Malaysian politics couldn't have been more eventful in 2019. However, political turmoil with powerful undercurrents is never a good thing for the country. If our leaders are busily engaging themselves in politicking, how do we expect them to put in some effort to fix the country's many problems?
So, after one whole year of active politicking, who will walk away with the grand prizes in the end? Let's give them the awards to round up the country's politics in 2019.
1. Winner of Havoc-Creating Award: Azmin Ali
2019 was never a peaceful year in the first place, thanks to Azmin Ali's mastery in messing things up.
His torn relationship with Anwar Ibrahim could be turned into a time bomb for not only PKR but also the entire PH government. Once the bomb goes off, not only PKR will explode into pieces but the PH administration will very likely come tumbling down with it.
From the moment Azmin expressed his agreement with Mukhriz Mahathir for arguing that there was no black and white that Mahathir must hand over the baton to Anwar after two years, to his open support for Mahathir to complete his full term until the next general elections, Malaysian politics was in a constant “number game”. Will PPBM + Azmin's camp + Umno-PAS alliance secure that magic number to form a new government?
Azmin had a secretive meeting with Hishammuddin Hussein and the duo once had a meeting with PM Mahathir together. After PH's thumping defeat in Tanjung Piai by-election, Azmin was found meeting some 20 Umno reps late at night, and the move stirred up a lot of waves in their two parties.
Malaysians hope that the PH government will put in more effort to fix the country's economy and not to get embroiled in endless politicking. Unfortunately within PH alone there are saboteurs that put every political party in this country in constant jitters, as they scramble to glean as much insider info as possible to keep abreast with the latest development in a bid to adequately prepared themselves for any sudden change.
Under Mahathir's full protection, Azmin continues to go on his life as usual despite the male sex video scandal. Weirdly, as a “victim” of this incident, our economic affairs minister kept exploiting this issue to incriminate his party boss Anwar Ibrahim.
It appears that utter political chaos is what Azmin loves to see, so that he could benefit from it. Having said that, such an attitude has drastically erased his popularity among Malaysians.
2. Winner of Crestfallen Award: Anwar Ibrahim
Although Anwar Ibrahim was often in media limelight throughout 2019 as “the country's next prime minister”, he could hardly voice up his views and appeared completely tied down in the face of racist remarks or those on national issues.
Much of Anwar's own lustre has lost. Yet to take over as PM, he has very little say on major national events and policies. He is not even 100% sure he will eventually get to become PM.
Outsiders have no idea what he and Mahathir have discussed in their “routine meetings”, but what we can see is that Mahathir is reluctant to provide a definite timetable as to when he would hand over the baton to Anwar.
There is nothing Anwar can do because he does not want to enrage the old man at the cost of his premiership.
The internal and external worries he has to confront are equally tough to tackle. His bitter relationship with Azmin has been a results of many many cumulative events over the years or even decades, and this relationship has now come to a stage of no return. He can only have a smooth sail towards premiership if the entire party comes united in backing him as prime minister, with no more leg-pulling from party dissidents.
Anwar cannot afford to let the PKR split to extend well into 2020, or he can as well kiss his dream of becoming PM goodbye forever.
Anwar was for a third time implicated in a sex scandal towards the end of 2019, being accused of attempting to sexually abuse his former male assistant. All these will only keep the dark cloud hanging over his head stay forever.
3. Winner of Love-Hate Award: Mahathir Mohamad
The feelings Malaysian Chinese community have towards prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad are highly complicated.
It is not uncommon to read about social media users' harsh criticisms against the PM. Nevertheless, they sometimes have to agree that only a “very Malay” Mahathir is able to “control” the Malays. Even opposition parties respect him out of fear. This explains why the PH government has remained relatively stable for this long.
On the issues pertaining to the royalty, in particular, Mahathir is the only man who can, and have the guts, to confront the royalty.
The sad thing is that this Mahathir is also the chief author of racism. The picture of him holding up the hands of PAS president Hadi Awang and Umno sec-gen Annuar Musa at the Malay Dignity Congress in a blatant display of “Malay grand unity” spirit, has excessively infuriated many non-Malays in this country.
Only Mahathir has the power to shake up the Malaysian politics. If he wants to blow up an issue, it will very likely go of hand. For example after Mahathir called Dong Zong a racist organisation, Umno-PAS instantly stepped up their effort to hit out at the Chinese education body. And if he wants something to rest in peace, he has the power to put every controversy to an immediate stop, as in the case of Chin Peng's ash.
