Archive for category Bridget Welsh
By Bridget Welsh
13 May 2016, 11:25 am
With the ‘landslide’ results of the Sarawak election last week, it would appear on the surface that Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has been given a political reprieve. His close ally Sarawak’s Chief Minister Adenan Satem secured an overwhelming majority of 72 out of 82 seats, or 87 percent of the seats.
The Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition gained 8.3 percent of the popular vote, to a total of 63.7 percent compared to the 55.4 percent it won in 2011.
It would seem that the message sent across the world was that Sarawakians support the BN. They appear to care little for corruption, abuse of power, an electoral system that relies on massive vote buying, gross distortions of electoral constituencies and abuse of political position against opposition alternatives.
They were not moved by one of the most serious global money-laundering scandals. In fact, while this may be true for some of the electorate, this reading of the election is not complete.
Read the rest of this entry »
7 May 2016
As Sarawakians head to the polls today, it is important to understand that the BN-created electoral constituencies in the state will significantly impact the result. Malaysia’s non-independent Electoral Commission (EC) has staked the system in its favour in how it has delineated and recently redrawn the state’s electoral boundaries.
Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s victory has been assured, but it will not be a win that is based on fairness or meet basic international standards of electoral integrity. This article looks at malapportionment and gerrymandering in Sarawak, and shows how those in office have manipulated the system to their advantage. Read the rest of this entry »
7 May 2016
More than any other state in Malaysia, Sarawak’s elections have been seen to be determined by money. Vote buying and patronage are deeply intertwined in the state’s political fabric, as many voters look at the election period as one of festivity and entertainment.
Booze is purchased, and bounty is shared. Projects are announced, and even more ‘development’ promises are made in arguably one of Malaysia’s most neglected states.
The 2016 campaign is similarly being affected by the use of resources and highlights how uneven the playing field is in this election. Given the seriousness of the 1MDB scandal and the use of these tainted funds in Malaysia’s 2013 election, understanding the role money plays in determining the electoral outcomes is more important than ever.
Money politics in Sarawak is not only intense; it is expensive. There is no question that the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) is using its control and access to resources to assure a victory in this Borneo state. Read the rest of this entry »
6 May 2016
While the Sarawak campaign may lack dynamism, the nature of the state’s politics has been transforming. Over the last 10 years, voting has changed considerably, with more support for alternatives and, importantly, greater engagement in politics.
The seats the opposition has won in state elections has increased from two in 2001 to 16 in 2011, with gains in Parliament from one seat in 2004 to six seats in 2013. The share of the popular vote won in Sarawak state elections jumped from 29 percent in 2001 to 44 percent in 2011.
Chief Minister Adenan Satem and his team, led by the head of the BN Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, aim to stop and reverse these gains, and in the process assure that the state remains a BN stronghold. By looking at voting behaviour, we can understand the electoral battlegrounds and the slowly-shifting sands of the Sarawak political landscape. Read the rest of this entry »
3 May 2016
As the lacklustre 11th Sarawak 2016 election campaign comes to a close on Friday, consistency rather than change has predominated.
Most Sarawakians on both sides of the political divide had made up their minds on how they will vote before the campaign began. So far, the campaign has done little to change their orientations, and even less to inspire Sarawakians to vote at all. Political parties have mainly relied on old strategies, offering little new in their engagement with the electorate. Read the rest of this entry »
22 Dec 2015
COMMENT Today marks the three-month anniversary of Pakatan Harapan – the revamped opposition coalition that is having difficulty getting off the ground. It is supposed to bring about hope, to galvanise like-minded Malaysians in the spirit of reform and cooperation to offer an electoral alternative. It is failing badly. As the year end approaches, it is valuable to examine why.
The fact that Harapan was formed out of disappointment with Pakatan Rakyat has marked the new coalition. Attention still centres on who was responsible for Pakatan Rakyat’s collapse, with the blame game a persistent dynamic. At the same time, there is denial that Pakatan Rakyat is over, with some individuals and parties unwilling to let go of the past.
