There Will Be a Reckoning, BN
Amidst the chaos dominating Malaysian politics once again, it is worth remembering one simple constant: ultimately, the people will triumph. It does not matter how hard you try to keep them down; no government can ever survive without the support of the people it claims to represent. Barisan Nasional has as much right to woo Pakatan Rakyat representatives as Pakatan has to woo Barisan reps. But both parties should be mature and wise enough to face the people and justify their actions—and if there's anything the crisis in Perak demonstrates, it is that Barisan lacks this wisdom and maturity. Their failure to understand or address the reasons why Malaysians have rejected Barisan's leadership will only undermine them even more.
Yes, we can very well tell Pakatan "padan muka" (serves you right) for having a taste of its own medicine. But that would be glossing over a very important difference between the change of power in Perak, and Pakatan's attempts to gain power at the federal level. While we can argue about the sincerity and feasibility of Pakatan's earlier plans, there is little room to debate the opacity of Barisan's seizing power in Perak.
When Pakatan sought to form a new government, it made its intentions clear; Barisan's moves in Perak were made behind closed doors. Pakatan ran its plans past the public, and while we can argue that this does not legitimise crossovers, nobody can argue that Pakatan did not trust the public enough to make its plans clear. Barisan's secrecy—secrecy which was largely useless because the newly independent state reps were already under suspicion in the first place—only serves to undermine public confidence in its intentions, and public trust in its ethics.
With all eyes on Pakatan, it would have been hard for corruption or bribery to take place; in the case of Perak, and potentially Kedah, Barisan's secrecy can only arouse suspicions of seat-buying. If Barisan was conducting itself in an appropriate manner, why did it keep us in the dark as to its potential takeover of the government? While Barisan must remain innocent until proven guilty, the fact is that they had and have the means, motive and opportunity to buy seats.
None of the party-hopping state reps have explained their change of heart. When SUPP chose to leave Barisan last year, it explained to its members and the public why it could no longer affiliate with the ruling party. All the former Barisan leaders who have joined Pakatan are likewise open about why they chose to leave the Barisan fold. If the new independent state reps are really sincere, why cannot they explain to the people they serve their reason for toppling the popularly-elected state government?
The burden of proof rests with Barisan to justify its actions now. Pakatan may have talked a lot about seizing power, but it justified itself openly with the press. Barisan remains tight-lipped, only making statements to exuberantly celebrate its return to power in Perak. And if you are going to seize power without going directly to the people for a mandate, you had better have a bloody good explanation for them.
Ultimately, though, it does not matter what Barisan says, or whether fresh elections are called: Barisan's days as a relevant political entity are numbered. Will holding power in Perak truly revive Barisan's political fortunes? Not when Barisan has just toppled one of the most effective and popular state governments. Not when the new Barisan government is dominated by representatives from one ethnic group and one political party. Not when the only agenda of the new Barisan government is to keep quiet about how it gained power or what it plans to do with that power. All this does not change the fact that Barisan remains a simple marriage of convenience—one that increasingly rings hollow to Malaysians who hunger for a government united more on principles and ideals than the thirst for power.
Barisan can't run from the ballot box—and at the ballot box, its fate will be sealed. It doesn't matter whether fresh elections are called tomorrow, or in four years. Barisan has lost every single election it has contested since March 8. Barisan has been resoundingly rejected in every independent opinion survey since March 8. The man who will soon be leading it, that smug Najib Tun Razak, has a lower approval rating than the supposedly useless man he is replacing, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. For goodness sake, the Leader of the Opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, has higher approval ratings than Najib. And this is not just the public being singularly irrational at one moment in time; public sentiment has turned overwhelmingly against Barisan and the men who lead it.
Barisan still seems to think that as long as it can hold on to power, by hook or by crook, it will be okay. It has no intention of justifying itself to the people it claims to serve. It has no plan to address the corruption that dominates our politics and policymaking at every level. It has no intention of truly addressing the economic stagnation of the Malays and Indians, or the political injustices meted out to the non-Malays of this country. It has no principles guiding it, no basis for its governance besides the nebulous pursuit of power—because somehow, only Barisan is supposed to be able to govern this country.
Barisan can continue deluding itself like that for as long as it wants. It has a lot of money; it will be fine for now. But when the people of Perak, when the people of Malaysia next go to the polls, Barisan will have only itself to blame for the whipping it will get. So go ahead, Barisan. Don't address any of the problems we the people have with you. Pretend it will be fine. You got even with Pakatan in Perak, and maybe you'll settle the score further with it in the other Pakatan-led states. Yes, padan muka Pakatan. Well, don't worry Barisan: I and the other millions of voters in our lovely country look forward to getting even with you at the next election. Padan muka Barisan—padan muka!
First published in The Malaysian Insider.