Thursday, 2 May 2013

Fork in the road of Malaysian story

Political passions and campaign fervour abound as the clock continues ticking down the seconds until Malaysians take part in polls that may ultimately empower a new generation of political leaders, for better or for worse. The explosion of social media users, up 45% from 2008, will be a critical factor in this general election. Although it often rails against perceived media “unfreedom”, the opposition has dominated the new media and has made its voice heard through various campaigns that have swayed a large portion of young voters. Taken by the fiery rhetoric of Malaysia’s opposition leaders, many have perhaps overlooked the reality that these orators are politicians too, with their own interests, agendas, and careers at stake. The nation – especially the online-savvy middle class – is extremely polarised and many feel disillusioned with the main issues which have been raised ad nauseum: elite corruption, citizen equality, freedom of expression, the rising cost of living, among other concerns.

Among the poor and in the Malay kampungs that have traditionally been Barisan Nasional-strongholds, there is a fear of unknown political terrain that may adversely affect low-income communities, who are most vulnerable to feeling the burn if the economy is mismanaged following a political transition. Of course, the question of safeguarding one’s cultural and racial identity is a key factor to personal political decisions made by the majority of individuals, irrespective of whatever egalitarian rhetoric masks these sentiments. Malaysians generally tend to agree on what the major shortcomings are, and that these issues have to be addressed more meaningfully, with more action than words. One segment of society feels it’s time to challenge the infallibility of the BN by empowering a coalition of ideologically divided parties to finally wash the country free of corruption, while the other has placed their confidence in the promise of BN’s transformation agenda, which has began steering the country in a more equitable, representative, and democratic direction.

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Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at