Can you believe it? I mean, honestly. Can you believe it? Just this Saturday a friend and I – her heading on to the mainland, me deciding against it – were talking about how dull it had been. Oooh boy! If gambling wasn’t so dang haram bookies all over the peninsula would be cleaning up this morning.
Okay, so Pakatan Harapan has won. Every lede in every story is going to be about how this is the first opposition win since independence and how Mahathir Mohamad ruled for 20+ years and fostered Najib Razak’s career. So we’ll gloss over that!
So how did Mahathir get this done? Could anyone have done it? Nope, I don’t think so. Voters fed up with Barisan Nasional would have turned to the opposition coalition anyway, of course, but it is that ‘Malay tsunami’ that carried PH over. Malaysian journos who have ventured far and deep out in the field (and felda) had told me that after awhile it was no longer a shock to find whole groups of local UMNO branch members proudly backing Mahathir. Only Mahathir could’ve done that. But, I like the way this newspaper put it – it was a ‘tsunami rakyat’.
What will a Pakatan Harapan government look like? No one is quite too sure. The manifesto released a few weeks ago revolved around GST, a slew of subsidies and efforts to dampen criticisms of Mahathir – including the introduction of term limits on prime ministers. But with a rag-tag coalition no one is too certain. So what, says Twitter. Cynicism is a feature of Malaysian political life and for many this is a celebration of Najib’s defeat, not necessarily Mahathir’s win. I think a lot of the coverage for international audiences is very ‘steady, steady, change doesn’t come immediately’, but for Malaysia I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many voters not aware that they won’t wake up in a different Malaysia tomorrow.
What happens now for Pakatan Harapan? Hopefully a thank you tour. The opposition won but they wouldn’t have been able to do so without the mobilisation of civil society, a lot of which was self-motivated. There’s also a whole lot of Malaysians abroad who stood at departure terminals in an effort to return ballots by hand after the tight deadlines imposed by the Election Commission made it unlikely postal ballots would make it back in time. Truly, civil society, and especially young people, make me cry I’ve never seen anything like it. Well done.
And Anwar Ibrahim? After losing a bid to be freed from jail back in March, Anwar has been sitting in prison waiting for this day. He is expected to be out of prison in early June. Securing his freedom (God, the irony!) is a priority for Mahathir. First, he will be pardoned, which should be a fairly smooth process since the sultans are unlikely to stand in the way of the process. Then a PH member in a cruisy safe seat will stand down prompting a by-election which Anwar will contest, will win and then become PM. Ooh that’s a lot of moving parts that better come together!
So it’s gone smoothly? Mmm. Yes and no. Reports of argy-bargy between supporters and voters have been far and few in between but there is some real funny business with the Election Commission. The independence of the EC has been in question for months now after doing a dodgy on redelineation and making it exceptionally difficult for voters to make it to the polls. Now, there are reports that despite previously announcing Mahathir would be sworn-in today that has been delayed, leaving Najib as care-taker prime minister for the time being.
Speaking of, what’s Najib up to? He was hard to spot Wednesday night at a Barisan Nasional rally. Sounds like he did a runner if you ask me. He waited way too long to call that election. If he’d pulled the cord back in December he would’ve walked it in. Why he waited until PH had it’s house in order I’ll never know. Even with a whole bunch of dodgy rules and regulations surrounding the vote he still couldn’t get it done.
The next couple of days are public holidays in Malaysia (or next week if you’re in Sarawak) and we’re super close to running into Ramadan so the next half-week is likely to be jam packed. I’m keeping an eye on analysis (ooh, whisper me sweet nothings about why the arse fell out of PAS) and will bring you that probably over the weekend.
In the meantime, here’s some hot tips on what to watch for: criticisms about the EC, anything Anwar, Coconuts KL collating the best of the memes, heart-warming human interest stories like this one.