When fiction mirrors reality

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 27 -- Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin while attending the 2021 Budget Briefing via video conferencing at his office today. --fotoBERNAMA (2020) COPYRIGHTS RESERVED

The Prime Minister is facing a new finance budget bill.

The country needs it to function optimally. So, what’s at stake is, if the bill isn’t passed, the government usually falls with it.

It’s likely to be defeated as two MPs from the ruling government alliance have declared their vote against it.

Sounds like Malaysian politics?

No, it’s from Season 1, Episode 3 of Borgen.

I’ve been binge-watching the Danish political drama series on Netflix. Borgen means the Castle, the nickname for Christiansborg Palace, which houses Denmark’s three powers: Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court.

I’m addicted to the series because it revolves around professions I’d like to embrace when I grow up – scheming politician, principled journalist and unethical spin doctor.

While watching Borgen on my tablet, I frequently check my WhatsApp messages and news feed on my smartphone to be updated on the political developments in Malaysia. I don’t know which is more dramatic – the fiction of a Scandinavian political thriller or the reality of fluid and messy Malaysian politics?

There are some similarities in Borgen and Malaysian politics.

Birgitte Nyborg, the statsminister (prime minister) in the series, was appointed to the post after she cobbled together a coalition government in Danish politics, where no party has enough MPs to rule entirely on its own.

Bloc politics is the norm in Denmark.

Since 1909, no single party has had sufficient majority to form the government. Currently, there are 14 parties in the 179-seat Folketing (parliament).

It’s the same in Malaysia post-Sheraton move, where no big party can dominate other parties.

Bloc politics is the new norm in Malaysia.

Did Nyborg survive the finance budget bill? (spoiler alert)

The statsminister managed to obtain an unexpected settlement with the New Right (a political party in the opposition) on the bill.

In a TV interview, Hanne Holm, a political editor, called it a decisive victory for the prime minister.

“She was at the edge of an actual vote of no confidence, but now, Nyborg can claim that she not only negotiated a finance bill, but also divided the opposition. That’s what you call good political craftsmanship,” Holm said.

I wonder, come Nov 23 when the Dewan Rakyat votes on the Budget Bill, if I could write something similar in my political column.

There’s a gay scandal in Borgen involving a politician who dreams of becoming statsminister.

Sounds familiar?

There’s a scene in the newsroom between Michael Laugesen, an unscrupulous politician who became an unscrupulous editor, and Katrine Fønsmark, a principled journalist, arguing over the morality of exposing a minister’s sexual orientation.

“It is a matter of national interest. A minister with that big a secret is an obvious target for blackmail. What if a foreign intelligence or terrorists got wind of his secret and took advantage of it?” argued Laugesen.

“If you think you can blackmail a man for being gay in Denmark today, you’re dumber than I thought,” retorted Fønsmark.

One stark difference between Borgen, and also Danish politics and Malaysian politics, is we’ve never had a female prime minister.

In the Danish drama, charismatic and conscientious politician Nyborg unexpectedly becomes Denmark’s first female prime minister. After two seasons of Borgen, life imitated art when Helle Thorning-Schmidt took office on Oct 3, 2011.

The current statsminister is Mette Frederiksen. She’s the country’s second female prime minister. The 42-year-old politician, who was appointed head of state in June 2019, is the youngest Danish prime minister.

We’ve never had a female prime minister. Perhaps, it’s time we did.

In a moment of weakness, aggravated by one too many quaffs of Bombay Sapphire Gin, the statsminister slept with her driver.

It isn’t as salacious as it sounds. The prime minister was lonely and emotional. Nyborg’s husband divorced her a year ago because she was too busy running the country.

It was not a #MeToo moment (which is currently scandalising Denmark), since it was suka sama suka (consensual sex).

“But why the driver?” Kasper Juul, the spin doctor, asked Nyborg.

“It seemed like a good idea last night,” replied the statsminister.

A seasoned political observer once explained to me why male politicians target their drivers. “They are at your beck and call. And they are always around,” he said.

The statsminister had other urgent matters in her mind. After Nyborg told her spin doctor to handle her one-night stand with the driver, she informed him that a scheming politician wanted to be prime minister.

“Now?” he said.

The statsminister nodded.

“That’s a declaration of war,” he said.

“Yes,” she said. “Should we talk to the Worker’s Party or call for an election?”

The spin doctor exhaled and said: “What do you want?”

“What do you think? To crush him,” she said.

“Then do it,” he said.

Somehow, this sounds like an upcoming episode in Malaysian politics.

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