Kula Lumpur (UNA-OIC) – Hope for lasting change in Malaysia after the opposition’s historic election win may hinge on whether triumphant 92-year-old autocrat-turned-progressive Mahathir Mohamad has truly changed his ways and possesses the vigor and clout to heal national divisions, according to an AFP report.
The wily former authoritarian ruler proved the difference in finally enabling a rising opposition movement to break the United Malays National Organization’s (UMNO) six-decade lock on power. The Pakatan Harapan coalition’s victory is Malaysia’s first real government change since independence from Britain in 1957 and will fuel public aspirations for wholesale change including rights protections, press freedom, anti-corruption measures, changes to divisive race-based policies, and true democratic rule.
“The People’s Tsunami,” the Malay-language Sinar Harian newspaper screamed in a front-page headline.
But Malaysian politics is known for head-spinning reversals � not least of which was Mahathir’s own conversion to grandfatherly opposition darling � and the future remains unclear. “Now the hard work begins,” influential political website Malaysiakini.com said in an editorial. “No one should be under the illusion that a new government would be able to reverse the rot that had taken root for decades.” “For a country that is so divided, it would take time to heal the wounds and for Malaysians to rebuild the trust for one another and for the many institutions that have failed them.”
Multicultural Malaysia has been increasingly driven by political and racial tension under now-ousted leader Najib Razak, exacerbated by a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal. Najib is accused of presiding over the looting of sovereign wealth fund 1MDB and has responded with strident denials � and increasing repression. Much depends on Mahathir, whose 1981-2003 tenure as UMNO leader and premier is often credited with creating a modern Malaysia, but also tarnished by the jailing of opponents and entrenchment of the political dominance of Muslim Malays, the country’s majority group, over the sizable Chinese and Indian minorities.
Malaysiakini called the vote a reminder that politicians are elected to serve the people “and not lord over them.” “It would be wise for the incoming government to remember this.” UMNO’s Malay bloc has waged a caustic battle against a diverse opposition alliance that reflects the tropical country’s multicultural make-up, yet is prone to internal divisions of its own. Any incoming administration faces the daunting task of wresting control of a government bureaucracy steeped in UMNO’s ways, plus the thorny issue of enshrined policies that favor Malays in politics, employment, and other areas.
Mahathir, a key architect of that system while premier, is now bedfellows with a coalition infused with impatient Chinese and Indian constituencies. But former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is to be released from prison in June, raising the tantalizing prospect of Anwar and Mahathir using their combined influence to broker compromises and batter.
Source: International Islamic News Agency