Hope for change in GE14 must be tempered by reality on ground

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Najib and Hadi at a rally for the Rohingya inside the Titiwangsa indoor stadium: Najib will unashamedly use Pas to corner the voters in the rural hinterlands - Photograph: themalaymailonline.com

We should not ignore corruption and abuse of power, but we can essentially discount 1MDB as a “game changer” in the GE14 battle, writes Turtle Shell.

There can be no doubt that the 1MDB issue no longer holds the attention of even the urban rakyat.

The fact that an online petition to the White House to name MO1 could only garner 26,000-plus petitioners – far less than the mandatory 100,000 which will oblige President Obama to give a response – is proof of that. After the fact, many excuses can be put forward for the disappointing response, but the bottom line is that the petition failed.

So, one can gauge what the response of the rakyat in the rural hinterlands towards 1MDB will be when MO1 calls for GE14. No, it is not that we should ignore the corruption and abuse of power involved in the scandal, but we can essentially discount 1MDB as a “game changer” in the GE14 battle.

Perhaps our nation has not yet reached the threshold for it to be called “desperate hours” for our nation. Perhaps that could explain the considerable towards the corruption and abuse of power.

Bersih 5, by all accounts, was a success for the rakyat: we have made known our demands to MO1 despite his unashamed use of threats and intimidation tactics.

Yet, that’s it, is it not? Even the most optimistic supporter of Bersih knows MO1 will not accede to any of the demands of Bersih. For him to do so would be to sign his own political ‘death’ warrant.

Have the opposition parties followed up on the inroads opened up by the Bersih 5 convoys to all the states? GE14 will again be won or lost in the rural hinterlands. Yes, civil society can but help to disseminate information of MO1’s misdeeds far and wide. But if there is no follow up, the effect would be lost. Instead, the opposition parties appear to be too busy squabbling.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. MO1’s actions on the Roghinya issue appear to qualify for that category. The Diplomat criticised MO1 for trying to turn it into a religious issue by baiting Indonesian President Jokowi to act as recklessly as him. Fortunately, Jokowi is not in dire political straits like MO1 and thus acted rationally.

This sets the stage for the GE14 battles. MO1 will unashamedly use Pas to corner the voters in the rural hinterlands using his newfound Islamic credentials. This bodes ill for our nation – for MO1 could throw caution to the wind and use religion to cling on to power.

Hudud will be used to force Amanah’s hand. Hopefully, Amanah has already drawn up strategies to tackle the issue so that it can turn in a credible performance against Pas. With Pas already in Umno’s embrace, Amanah must help the opposition cause by wresting some seats from Pas or at least keep those seats they now have.

Many have not given up hope that change will come to our country – change towards a more fair, just, democratic and civil society. But those hopes need to be tempered by the situation on the ground.

Those of rooting for change will be happy if the opposition parties can deny MO1 the two-thirds majority in Parliament after GE14. Brexit and the Trump presidency setbacks for the pollsters appear unlikely to be repeated in Malaysia’s next general election outcome.

Hopefully, the rakyat – in due time and before reaching the “desperate hours” threshold – will finally decide to discard the shackles the Umnoputras have thrown on them – chains that have hindered the development of our country and the true integration of its people.

Turtle Shell is the pseudonym of a regular reader of Aliran.

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