These legacies of the past are debilitating Harapan. Rather than look forward, opposition parties in Harapan are continually focused on old wounds and battles. Fighting old friends now enemies is the norm, as old wounds are still raw. DAP attacks PAS. PKR insists that it can work with everyone (while in effect it is working with none as it stymies its supposed partners). Read the rest of this entry »
BY DATUK RAMESH CHANDER & BRIDGET WELSH, GUEST CONTRIBUTORS – 19 OCTOBER 2015
Ahead of the Government’s 2016 budget, Malaysia is staring down fiscal challenges unlike any that it has faced over its history as an independent nation.
In this special in-depth report, Datuk Ramesh Chander and Bridget Welsh examine whether Malaysia can resolve its economic woes, and offer several key reforms to get the nation back on track.
2015 – a year of economic decline
This year has seen tumultuous changes across the entire spectrum of the Malaysian body politic and economy. Unlike in earlier years of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s six-and-a-half year tenure, Malaysia’s economy is now seen to be in trouble, with contracting growth, rising inflation, continued high levels of capital flight, declining consumer and investor confidence, and a depreciating currency.
Read the rest of this entry »
By Bridget Welsh
Jul 31, 2015
COMMENT Najib Razak’s cabinet reshuffle was an expected step in the repertoire of many measures that the prime minister has used to stay in office.
In this manoeuvre, he has removed the immediate leadership threats among the Umno hierarchy, closed down the two avenues of negotiation involving the 1MDB scandal, and purportedly strengthened the ‘strongman’ dimensions of his leadership.
Many argue this Mahathirian move has secured Najib’s position by neutralising challengers. I disagree. In fact, Najib’s measures of late reveal weakness – not strength – and are likely to deepen his leadership crisis.
With the reshuffle, Najib has forged new alliances among the various factions in Umno. In the Umno party elections of 2013, Najib made a strategic alliance with Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s appointees and the former premier’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin to secure dominance over internal party opposition seen from the Mahathir Mohamad camp.
Najib managed to position considerable loyalists as division chiefs in the party contests, but did not fully secure control over the Supreme Council or have a majority of division chief loyalists on his own, relying heavily on allies to shore up his position. Read the rest of this entry »
By Bridget Welsh | 2:56PM Mar 18, 2015
The introduction of the hudud amendments today in Kelantan have yet another origin beyond democratic dynamics within the party. They are based on a calculated effort to win votes, namely to strengthen the support of PAS’s core supporters and to strengthen the position of PAS vis-à-vis the coalition partners inside Pakatan.
Ironically, the hudud measures do neither, and potentially undermine the party’s standing as a national party and within its own electoral base. In this second piece, I lay out how misguided the revitalized hudud initiative is for a political party whose stated aim is to hold national power.
Over-reacting to Umno pressure
In the defensive mode of the PAS party leadership, the party have been responding to others rather than setting its own course. The most effective actor influencing PAS has been Umno. Opting for offensive attacks, Umno has successfully convinced PAS that is it losing ground among Muslims. Read the rest of this entry »
Malaysia’s focus on stopping would-be fighters masks growing domestic support for Islamic extremists
By Bridget Welsh and Zachary Abuza
The Edge Review | 6 March 2015
When local papers reported last month that a 14-year old Malaysian girl had been stopped from heading to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State (IS) movement, the headlines quickly faded into the background.
Her thwarted departure was marked as another “success”, but there was little discussion of the factors shaping the IS movement within Malaysia. Are there domestic factors that contribute? Let’s take stock of what we know so far.
While Malaysia – in common with other Southeast Asian countries – does not rank among the top 20 countries involved in the fighting, its presence is large enough not to be dismissed.
So far 71 people have been detained in Malaysia for their alleged participation in IS, with 59 recorded as fighting. Six Malaysians have died, including its first suicide bomber. There have been enough volunteers from Malaysia and Indonesia that a Malay-speaking unit was formed. Two Malaysians were also identified in a grisly beheading video.
