After 62 years of independence and 61 years of one-party rule, a new Malaysia is coming out of the shadows with pain, acrimony and a disdain for the political class.
Though we cannot compare the Malaysian experience with what happened in countries that brought down their own one-party governments, we can still draw some parallels from some countries.
Russia, for example, and the countries under the communist belt since World War 2 overturned the communist rule in the last decade of the 20th century.
Until today, some of these countries are struggling, finding it difficult to adjust to the new dawn. For some, it is a daily struggle to find political stability and for others; it is a matter of day-to-day survival.
But Russia itself moved on with a new Tsar, Vladimir Putin dominating the political scene. After three decades of freedom from communism, Ukraine is still fighting it out against Russia.
Their war caused much pain and sufferings — not only to their people — but also to the Malaysians and the people of the Netherlands (and other nationalities) with the downing of MH17.
It shows that revolutions in our day and age may not be the right solution for some nations. Look at the Arab Spring and the result of this revolutionary process that has caused more pain and destruction in the Arab world.
But these (the fall of communism and the Arab Spring) were perhaps the result of the engineering of the political future of these countries by external forces.
Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States is credited for the fall of communism in Russia. The Arab Spring was a Western-led initiative under the cover of a Project For A New American Century, converted into the Project For A New Arab Century by some.
But the Malaysian debacle (remember, the country is still in a soul-searching mode), may have been the sole work of the people of Malaysia.
No one will ever agree that the Freemasons (the number one culprits in any conspiracy theory since World War 2), had anything to do with the fall of the Barisan Nasional at the hands of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Though some conspiracy theorists may argue the invisible hands may have taken part in the rejection of Najib Razak’s regime, there is no evidence of that.
But Dr Mahathir played into the hands of conspiracy theorists in 1998, accusing financier George Soros of the Asian financial crisis. A crisis that devastated Malaysia’s economy and currency but also destroyed the Umno’s dream-team with Dr Mahathir at the helm and Anwar Ibrahim in the wings, waiting for his day as PM.
And now, we are back to square one in Malaysia. It is like a reset, with a return to the 1998 situation with Dr Mahathir rejecting any power transition plans and battling the odds to keep a non-performing cabinet.
The new-Mahathir era is rigged with booby-traps and slingshots and conspiracies that have confounded the population and political observers alike.
Many in Southeast Asia had high hopes that the mini-Malaysian revolt (it is a massive feat to down the BN from its perch in power) will trigger a domino effect in the region.
But it did not. After the initial euphoria, the people of the dumbfounded Asean Economic Community is even more confused.
They are unsure if a regime change will bring any good to their nations. Dr Mahathir, hailed as the hero of change whom I, myself, called the first ‘reformist’ Prime Minister of Malaysia, has left everyone on their thirst.
He is not the first reformist PM but is instead a figurehead in Malaysia’s transition from a one-party rule, to an increasingly uncertain future.
In 2018, Malaysians voted for change, hoping Malaysia Baharu or New Malaysia will magically turn into a utopian nation.
But a rise in racial slurs, attacks against religious symbols and political figures fighting for their groups or their own salvation, does not augur well for new Malaysia.
There is more to the change in the country than the return of Dr Mahathir to power. Yet, the rapidly slowing process of ‘reforms’ and the excuses for keeping the BN-era structures and laws is damning.
However, politicians are not to blame for this. At least not fully. Like in Britain, which is fighting over its own future with Brexit, Malaysia has — if we look at it with virtual eyes — a hung Parliament.
It is all about the numbers game. The Malaysians decided to vote in such a way that it will give the Pakatan Harapan regime just enough seats to take power. But they did not give the Pakatan the full powers to change and reform the country.
Had they done that, reform would have happened by now and it would have been on a massive scale.
The lessons to learn from the Malaysian conundrum? If politicians want to reform their country after a scandal with the international repercussion like the 1MDB, they need to get massive popular support.
The Pakatan Harapan won less than 48% of popular votes. They won less than 35% of support from Malay voters. It is an almost ungovernable situation in Parliament, where the Islamists and the Malay Nationalists are holding the cards of king-makers.
Dr Mahathir is now learning the hard way that a government is not going to function well with a coalition where the various parties and some of their MP’s and Ministers having their own agendas.
Perhaps they need to sit and talk on how to push forward the reform agenda, or like we have said it a few weeks ago, set a timeline for political power handover before they fall into the entrapment of a dissolution of the Parliament to once again, reset it.