Bersih 2.0 is Najib’s biggest challenge

By Ooi Kee Beng
July 04, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JULY 4 — As July 9 looms closer, the administration of Malaysia’s Premier Najib Abdul Razak feels itself more and more pushed into a corner.

This coming Saturday threatens to be a day of reckoning for his administration, which from the beginning preferred tweaking the system to reforming the system. Now, two years after he took power from Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, another leader who failed to live up to his own reformist image, he is running out of options.

At the same time, many of his countrymen have run out of patience. Even those sitting on the fence had been hoping against hope that the Barisan Nasional would be able to somehow reverse the degradation of governance that the country has suffered since the days of Dr Mahathir Mohamed.

A non-government organisation calling itself Bersih 2.0 is arranging a huge demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on July 9 to demand electoral reform. The first time such a rally happened was on November 10, 2007. That had amazing results. An estimated 40,000 people took to the streets wearing yellow to symbolise loyalty to the King, not the government.

A huge Hindu rights rally followed a few weeks later and the impetus from these protests almost floored the Barisan Nasional government in the general election that followed soon after.

Now with the many deliberate signals sent by Prime Minister Najib recently that fresh elections might be around the corner, there is reason to believe this second Bersih rally will hold great consequences for the country’s democratic development. The government certainly believes so and has been making arrests for offences such as wearing yellow T-shirts and even the “hidden” wearing of the apparently seditious apparel.

Solidarity rallies in support of Bersih 2.0 are planned in Seoul, Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Osaka, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and perhaps other places as well. In Kuala Lumpur, at least twice the number of participants as before is expected to march for fairer elections.

As before, a memorandum with eight demands will be handed to the King. No demonstration permit has officially been sought by Bersih 2.0 or Perkasa, the right-wing Umno-supported group that will be carrying out a counter demonstration.

Umno Youth, which under Mr Khairy Jamaluddin will also hold its own march on that day, has formally applied for a permit.

In what seems like a bad overreaction, Home Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has banned Bersih and arrested members of the Parti Socialis Malaysia while taking no action against Umno Youth and Perkasa, despite threats of racial violence from the latter.

Perkasa’s eccentric leader, Mr Ibrahim Ali, has been issuing warnings to Chinese about taking part in the demonstration. This makes little sense since a large majority of the marchers are expected to be followers of Parti Islam SeMalaysia.

In truth, the government’s unwillingness in recent months to charge Mr Ibrahim with sedition or take the Umno newspaper Utusan Melayu to task for making statements of this kind, has been a source of anger for many.

Electoral fairness

To be sure, demanding electoral reforms has shown itself to be a cogent way of mobilising Malaysians and increasing their political involvement. There are different reasons for this.

First, a democracy’s credibility and efficacy depends on the perceived fairness of the electoral system and Malaysia’s has not met that for a long time now. This point is intuitively understood by the common man and woman.

Second, electoral fairness is an issue that does not turn racial easily and has therefore functioned well as a lightning rod for general discontent.

Third, there have been many by-elections in Malaysia and these cannot help but showcase official disregard for clean and fair elections.

What Prime Minister Najib should be learning from this is that his barrage of reform terms — 1Malaysia, New Economic Model, Economic Transformation Program or Government Transformation Program — suffers a serious credibility problem. His coalition may not have lost much ground but it has not gained any either, as the recent Sarawak state election showed. Now in his third year as prime minister, his failure to be decisive on reform is perceived as conscious policy, and not the result of inexperience or bad advice.

His nemesis — Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition coalition — has survived three impressive years and more and more Malaysians now believe that elections can lead to change even when the dice are loaded in the government’s favour. Should the demanded reforms be carried out, the ruling Barisan Nasional would lose more ground in the next elections.

To conclude, the fourth and most important reason for civil society to call for electoral reforms is that the demands are clearly sensible.

The fact that things are now coming to a head and the police are making arrests with no credible legal grounds, shows the inefficacy of parliamentary debate in Malaysia today and the government’s inability to reverse the wave of dissension that has been growing since before the first Bersih demonstration in 2007. — Today

  1. #1 by novice101 on Monday, 4 July 2011 - 11:00 pm

    It is Najib and Hisham who pushed themselves into a corner! Their own fear of meeting the same fate as Mubarak, Gaddafi and Assad propelled them to employ repressive, arbitrary measures against anything connected with Bersih.

    They think the people are manipulated by Bersih, when in actual fact, the people are repelled by their irrational, wild statements and actions. The people are also exasperated by their refusal to act against wrong doers who are out to create problems for the nation.

    They still have not seen the true picture and are still adamant to make Bersih the bogeyman.

