Monday, May 6, 2013
The Next Five Years: What’s in Store for Malaysia?
Although all votes have not yet been counted, it is clear that BN has won a victory – but at the cost of much of its Chinese support. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has promised an era of reconciliation and called for national unity.
Najib should now have a freer hand to reform Umno and the government than before the election, and with his mandate he has renewed his party's commitment to the promises made in the Barisan's election manifesto. Najib campaigned on the theme of 'promises fulfilled', and so we may expect the reforms in education, government, and the economy to continue.
One of the foremost highlights we may expect is reaching fully developed-nation status before 2020. According to the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu), the country might even reach high-income-nation status by 2018, two years early, thanks to Najib's signature Economic Transformation Programme.
Yet this victory had a cost. The results so far show an extraordinary loss of Chinese seats as the community swung wildly to the DAP. All BN leaders, including Najib, have been taken aback by the strength of the wave.
To his credit, Najib has shown humility in the face of these events, promising that he and his party will work to bring the nation together as a whole. This is a vital undertaking, because a racially polarised democracy is inherently unstable. It will take all of Najib's formidable appeal to accomplish this goal, but he has made it his central objective.
It is now incumbent on all quarters to accept the results of this election. Whether the losing candidate belongs to Barisan Nasional or to Pakatan Rakyat, it is time to look at the Malaysian landscape and see a mature democracy. Kedah has swung back to BN and Perak is safely in the governing coalition's hands, but BN has lost some of its strength in its southern fortresses and Borneo, while Penang is more solidly behind the DAP than ever.
Whatever Pakatan Rakyat's flaws, its existence has helped Malaysians to mature politically. If the Opposition can itself mature and avoid its pattern of calling for street protests and riots after it sewed up so many votes, it will grow in stature and offer Malaysians a responsible alternative for the future.
This election has been a chance to test Malaysia's democracy. Malaysia has passed that test. The next test begins tomorrow; we believe we will pass that one, as well.