Read the rest of this entry »
DR BRIDGET WELSH | 3:22PM Dec 31, 2013
COMMENT As 2013 draws to a close, it has not been a good year for democracy in South-East Asia. Recent news has riveted on the protests in Thailand, where those dissatisfied with the current leadership of Yingluck Shinawatra and her amnesty provisions have taken to the streets rather than opt for a solution through elections.
Throughout the year, however, there have been worrying signs that the increase of authoritarian practices, intolerance, failings in governance and discontent from the public at large have been on the rise in the region.
While the Philippines celebrated one of the fairest and non-violence legislative elections in its history in May, two of the countries in the region experienced among the worst elections in their history.
Read the rest of this entry »
by Bridget Welsh
Jun 14, 2013
COMMENT One month after GE13, attention has turned to the Umno election. Rumours are already circulating about possible challengers to the ruling party’s No 1 post. While the Black 505 rallies continue to mobilise protest against the May 5 general election that many recognise as seriously flawed, the dominant political party is myopically focused on its party polls and who will lead the party after October.
The flurry of activity in recent weeks – from the call to make Umno more inclusive ethnically to the pleas for the return of the 2,000 delegates as electors (rather than 146,500 members) are all part of the now intensifying internal Umno political jockeying.
All eyes are on the contest for the top leadership position, especially given that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak performed poorer electorally compared to his predecessor and did not fully deliver on his promise of winning back Selangor and a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
More and more calls are being made to keep the two top positions uncontested. In Umno, however, the real politics is happening behind the scenes. The grassroots are mobilising for the first stage of the party electoral process – the divisional polls.
Despite the public rhetoric, current conditions point to a competitive contest, in which if conditions do not radically change, Najib will likely face a credible and substantive challenge to his position. Read the rest of this entry »
by Tommy Thomas
8:26AM May 10, 2013
COMMENT In assessing the results of the long-awaited 13th general elections, it is imperative that one considers the actual conditions under which the elections were conducted.
Uninformed observers, particularly from overseas, assume that because Malaysia has a Westminister-style parliamentary democracy, our elections are conducted freely, fairly and in the spirit of fair play.
The reality is that our elections are never held as they are in mature democracies like the United Kingdom, India or Australia.
They are rather akin to another Commonwealth country, Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe has been in power for some 33 years, and where the ruling party always wins because it thinks it has a divine right to rule, and will cheat to remain in power. Institutions intended to be independent and impartial have never acted independently and impartially. Read the rest of this entry »
by Bridget Welsh
6:19PM Apr 27, 2013
GE13 SPECIAL Apart from civil servants, another decisive group in GE13 are women. They comprise 51.7 percent of the electorate and regularly turn out in high numbers, especially in semi and rural areas.
In close races, how women vote can make the difference. Numerically, women are largely in the urban areas, but disproportionately they are more influential politically in the more rural areas, as men are often outstation for employment.
Let’s take a look at how women can shape and have shaped the election so far, recognising that they will make an important impact this election and the trends are moving against the BN. Read the rest of this entry »
by Bridget Welsh
2:08PM Apr 25, 2013
GE13 SPECIAL In caretaker Premier Najib Abdul Razak’s political targeting, one group has received special attention – civil servants. Why would those in the heart of government garner such special focus for an election? The reality is that in Malaysia’s close electoral races, civil servants can be decisive in shaping the final tallies. This is one of the groups that I will be highlighting as decisive in this campaign.
Over the past few years Najib’s administration has worked to stem the erosion of support from his traditional base of government employees with mixed results.
A decisive constituency
Civil servants make up 1.4 million voters, or 10.5 percent of the electorate. The civil service is made up of senior appointments, the police, army personnel, teachers, and a variety of industrial and manual (IMG) groups. There are also an estimated 657,000 government pensioners. Read the rest of this entry »
— Bridget Welsh
The Malaysian Insider
Nov 02, 2012
NOV 2 — In the last few years, both Malaysia and Singapore have been undergoing political liberalisation, evident from the increasing parliamentary representation of the opposition and more open political discussion. Yet, with this opening, the challenges the two neighbours face in liberalising are becoming clearer. One of the main obstacles involves dealing with the legacies of Lee Kuan Yew and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as their imprint on politics continues to overshadow current transformations. How do the legacies of the two strongmen constrain contemporary political change?