  2. #2 by voice2009 on Monday, 4 July 2011 - 11:04 pm

    EC must be reform clean, fairness and transparent

    It is a very urgent matter

    Malaysia have a debt of over 400 billions

    If debt keep increasing caused of corruption by the corrupted politicians, stealing, robbing

    They corrupted politicians don’t finish

    We Malaysian and Malaysia finish in deep debt bankrupt

    One way ticket only

    Make your choice

  3. #3 by monsterball on Monday, 4 July 2011 - 11:44 pm

    Now Najib knows Malaysian Chinese do not trust him….he appeals to Malaysian Indians to trust him.
    He forgot school text books call Indians..pariahs.
    He separate the races and talk politics…and we must attack him based on each race…until we change the government and like Anwar said…it will be People’s Parliament and all will be known as Malaysians only.
    This scares Najib besides one word ..”BERSIH” for the past one month.

  4. #4 by dagen on Monday, 4 July 2011 - 11:59 pm

    Jib and umno kept on shadow boxing their seemingly endless stream of virtual enemies and in consequence they hv practically boxed themselves into a corner of the boxing ring.

    Now the latest development, agung was dragged into the scene by of course umno again. And umno, through their ever loyal police announced arrogantly that they will no longer talk to anyone on the bersih issue. Oh yeah. Agung now wants the talk to continue. That is a slap in umno’s face.

    And another slap was delivered when ambiga said the rally would be called off if agung directs so. There jib. What plot is there to overthrow agung, as your loyal umnoputras and blind supporters so loudly declared.

    And yet another slap was delivered. This time again by agung himself. Overthrow the agung? Umno is that what you are concerned? But look. The agung himself does not appear perturbed at all. In fact far from it. Agung wants you umno to talk to ambiga, the lady behind the bersih movement.

    And a further slap. This time by me, as a member of the taxpaying rakyat. Ambiga is prepared to listen to and obey the king. What about you umno? What have you done to the numerous recommendations made by the agung through the many commissions set up in his name and under his authority? You have the audacity to complain about others? You have the audacity to talk about defending the king?

    Honestly, the rally should proceed no matter what. This is my personal view of course. I am fed up of the stupid umno.

  5. #5 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 1:15 am

    Of course Najib is afraid. Once the dirty tricks of vote rigging are removed and the EC is compelled to follow certain basic transparent guidelines, Umno/BN will see its votes plunge undermining its effort to regain two thirds majority in parliament.

  6. #6 by bruno on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 1:55 am

    When rats are pushed together into a corner they can be very dangerous animals.Very more dangerous than a pack of crazy sex crazed hounds chasing after a female dog on heat.

  7. #7 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 3:09 am

    Bersih is already a success EVEN before July 9. If I were Najib, I would not be sleeping every night and would be planning my exit, checking my bank accounts, emergency flights for my entire family and buying a super-duper fast paper shreder. He can only chose how to lose, not win anymore. He is done. Its not even a challenge anymore. Najib/UMNO/BN/Perkasa has lost to Bersih.

    The issue to Najib is just how to lose – do he lose badly or does he lose by leaving something behind, be at least a patriot rather than a disgusting over self-indulgent and self-centred over-cynical perverted politician that Mahathi gave birth to the species during his tenure. If he is the latter then the rally may have to go on and people die. BUT if he is the former, then he accept defeat, the decisions are much simpler – scary for him but much simpler and we all go home safe and reassured that the dream of Bangsa Malaysia is no dream but remain real and alive as it was at one time.

  8. #8 by Joshua on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 6:16 am

    the skeleton has been exposed especially when the Agung finally shows his face in the imminent crisis of chaos.

    I had been expecting this impossible scenario to arise involving the Agung after the disquiet in Bersih 2007.

    So what are next developments are going to be ugly and disturbing and coming none other than from BN in Rahman as two/three are still living. go there for more.

    RCI on EC and IGGG are the best options now.

    Anarchy appears inevitable if the present status under UMNO is retained any longer.

  9. #9 by voice2009 on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 7:30 am

    They said “can be negotiation on the table”

    The BERSIH demand is not a negotiation

    The BERSIH demand are the wishes of MALAYSIAN

    Malaysian want it implement

    It is not an negotiation submit to corrupted politician for consideration

    Malaysian want it implement for the good of MALAYSIA future

  10. #10 by negarawan on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 7:42 am

    Bersih is not about one person but the rakyat. The rally must go on for the good of our future!

  11. #11 by dagen on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 8:17 am

    Negotiation, umno? Negotiate what? Doesnt negotiation means compromise? Talk? Well, certainly. Anytime, umno. Compromise? Phaark off will ya. Freedom. Fairness. Equality. There are simply no compromise for these fundamental rights.

  12. #12 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 8:29 pm

    D score is BERSIH 2.0 1 : 0 NR/HH/UmnoB/BN

    Much thanks 2 NR/HH/UmnoB/BN/Perkosa 4 baring their true racist corrupt color while inadvertently highlighting d good intents of BERSIH 2.0 (even DYMM YdPA said so)

    All d lies n dirty high handed tricks dat NR/HH used r exposed 4 all 2 C
    Shame too 2 MCA, Gerakan, MIC, etc – all useless, no priciple, cowards/serfs of UmnoB

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