Denouement: The MB saga ends

PKR deputy president Azmin Ali with party president Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. - Filepic

Alhamdulillah, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, the Selangor Menteri Besar “impasse” is resolved. Azmin Ali, the state assemblyperson for Bukit Antarabangsa, has been appointed by the Sultan of Selangor as the new MB. And while legal and constitutional experts have expressed serious reservations about the process, the people of Selangor no doubt have welcomed a resolution.

Through it all, this episode (if one could call it that) revealed to the people a side of coalition politics that is rarely played out in the open: conflict resolution. As many have pointed out, democracy is indeed a noisy, boisterous affair - what more when it involves a coalition of equals.

While the manner in which this matter is resolved leaves an arguably bitter taste for many, the practice of peaceful albeit cacophonous conflict resolution such as we have seen between Pakatan Rakyat component parties is wholly in line with democratic principles. 

It underlines the fact that differences invariably exist and should be acknowledged; that there should be room for their expression without fear; and that there should not be attempts at artificially suppressing these differences.
This is, for me, the biggest takeaway here for a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy such as ours.

I am in no way asking for us to view Pakatan Rakyat through rose-tinted glasses. In fact, critiques and criticisms of Pakatan Rakyat and its component parties are healthy and must be embraced. It will force leaders on all levels to drink deep from the well of experience and remember that many Malaysians place a lot of hope and faith in this coalition to realize a better Malaysia.

And even though the rakyat may baulk at such open displays of disagreements,  disaffection, and differences, I cannot help but feel that consensus building in coalition politics is a tiring and oftentimes dramatic affair. It is something that Malaysians may not have seen so much with Barisan Nasional, although it can be argued that this is because Barisan is dominated by Umno more than any other party.

I put it that in order to strengthen democracy in this country, the “vocabulary” used in articulating democratic practice must change, especially in reportage. 

Words like “disagree”, “difference”, “debate” must to be encouraged and not seen as catastrophic/apocalyptic; we must think of the poetics and dialectics of political discourse in Malaysia, and not just of the syntax and grammar of rumour mills, the journalistic grapevine, and ‘insiders’; the difficult question of the development of Malaysian politics and democracy must be confronted.

I also put it that the current climate of fear that is being manufactured by those in the corridors of power is the clearest obstacle for the development of Malaysian politics and democracy. Without doubt we must be rid of draconian laws like the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, and others of that ilk. 

Fundamentally, the Big Brother paradigm that “government knows best” must be replaced with the democratic spirit of “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. In short, our Prime Minister must live up to his promises and complete the transformations he spoke of in 2012.

The Selangor MB impasse has taught us many things. For me, one of the most important things is that we must have faith - not only in the leaders we’ve elected, but also in the vox populi: Where leaders err, the people must speak out.

Let us continue to raise our voices, without fear or favour, that we may build a better Selangor and a better Malaysia, together.

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