There is currently a clamour in Malaysian politics for a ‘Third Force’. While I haven’t investigated and determined its origin, I suspect RPK to be the ‘promoter’ of such a movement. Of course I may be wrong but I’m sure Peter won’t mind me pointing my finger at him, for after all, what is kaytee’s mere suspicion in comparison to the government’s draconian persecutions against him.
I’ve heard RPK has even become a registered member of the British Liberal-Democrats, the vogue Third Force in that country’s political landscape. With RPK you will never know what he is up to, but you can bet he doesn’t do things like joining a British political party without a good reason connected with politics back here in Malaysia, or to be more precise, PKR politics and Anwar Ibrahim the politician.
Anyway, my humble opinion (naturally very insignificant when measured against those of blogging giants like RPK) is that it’s way way way too early to talk about a ‘Third Force’ in local politics, for the express reason we need to have two political forces or a two-party state for a considerable time, so that we may tire of both of them before we would, out of frustration with the policies of the two principal parties, visualize, suggest, promote, and embark on forming a ‘Third Force’.
In the UK, the voters have been so dissatisfied with both Labour and the Tories for so long, that the Lib-Dem’s political fortune has benefitted enormously from the voters' frustration. In Australia, the Democrats used to be the ‘Third Force’, a party which vowed to 'keep the bastards honest' ('bastards' being the Labour Party and Liberal-National Coalition). Alas, the Democrats has vanished from the Ausssie political scene.
But in the demise of the Australian Democrats lies a lesson, that there's danger in a ‘Third Force’ getting into political bed with one of the two main parties, as did its leader Senator Meg Lees when she became involved with John Howard's GST. It wasn’t the only reason that started the Democrats’ downfall but it certainly was the principal one (I'm simplifying the explanation here).
Because the numbers in the Senate were nicely balanced between the two main parties, John Howard’s ruling Coalition needed a couple of extra votes in the Upper House to pass legislations, like the GST. Prior to the GST, Independent Senator Brian Harradine was in a position with his single vote to twist the arms of PM John Howard for funding etc for his constituency whenever the PM wanted his support to get a few pieces of legislation through the Upper House. Harradine's disproportionate power must have led Meg Lees to believe the Democrats with its pack of senators would/should be in a far stronger position than Harradine to extract from the PM what the party wants for its constituencies.
She forgot one important factor – her party’s supporters wanted the Democrats to continue keeping the bastards honest, but with her involvement with Howard’s GST, she and her senators joined the Coalition 'bastards' as well, which spelt the beginning of the end of her party.
OK, back on track - so, please tell me, where’s the evidence Malaysia has a stable and mature two-party political system?
Yesterday I posted Quo Vadis Pakatan, to illustrate the illusion of this loose coalition as a cohesive block of political ideology, policies and personalities ready to offer itself to Malaysia as an alternative government.
Yes, it’s recognized that despite its lack of cohesiveness, Pakatan has done well in the last general election and in a number of by-elections, but its victories have been more the bonus of public disenchantment and frustration with the BN. Thus Pakatan has gained numerous seats by default of voters using their ballots against BN rather than for Pakatan. Even Pakatan leaders weren’t expecting their 82 seats victory in March 2008.
I just wonder how a Pakatan government would have been formed or progressed from that point, had it gained another 31 extra seats?
No doubt, after several days of shock and disbelief at their unexpected political fortune, the Pakatan squabble would have set in, letting loose the centrifugal forces of ideology and political avarice. Who knows, maybe even ‘Malay unity’ might have been realized (and I don’t have just PAS in mind). That’s the frightening possibility, given the unexpected election tsunami vis-à-vis an unprepared and as then, an un-unified Pakatan.
Even after two and one-half years, the Pakatan is still shifting and shaping to become a credible alternative government in waiting. Lamentably, it’s one without the consensus and nerve to form one of the fundamentals of an alternative political party, namely, a shadow cabinet. It evades this vital responsibility for no other reason that it fears the fallout of disagreement over power sharing among coalition members, its disintegration as a coalition.
