Is there room for a third force in Malaysia’s House of Cards?

Kevin Spacey

Netflix recently premiered Season 4 of House of Cards, continuing the journey of protagonist Francis “Frank” Underwood as he cunningly navigates the United States presidency and indulges in yet more elaborate schemes to remain in power. 

Besides being brilliantly gripping, one of the reasons I’ve been so hooked to this series is because as a Malaysian, I can draw plenty of similarities from its unexpected twists and turns to what is actually taking place here.

Malaysia currently has its own real-life version of House of Cards (though “Rumah Terup” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it), and all of us have essentially been cast as extras. 

And just like our fictional counterpart, millions of people around the world are glued to the drama unfolding here as well. 

The one difference is that no one in their wildest imagination could have scripted everything which has happened here within the last year, and for that we deserve a very special kind of award.

If that recognition happened to come in the form of an upturn in economic fortunes, that’d be really swell (Hollywood Foreign Press, please take note).  

In all seriousness though, the political season in Malaysia has been nothing short of topsy-turvy. 

The major players have fired shots, taken hits, inflicted some serious damage with combo attacks, and even engaged in friendly fire at times. 

One of the bigger plot twists of late was the signing of the Citizens’ Declaration, which saw a motley group of past and present politicos from opposite sides of the divide banding together to demand the resignation of our very own commander-in-chief Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. 

But if you ask me, this plotline wasn’t as surprising or as significant as what happened several days later - I'm talking about PAS’ big announcement that it would be forming a third political force in the country.

Wait, a third force? Now that’s a huge reveal. It’s what many Malaysians have wanted for a very long time. A fresh political bloc that can rival Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan, and basically keep these long-timers on their toes. 

Make no mistake, PAS continues to command a large support base and is likely to be even stronger in a pact than alone, despite being cast out of a previous alliance for having some pretty questionable agendas on its plate. 

Still, there are probably two reasons why the Islamist party’s proposed third bloc was not met with much excitement and why Malaysians in general are apprehensive about it.

Firstly, the party it is entering into a pact with, Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan), is not exactly a household name in the local political scene. 

Most of us would have heard about it, but Ikatan has remained relatively quiet and irrelevant since its launch last May. Its Facebook page has less than 5,000 likes, which says a lot. 

They’ve got a decent leader in Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, one of the old guards in Malaysian politics, who has a wealth of experience (and a formidable collection of bow ties to match).

The partnership with PAS also represents something of a coup for a party that is still in its infancy, and a great way for Abdul Kadir and company to obtain some much needed publicity. 

Apart from that, there is nothing to suggest that Ikatan can gain the sort of following that will enable it to compete on an equal footing with its far more established peers, even if it does milk its multi-racial image for all it’s worth.  

In the end, it’ll be lucky just to avoid the same fate as Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (Kita).  

Secondly, contrary to claims that the new opposition bloc will be multi-racial in nature, PAS still faces a near impossible task of convincing the non-Muslim voter base to support them. 

There is a sense that the yet to be named PAS-Ikatan pact will only be “multi-racial” by PAS’ definition, and that previously contentious agendas such as the implementation of hudud will continue to be promoted. 

It seems to me that PAS is seeking a partnership only to obtain strength in numbers, but is unwilling to propose and embrace a collective identity that may require some sacrifices on its part.  

One thing is certain, though. The realisation of a new political pact will provide a fresh dose of drama in this unpredictable setting that is Malaysia’s House of Cards.

Let’s just hope that they’re signed on for a few seasons at least. 

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Akil Yunus

Akil Yunus

Akil Yunus believes the world would be a better place without politics, but also a lot duller. He is a moderate at everything but eating, and feels people should make sense, not war.


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