Lee and Dr Mahathir were successful leaders, delivering economic progress and giving their countries international prominence. However, views of these leaders remain divided, with some lauding them as political strongmen who delivered development and stability and others highlighting their excesses. This debate will continue, and likely intensify over time. Still, few dispute the fact that the two leaders profoundly shaped the countries they led. In order to understand contemporary politics in both countries, we need to look beyond these leaders as individuals or their tenures and appreciate how the strongmen continue to shape the two societies. Read the rest of this entry »
Oct 1, 2012
COMMENT Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has announced the second election primer budget full of goodies, extending from bonuses to civil servants to handouts to lower income households.
This budget is Najib’s latest fiscal effort to secure him a solid victory in the 13th general election that has to be held before the end of June next year.
The budget is a continuation of a historically unprecedented pattern of direct government transfers to woo political support that has broadened in scope, increased in amount and moved development policy from needs based initiatives to what appears to be a coordinated regime political survival programme.
Najib’s main campaign strategy to win political support has been to offer financial rewards, and he has used his position as premier in an attempt to buttress his political position.
With something for everyone, he is clearly trying to increase his popularity through a variety of populist initiatives. Given his priorities, will this budget actually secure his political fortunes? Read the rest of this entry »
By Bridget Welsh
Sep 6, 2012 | Malaysiakini
Malaysians celebrated 55 years of independence on Aug 31. Most did so the usual Malaysian way – with family and friends, along with good food and great friendship.
Despite high levels of political anxiety, angst and uncertainty, there is much to celebrate. Malaysia is a great country, with a proud history and warm wonderful people.
I celebrated the event in Ipoh, where Perakians showed me the fine hospitality of good cheer and company. It is clearly evident that Malaysia’s finest assets are its people.
Najib and Muhyiddin at a rally to celebrate country’s 55th Independence Day in Bukit Jalil StadiumThis year’s Merdeka was markedly different, however. The event became highly politicised, as both sides of the political divide used the occasion to woo supporters. The use of government resources for logos, songs and political slogans and politicking during the official celebration with Umno-like political speeches does not reflect well on the governing coalition. Read the rest of this entry »
By Bridget Welsh
Sep 5, 2012 | Malaysiakini
Pundits continue to speculate on the election timing, with views ranging from Prime Minister Najib Razak making a surprise announcement to speculation that he will go the full term.
One thing is certain: The polls have to be held before the end of June next year. The person who appears most reluctant to hold the polls is Najib himself. He is now Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister without his own electoral mandate.
The pressure to call the polls and deliver a comfortable majority remains intense. Najib’s predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was forced to resign when he failed to win two-thirds of the parliamentary seats in the 2008 GE.
Based on fieldwork and polling, of the 222 seats up for grabs, 84 percent of them are “competitive” – and with the BN and the opposition having about the same number of “safe seats”. Read the rest of this entry »
Bridget Welsh | May 6, 2012
With well over 100,000 people gathering last week for electoral reform in the largest street protest in the nation’s history – and the event marred by violence by both state and non-state actors alike – Malaysian politics has reached an important impasse.
The Bersih 3.0 rally and its aftermath reveal that the path ahead for Malaysian politics will grow even more contentious and complex. As the different ‘Bersih stories’ pour in, ranging from ‘ordinary’ heroism to the darker accounts of beatings and abuse of power, the move of Malaysian politics outside of the realm of elite to the streets and social media is both empowering and scary.
Prime Minister Najib Razak’s decision not to accommodate the concerns of the protesters last week, and even to demonise their actions, now prods Malaysia further along the road to its day of destiny, where the political fate of Malaysia’s 54-year government will be determined. So far, the routes chosen are one of confrontation rather than compromise, making resolution to differences even more difficult. Read the rest of this entry »