There is a lot of buzz in the blogosphere (strangely quite little in the “real world”) about the role the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) will have to play in the coming elections. Some people say that if MCLM put up candidates to contest, it will create three-way fights that will benefit BN (on the assumption that votes for the MCLM candidate will be drawn from those who would otherwise vote for PR). Some people say that MCLM is a great boon for the Malaysian public as the candidates it will offer to PR to run for seats in the election are the very best people of our society. Quality, so to speak.
There are a few issues here that probably need closer inspection.
- Malek Imtiaz is the first MCLM candidate. A really smart guy, an excellent lawyer, and an all-around Mr Nice Guy Activist. The question is, if he is so good, why hasn’t he been tapped up for leadership before this? Why hasn’t BN recruited him, why hasn’t anyone in PR? Perhaps because, no matter how smart and good he is, he isn’t “electable”? Fighting a case to help a Muslim convert into Christianity. The sort of thing that i’m sure would make the Malay Muslims of both sides of the political divide twist their panties in discomfort. Imagine him meeting Nik Aziz and shaking his hand, “Good job there, mate. Love your work. Just hands off any PAS Muslim, alright?”
- Let’s not delude ourselves — PR is just BN-lite. Maybe even a bit less cohesive on the religious-cultural front, if the noises coming from Mr Karpal Singh are anything to go by; the issue of the Islamic state has to be settled sooner or later. Being BN-lite, it uses the same internal political structure in determining who gets what where and how when the General Election comes about. Generally, the people who get tapped to run for federal seats have done their time for the party, and hold party positions of leadership in their constituencies. Here we come with MCLM and their list of “30 candidates”, “Here you go Anwar, 30 great guys and gals. Much better than 30 of your people, who we’ll just bypass in favour of these 30, ok?” There is no way that will be taken well by the internal machinations of PR.
If PR refuses to accept these 30, MCLM will put some, if not all of them up for election, thus creating the 3-way fights PR is afraid of. To say that MCLM doesn’t mean much would be to underestimate it as an organization. MCLM has a legion of bloggers, social activists and commentators supporting it, because what it’s doing really does make sense: identify the best candidates and put them up for election. The impact this may have during GE13 is probably nil in terms of actually winning any seats, but those that support it will take it as a point of principle to proceed anyways. They would rather lose than vote for “Dumb and Dumber” that more often than not become the only choices available to the rakyat on polling day.
PR is in a hard spot right now, as MCLM gathers steam, and if the quality of the MCLM candidates all happen to be of the caliber of its first. Ignore MCLM, and risk 3-way fights, and a huge loss in terms of the cyber efforts that the MCLM can muster. Embrace MCLM and risk alienating their own internal political structure which rewards loyalty to the party, and perhaps a certain amount of patronage amongst its members.