Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Malaysia last week, in the company of other ASEAN, Asian and Pacific leaders like President Xi Jingping of China, President Barack Obama of the United States, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia for the ASEAN and Post-ASEAN Summits.
Modi is the fifth Prime Minister of India resulting from a change of government through the ballot box in a general election.
The first time India had a change of government through the ballot box was in the sixth Indian general election in 1977 when the Indian Congress which had ruled India for 30 years was voted out of office, replaced by an Opposition coalition headed by Morarji Desai of Janata party.
Indian Congress under Indira Gandhi won back federal power in the seventh Indian general election in 1980 but BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leading an Opposition coalition captured New Delhi in the 11th to 13th Indian General Elections from 1996 – 1999.
Indian Congress leading a coalition of parties won back the Indian Federal Government in the 14th and 15th General Elections in 2004 and 2008 under Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.
The last change of government through the ballot box was in the 16th Indian General Election in 2014 with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
This means that in 63 years in sixteen General Elections, there had been five changes of government between the Indian Congress and Opposition coalitions.
In comparison, Malaysia has held 13 General Elections in 56 years but there has not been a single change of Federal Government in Putrajaya form the UMNO-led coalition, which makes Malaysian democracy as a most abnormal one.
Malaysia cannot claim to be a normal democracy unless it is possible to achieve a change of power through the ballot box. In fact, a well-known scholar has advanced the “two turnover test” for a functioning democracy, i.e. to pass this test, political power must peacefully change hands to the opposition, and back again, as such a test establishes that the political elites are willing to abide by the “rules of the game”.
Are Najib and UMNO prepared to abide by the “rules of the game” and accept their place in the Opposition if the voters in the 14 general election decide that Pakatan Harapan should form the Federal Government in Putrajaya?
Up to now, UMNO leaders have been quite ambivalent on this question, as they had been breathing fire and brimstone and warning of the apocalypse if UMNO loses power.
The recent statement by former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir that no party should rule forever in a democratic country is a belated but salutary acknowledgement of the importance of having a two-coalition system, where power can be transferred in a peaceful transition through the ballot box.
Mahathir’s meaning cannot be clearer with his later statement that UMNO has degenerated into a party merely belonging to Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his utter disregard of the voices not only of dissenting UMNO stalwarts, but the three million UMNO members and 21,000 UMNO branches.
For these reasons, despatching UMNO to the Opposition benches in the 14GE will be doing both UMNO and nation a great favour as it will not only promote healthy growth and development of democracy in Malaysia, it will also give UMNO a chance for reform and regeneration.
DAP Negri Sembilan State Chairman and DAP National Organising Secretary, Anthony Loke tells me that in the 13th General Election, Pakatan Rakyat won 48% of the votes cast in the State Assemblies compared to 52% secured by Barisan Nasional – with PR winning 14 of the 36 State Assembly seats or five seats short of forming the Negri Sembilan State Government.
The Pakatan Rakyat of DAP, PKR and PAS is now history because of the refusal of PAS after the 13th General Election to abide by the Pakatan Rakyat operational principle of consensus and the Pakatan Rakyat Common Policy Framework particularly on the hudud and local government election issues.
In fact, the PAS President even refused to endorse Sdr. Anwar Ibrahim as the PR candidate for Prime Minister of Malaysia and PKR President, Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the Mentri Besar for Selangor.
The future rests with Pakatan Harapan, comprising DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara.
I would urge the Negri Sembilan Pakatan Harapan to seriously and urgently formulate a blueprint to capture the Negri Sembilan State Government in the 14GE and a manifesto for the state, as well as lay out a strategic plan of action for the three parties in Pakatan Harapan to work systematically to achieve this goal.
(Speech at the “Joint Deepavali celebration/Solidarity with Lim Kit Siang/Mana R2.6 billion?” gathering organized by Nilai DAP Branch in Nilai, Negri Sembilan on Sunday, 29th November 2015 at 9 pm)