Abdullah's Administration is Continuing Mahathir's
It is often tempting to assume that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Mahathir Mohamad have run very different administrations. After all, both men clearly have very different styles and temperaments.
Abdullah is famously easygoing; those less favourably inclined would call him soft. Mahathir ruled with an ironfist. Abdullah is very conciliatory, trying to get along with everyone; Mahathir loved nothing more than antagonising the establishment, whether it was locally or abroad.
Certainly, the two men don't get along anymore, having carried on a very public spat. So, why would I view the Abdullah administration as a continuance of the Mahathir administration?
Simply put, I have been unable to see any significant differences in the policies of the two administrations. The only difference in Abdullah's cabinet is that he's expanded it so he can accommodate more of the old guard who flourished under Mahathir.
The policy of plundering the country's resources for the personal gain of politicians which Mahathir nurtured and cultivated has been continued under Abdullah; only the names of the beneficiaries differ.
The authoritarian and sometimes totalitarian policies of Mahathir have been continued under Abdullah. Some might say things are worse; some might say they are better; but nobody can deny that little has substantially changed in how the government deals with the freedoms of the people.
Of course, there are some minor changes. Mahathir's penchant for ostentatious megaprojects has been eschewed under Abdullah for quiet nibbling away at the feeding trough paid for by the taxes and wealth of the nation.
Many have pointed out that Abdullah is significantly more incompetent and less in control than Mahathir was. That may be so. But Mahathir was competent, and how much did it help the country? And in either case, the ostensibly incompetent Abdullah has continued Mahathir's policies, without starting any major initiatives of his own, so how much does it matter whether he is capable or not?
I am always puzzled when people try to paint times under Mahathir as much better than under Abdullah. I have never been able to discern a difference that matters in the policies of their two administrations.
It is true that Abdullah attempted to deal with corruption in his early days. However, Mahathir always tinkered a little at the edges, making ineffectual efforts to deal with obvious problems, whether they were corruption, national disunity, or education. None of those efforts mattered; it's not surprising that Abdullah's anti-corruption battle petered out.
The way I see it, there is no either-or choice between Abdullah and Mahathir. They have been both equally horrid leaders. I could not care less when it comes to choosing between the two men to lead a government.
Malaysia needs a new leader, a leader willing to do more than mouth slogans and actually make the hard decisions necessary to turn this country away from the brink of death. That leader's administration would be one worth writing home about — not more of the same old, as Abdullah's has been.