A Third Force in Malaysian Politics

third_force.jpgI’ve had, for many years now, supported a BN candidate, if for no other reason than because, while he could have done a much better job, i did honestly feel that he has done a good enough job for me. 

When my constituency had an UMNO MP, it was well looked after — roads were always kept clear of potholes, the MP fought against the development of a hypermarket in an inappropriate location, the MP attended weekly PTA meetings to share his support and opinions, and community grievances were generally responded to promptly. 

I’ve always said a good man is a good man, regardless of his political affiliation. Unlike many others i’ve met, i don’t think we should sack a good employee from his job just because we don’t like his boss. That’s just me i guess, and everyone is welcome to their own views on the matter.

In recent times, i’ve since moved to a new area, and the MP is a man from PKR. He is also a good man, doing a lot for the community and doing what he can to ensure the people under his care are well taken care of. I’ll have no doubts giving him my vote when the time comes, either.

Should i ever decide to change my position and cast my vote based on how i receive the candidate’s political party, then the choices are very thin for someone like me. Everyone who reads this blog knows where i’m coming from — i have a dislike for the race politics and corruption in Barisan Nasional, and i’ve also yet to develop a taste for what i see in the Opposition. PKR is a pot calling the kettle black, PAS will never abandon it’s call for an Islamic state, and DAP seems very thin on good leaders beyond the charismatic and powerful personalities of Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh.

Given this landscape, i’m glad i’ve always taken the position of voting the candidate, rather than voting the party.

So when Raja Petra speaks of a “Third Force” it piqued by interest. The problem with a 2-way contest in an election is that its always possible for you to dislike both parties and be stuck without an alternative. Often, you then end up voting for the party you feel is less bad than the other and pray for the best.

This is sub-optimal, at best. And it ignores a very, very powerful tool in parliamentary politics — the control over the balance of power. Let me explain this concept a bit more. 

Parliamentary politics is very simple for our members of parliament — every MP votes the party line, even if the issue is against their personal conscience. Very rarely, the leader of the party will allow for a “vote of conscience“, and allow the party MPs to vote however they feel best. 

Voting the party line is one of the reasons why Malaysia is in the mess it’s in — on critical issues such as the NEP, i’m sure that “good and fair (wo)men” in BN probably had doubts over the whole plan because of how it greatly disadvantages the non-Bumiputeras. But everyone had to toe the party line when it comes time to vote, or risk losing the support of their party at the next election.

A Third Force may be the answer to such situations, acting as the “conscience” of the country. In a scenario where BN controls 35% of the Parliament and PR another 35-40%, a Third Force with 10-15% will hold the balance of power. It will have the power to act as a check and balance to both sides.

Of course, this puts a tremendous burden and responsibility on the Third Force. Its leaders must be impeccable, incorruptible. It’s internal mechanisms and controls must be top class — i imagine a party full of real professionals. Real doctors. Real accountants. Real lawyers. Bloggers like RPK, or of the caliber of Din Merican. Given portfolios in their party that actually match their skill-set rather than as a matter of convenience and seniority. Highly successful, highly educated individuals who have come from the ground, and are encouraged to remain as grounded as possible so that they continuously know the pulse of the people and what really matters. Not like Azmin Ali who seems to have forgotten about the plight of his constituents.

Beholden to no one but their constituents and the Malaysian constitution, they will cast their vote in Parliament in support of the party that is doing the Right Thing for the country. Of course, the Right Thing changes, depending on the issue and the timing. Similarly, the support of the Third Force will change when required. Neither powerhouses of BN or PKR will be able to have things their own way, they will need to lobby and convince the conscience of Parliament.

From what i’ve seen of Zaid Ibrahim, he seems like a reasonable candidate to lead the charge. Openly critical of BN when he was a cabinet minister, he hasn’t been shy to pull the punches with PKR either. A wealthy lawyer by profession, he fits the profile i described — successful on the back of his own efforts, well educated and professional. From what i’ve heard from many other fellow professionals, he is a man they most admired in BN while he was there, he is the man they most admire in PKR today. Probably the only other person i can think of who has this sort of universal appeal is Anwar Ibrahim himself. 

Is Malaysia ready for a Third Force? It may sound cliche, but the journey of a thousand miles does really start with a single step. Many, a great many years of sowing the right seeds and ideas lie ahead before a valid and significant Third Force in Malaysian politics will become relevant. It took the Liberal Democrats the better part of 30 years to do it in the UK. Does Malaysia need a Third Force? Yes, i think it does.

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2 thoughts on “A Third Force in Malaysian Politics

  1. “Parliamentary politics is very simple for our members of parliament — every MP votes the party line, even if the issue is against their personal conscience. Very rarely, the leader of the party will allow for a “vote of conscience”, and allow the party MPs to vote however they feel best.”
    May I refer you to Reject all BN candidates as long as BN whip maintained all the time where I postulated that a BN MP cannot represent his constituency, the Rakyat, but because of the whip, represents the interest of the executive.
    I would like to draw your attention in particular to this: DAP MP allowed to vote according to conscience


  2. http://pray-for-malaysia.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-i-am-supporter-of-dap-whip-is-not.html
    Lim Kit Siang’s response to a query about DAP whip:
    Where the issue concerns party policy, the MP must vote according to party line
    Where the issue is in the party manifesto (a document stating what the party would do given to voters prior to an election), the MP must vote consistent to what is stated in the manifesto
    Where the issue is a matter of conscience, for example religion, the MP is free to vote according to conscience
    the former Parliamentary Secretary to YB Lim Kit Siang also said that in the past, where something tabled at the Parliament was in the interest of the country, they have voted with the BN (Barisan Nasional)


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