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On the sixth anniversary of the historic 14th General Election (GE14), Project Stability and Accountability for Malaysia (Projek SAMA) congratulates Malaysians for ending one of the world’s longest electoral one-party states in 2018.

Achievements besides disillusions and frustrations 

Projek SAMA empathises with Malaysians who feel disillusioned and frustrated with broken election promises by politicians and political parties, resurgence of corrupt and majoritarian (winner-takes-all) practices, and intensified ethno-religious tensions fanned by irresponsible politicians. The broken election promises includes one made by both PH and BN that the appointment of members of the Election Commission would be reviewed by Parliament. 

Notwithstanding these disappointments, Malaysia has become better than if Najib Razak had stayed in power and Malaysia had continued to be milked by the multinational pack of wolves in Putrajaya, Abu Dhabi and Wall Streets. 

True, the abuse of pardon procedures had led to the controversial partial pardon given to Najib, and now even an attempt to free him in the name of home detention.

Notwithstanding this, Malaysia has set a great precedence in the rule of law: even a Prime Minister can and will go to jail when he or she breaks the law. In baby steps, we are turning the rule of law from theory to reality.

More freedom, more stability?

Our challenge today is to preserve the fruit of democratisation: how can we make Malaysia more stable when we get more freedom after the 2018 regime change?

Some now believe that more democracy will only bring more instability to Malaysia. They miss the old days of authoritarianism and corruption where things were more controlled and predictable.

At Projek SAMA, we believe democracy and stability can go hand-in-hand, but we must know what to change and work strategically towards it. First, we need to dismantle the majoritarian political structure that drives both political machination and identity politics. Second, we need to build trust across communities so that we can have political stability and social harmony.

Dismantling Majoritarianism

Majoritarianism refers to not the power of ethnic majority, but the winner-takes-all practices, which allow the winners (political majority) to maximise their powers, interests and agenda instead of accommodating and reconciling with the losers (political minorities). Naturally, the losers would likely feel they have been pushed to the corner and they should fight back bitterly. 

Majoritarianism in Malaysia is embodied by the super-powerful Federal Government, the controlled Dewan Rakyat, the rubber-stamp Dewan Negara, the resource-poor state governments, the appointed local governments, the Attorney General who doubles up as the Public Prosecutor, the highly-politicised Police and MACC, and the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system, made worse with flaws of malapportionment and gerrymandering.

Before 2018, this structure was used to suppress the Opposition – both multiethnic and  monoethnic – and to provide an assurance of Malay political dominance. When the one-party rule of UMNO was replaced by a multiethnic government in 2018, the majoritarian structure stayed intact and cause a deep fear amongst the Malay-Muslims that they would political, economic, and social powers. This paved way eventually for the Sheraton Move.

Now that we have a replay of 2018 – a multiethnic government (Madani) is facing a monoethnic opposition, dismantling majoritarianism — to alleviate the Malay-Muslims’ majority, to create a level playing field, and to encourage competition of policy ideas – is a pressing need. Major changes must be carried out before the 16th General Election (GE16), which latest must be called within 60 days when Dewan Rakyat stands dissolve on full term by December 18, 2027. 

We call upon the coalitions/party in both the Madani Government – PH, BN, GPS, GRS and Warisan – and the Opposition – PN – to negotiate a cross-party roadmap of institutional reforms that would strengthen the four pillars of our political structure: constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and federalism. 

Unless politicians and political parties are incentivised to compete on policy ideas on equal footings, they would naturally compete on identity politics (ethnicity, religion, language, region, lifestyle) and patronage, eventually detrimental to the future of all Malaysians.

As our little tribute to Malaysians on the sixth anniversary of May 9, 2018, Projek SAMA launched a 85-page comparative study titled “Fixed Term Parliament: Lessons from Eight Legislatures” by our member and Sunway University young legal-political scholar Wo Chang Xi. We advocate for a minimalist Fixed Term Parliament Act that would make elections date more predictable and shut the door on the Dubai Move and similar machinations driven by parliamentarians’ Statutory Declarations (SDs). The report is downloadable at

Building Trusts 

We must also build trusts across communities, as society is being torn apart by toxic majoritarian politics and international geopolitical conflicts. We will be witnessing many culture war battles like the KK Mart storm with three unpunished Molotov Cocktail bombings. If we do not smartly defuse communal tensions, we will sink into culture wars, like those that have torn apart countries from America to Europe and even derailed their economy. 

To keep our society stable and harmonious after democratisation, we must promote both empathy and strategic thinking. Malaysians must learn to translate anger and frustration into strategic thinking, expression and actions. We must also fight off conspiracy theories, misinformation and cynicism. Together we can build trust across communities, as in the ‘Maaf Zahir Batin 365 days’ (#MZB365) initiative spearheaded by civil society groups and media houses.

We have each other as best companion

Neither dismantling majoritarianism nor building trust across communities would be easy. But Malaysians can and will rise to occasions when the going gets tough. At the darkest days of the Covid-19, Malaysians launched the beautiful “Kita Jaga Kita” movement to help each other. When our lives and livelihood were threatened by a deadly virus, we united and fought back. There was no room for the mongers of culture wars.

Projek SAMA has full confidence in the wisdom, compassion and courage of ordinary Malaysians. Like digital technology, democratisation gives us more freedom. We can and will make the country more stable. Let not the setbacks before our eyes wear our determination to make the country better, as Malaysians had shown in the five mass rallies of Bersih. 

In this common journey for a better future, we have each other as the best companion. We will do it again.

Happy May 9, Malaysia! 

Issued by:

Projek SAMA

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