Thus why talk about a ‘Third Force’ when there is not even a meaningful ‘Second Force’. And even if there is a ‘Second Force’ why would we require a ‘Third Force’ if we haven’t yet given fair opportunity for its policies to become mature – 2.5 years is hardly a fair spell to evaluate Pakatan’s policies and the success of their implementation against our humongous 52-years-deprived expectations.
To wit, there is no such ‘two party’ system in Malaysia yet – there is only one, namely UMNO and its non-Malay branches, with a scattering of smaller opposition parties like PAS, DAP, PKR and the even smaller PSM, SAPP, unless of course you want to consider PAS as the 2nd, DAP as the 3rd and PKR as the 4th Forces.
Don't forget those zillions of wannabe parties like kimmia, cinta Malaysia, etc wakakaka, all formed for no other reason than their respective leaders hoping to be a senator or deputy minister or even a parliamentary secretary in the BN government.
Then there's HRP or the remnants of Hindraf which believes it can become the dreaded powerful 'Third Force', holding the balance of power and being able to thus threaten its political bête noire, the DAP. Its leaders believe they can still marshal the once powerful force of Hindraf, not realizing most of their erstwhile supporters have returned to the BN banner.
OK, maybe HRP will lose for the DAP a few seats but it'll turn out to be another mosquito party. And the reason for its fall may be traced to the hubris of Uthayakumar who imagined he was a major mover and shaker, and is now more of a vindictive political spoiler.
The only party that could have been a credible ‘Second Force’ was the 1969 Gerakan Party. Quite frankly, Gerakan could have been the ruling party by 1980 if May 13 didn’t occur – which was why May 13 occurred!
Thanks to the cold brilliance and ruthlessness of Tun Razak, and the threat of withholding development funding for Gerakan-ruled Penang, he emasculated Gerakan’s potential by absorbing it into the (at that time) new Barisan Nasional. Look at how pathetic Gerakan is today, and that's the political brilliance of UMNO.
But with the formation of BN in 1972, which initially included PAS wakakaka, the DAP became the main ‘Second Force’ by default, but one which couldn’t progress beyond the image the BN propaganda had painted it as, a Chinese party. Even today, some so-called anti BN people are vehemently anti DAP. I suspect it’s because those DAP leaders are uncompromisingly disciplined like Spartan ascetics, refuse to be ethnocentric in their policies and generally incorruptible – bugger the DAP, they have very un-Malaysian traits, wakakaka.
Talking about the DAP, I have always lamented about, and been puzzled by Dr Syed Husin’s decision when he took his PRM into an incongruous merger with KeADILan. These two are hardly compatible ideologically, because PRM is democratic socialist while KeADILan, basically a splinter party of UMNO, is conservative Malay nationalism or central-right (of course today UMNO is far right!).
Additionally, some former PRM members in PKR have not been happy with Anwar’s cozy relationship with arch Zionist neocon Paul Wolfowitz. As I said, PRM and KeADILan were the most incongruous ideological pair for a merger.
The logical choice of a merger partner for Dr Syed Husin’s democratic socialist party would have been the PRM’s ideological twin, the secular, multi-racial, social democratic/democratic socialist DAP. Such a merger could have the potential to become a very credible ‘Second Force’.
Why Dr Husin or Karpal Singh-Lim Kit Siang didn’t see this possibility and thus seek a merger remains a puzzle. The nation missed a major opportunity for the emergence of a credible second main party in Malaysian politics a la the 1969 Gerakan.
Today, with PKR reverting back to its UMNO nature, I wonder how those former PRM and ex Suaram members in PKR feel.
Anyway, the existence of a ‘Second Force’ remains more of hope and optimism than a reality. So why bother to talk about a ‘Third Force’?
Maybe RPK has his reason to provoke discussion in that direction. He should (but of course he won’t) tell us why. Instead he has aired his outlandish (no doubt pretend) declaration to join Gerakan as a ‘Third Force’ if only it leaves the BN!