Of course, Mahathir's mere existence constitutes a major threat to Chinese education of this country. He is invariably the biggest stumbling block to the recognition of UEC certificate.
While the Chinese community agrees that Mahathir was the architect to the country's first ever change of federal administration since independence, we hope that he should hand over the baton to Anwar as soon as possible with the hope the new prime minster will bring new changes to this country.
4. Best Opposition Award: Najib Razak
After BN's defeat in GE14, Najib was said to have been the biggest liability for BN and Umno. Few would have thought that this former PM could make a very competent opposition leader. Today, he has become more popular than many PH cabinet ministers.
Why do people fall in love again for someone whom they once demonised, loathed and made fun of?
Likes and shares from Najib's Facebook easily put any PH leader in shame. Instead of talking about politics, Najib touches more on day-to-day expenses and issues close to the hearts of the general public, including economic downtrend, the ringgit's exchange rate vis-à-vis Thai baht, Felda allowances, palm oil prices, etc., things that will readily strike a chord with people in the street.
Many Malay voters still have fond memories of the days under Najib and BN because they can't feel any improvement in their livelihood after PH has taken over.
We want the government to beef up the economy but our leaders seem to be more interested in playing politics than anything else.
5. Co-winners of Grumbling Award: Lim Guan Eng and Wee Ka Siong
In the eyes of many, finance minister cum DAP's top gun Lim Guan Eng is good at “scolding”. Nothing can escape his harsh criticisms including a poor projection of the country's economy by international rating agencies or local business tycoons. The media will also get the scolding for carrying negative reports on the country's fiscal position or his finance ministry.
Sure enough he government has put in some effort to lift the coutnry's economy but we hope that in the coming year, the finance minster will do more positive things and less of the talking, especially the war of words with his archrival MCA.
If the economy really improves and Malaysians in general have more cash in their pockets, we will feel the change without the minister having to keep reminding us and convincing us to believe.
I believe no one will disagree that this award should be shared by Lim Guan Eng and his sworn enemy Wee Ka Siong, who has blasted DAP's leaders in full force, in particular the finance minister as well as deputy education minister Teo Nie Ching.
Wee Ka Siong has been doing an excellent job in his capacity as opposition rep, while the Chinese community has grown to be more receptive to his party compared to the past. Nevertheless, the MCA president keeps issuing statements to slam the PH government, sometimes for a good reason, but other times for no reasons at all, as if to do this only for the sake of doing.
On Umno-PAS alliance and other issues perceived as unfavourable to MCA, Wee has invariably dodged the issues such that we have no idea where MCA stands in such issues.
6. Winner of Dilemma Award: DAP
2019 was definitely a bad year for DAP. The party found itself completely exhausted having to deal with issues pertaining to education, politics and other matters related to the Chinese community.
The bumiputra matriculation quota issue had put DAP in a dilemma.
DAP finds itself in the middle of a tug-of-war between the country's Chinese and Malay societies over this and many other issues. While on the one hand the party hopes to protrude the image that it is indeed different from MCA when it comes to sensitive racial issues exploited by the opposition or conservatives, on the other hand it is afraid of offending the Malay society or prime minister Tun Mahathir.
Among the examples are the teaching of Jawi calligraphy at Chinese and Tamil primary schools, university admission quota, UEC recognition, and the banning of former party member Hew Kuan Yau's "Belt & Road Initiative For Win-Winism" comic book.
Meanwhile, internal split within the party was triggered last year by a number of issues. The party has convened two elected reps briefing meetings and a post-morten after PH's humiliating defeat in Tanjung Piai in hope of adopting the views of the people and appeasing the party grassroots.
As if that is not enough, central committee member Ronnie Liu's criticisms against the PM and issues like Lynas and TAR UC allocations have all triggered tremendous backlash among the party grassroots for the seemingly inappropriate ways of handling the issues.
One and a half years in power now, DAP remains powerless in reversing the prejudiced and hostile image the Malay society has had towards the party, while its support rate among Chinese Malaysians has now become overestimated.
All these point to the fact that DAP's strategies have been flawed and the party has grossly misjudged the situation. It is now time to chart a new direction for the party.
DAP will hold its party elections at the end of this year. It is not impossible for the party to also experience a “change of administration” if the existing party leadership fails to win back the faith of its members.