-and-butter issues under the backdrop of our nation’s recovery process requires critical intervention vis-à-vis a whole-of-nation approach.
Essential economic indicators across all 222 parliamentary constituencies revealed 106 parliamentary seats with high poverty incidences, 48 per cent of which are from Sabah and Sarawak.
In terms of unemployment, 80 parliamentary constituencies (36 per cent) were found to be below the national average of 4.6 per cent. In other words, the concept of fair and equitable distribution of the economic “cake” remains elusive.
It is, therefore, crucial for any government of the day to continue with inclusive and sustainable blueprints and policies, such as the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, to resolve whatever flaws and safeguard the lives and livelihoods of the people.
Prosperity, as said by former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, would not mean anything if everyone could not enjoy it and everyone should prosper together.
Flip-flopping policies insulated from changing priorities should be avoided at all costs, failing which Malaysia may endure an extremely lengthy path in pursuit of democratic accountability.
Should politicians continue to conduct business as usual, any efforts towards achieving a dignified economy for the people, in particular the B40 group, would be impossible.
Corruption remains one of the biggest challenges facing society. As cancerous as it is, it will not only undermine good governance of any government practices but also erode citizens’ trust towards leaders and the government.
The 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal is a prime illustration that has tainted Malaysia’s reputation right to this day.
Malaysia dropped five spots to rank 62 out of 180 countries in the global rankings of Transparency International Malaysia’s Corruption Perception Index, the second consecutive year it has declined in the rankings.
Most political coalitions are at critical crossroads heading into the general election. Gone are the days of one single party dominating with an outright majority.
If recent electoral trends are anything to go by, post-election negotiations between parties appear to be highly likely.
Nevertheless, in the absence of an anti-hopping bill, defections involving members of parliament are still taking place despite existing mechanisms provided for under the federal constitution.
This has resulted in political instability and uncertainty. To this end, a politically accountable ecosystem calls upon a greater commitment among all stakeholders.
Hence, moving forward, political parties must go for further reforms to ensure political stability and display concerted efforts to combat corruption and abuse of power.
With the next Parliament session later this month, the process of stakeholders’ consultation should be expedited to iron out intricacies of the proposed bills on anti-hopping and political funding.
In Singapore, anti-hopping legislation is enshrined under Article 46(2)(b) of the Singapore Constitution, while political financing is governed by the Political Donations Act 2000.
Towards this end, the function of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia should be empowered as checks and balances in areas of political financing to promote accountability and transparency.
Other possible reforms include reviving the implementation of local government elections. Several laws pertaining to local elections were passed in Parliament, including the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance 1950 prior to its abolishment through the passing of the Local Government Act 1976, which effectively allows state governments to appoint councillors directly.
Political education in schools, vocational institutions and universities can go a long way towards cultivating grassroots democracy.
It can enhance political literacy among youths while upholding the notion of nation-building through discourse on the federal constitution, elements of separation of powers and electoral process.
Come what may, GE15 serves as a pivotal point in charting the direction and shaping the future of Malaysia.
Political stability will be key to driving economic growth of the nation and safeguarding the welfare of every citizen.
Ultimately, a politically accountable and inclusive ecosystem must be premised on the best interests of the rakyat.
It must be able to fulfil the aspirations of all and sundry so that the fruits of shared prosperity can be enjoyed by all.