Bloggers in Parliament
March 9, 2008 8:50 PM   Subscribe

This year's elections in Malaysia are historic due to the major wins by the Opposition/People's Front and the National Front's loss of 5 states and the 2/3 majority in parliament (one they've held since 1969) (comparisons). Two of the newly elected Members of Parliament are bloggers Tony Pua and Jeff Ooi; another blogger, Elizabeth Wong, has won a seat in the state assembly of the now-Opposition-run Selangor. This is significant, as Malaysian bloggers had been under attack by the government. (last link YouTube video in Malay with subtitles).
posted by divabat (16 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm kind of disturbed that both parties end in the word 'front.' Maybe there should be a third party, the Democratic Freedom Backside or something.

(I'm kidding, but I am serious about the disturbed part, actually)
posted by jonmc at 9:02 PM on March 9, 2008

The benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index .KLSE fell as much as 7.6 percent Monday to hit its lowest level since August 2007 in reaction to Saturday's stunning election upset, with stocks linked to the ruling coalition and its favored tycoons hit badly. [Reuters]
posted by netbros at 9:18 PM on March 9, 2008

The subtitles are also in Malay
posted by Deathalicious at 9:27 PM on March 9, 2008

divabat- great post! I was just reading Malaysia opposition win shows power of cyberspace (Reuters) and The swing that caught everyone by surprise (The Star Online).
posted by gen at 9:37 PM on March 9, 2008

front, n. 11. a. A group or movement uniting various individuals or organizations for the achievement of a common purpose; a coalition.

It isn't used in the US very much but it's a pretty common term elsewhere, especially for parliamentary systems where multiple parties run as a coalition (distinguished from forming coalitions after an election).

This is really good news; I haven't thought of Malaysia as having a particularly healthy democracy, given the authoritarianism and corruption of Mahathir's era and his 22 years in office, as well as the bizarre sodomy prosecution of Anwar. For the latter, though, a stunning turnaround and vindication, with his party going from one seat to 31.
posted by dhartung at 10:17 PM on March 9, 2008

I just recently returned from KL. The day after parliament was dissolved, the KL paper was as thick as the Seattle Times Sunday edition with complete political coverage.

An interesting comparison to the coverage of our democratic process.

And I can also tell you that the racial and ethnic tensions are indeed real. While a white guy from the US trying to speak Malay (and butchering it) is well received and friends with everyone. Not so with other people. A student I spoke with, who was from Zimbabwe was very pleased that I spent some time talking with him at Suria Fountain KLCC - no local Malays of any ethnic group would speak or approach him. The Hindi cab driver I hired to drive me to Chow Kit was obviously very uncomfortable there, and relieved when we headed up to the Batu Caves. One girl I spoke with (an islam malay) said she would never ever even think of going to Chinese dominant Petaling street, as "that place is not safe".

I wish all the kind and hard working friends I met there every happiness and hope things work out for the advancement of all Malaysians.
posted by somnambulist at 10:23 PM on March 9, 2008

I wonder how regional rival Singapore will spin this?
posted by micketymoc at 11:14 PM on March 9, 2008

Whoa - PKR and PAS together? Politics does make strange bedfellows.

The current situation is Mahathir's chickens coming home to roost (Anwar Ibrahim, specifically), and that's rather evident. It always puzzled me why Mahathir felt such enmity towards his former protege that he would go to such lengths as to frame him and attempt to remove him from the Malaysian political scene. Since Dr. M had been grooming Anwar as his replacement without any eye towards alternatives, there weren't any obvious political heirs when Dr. M decided to retire except for his deputy, Abdullah Badawi.

Abdullah isn't exactly a great politician - I think he's perfectly adequate to hold a sinecure but he's far from charismatic, much less a visionary. Anwar's prosecution and subsequent conviction was seen as predatory and unfair by a large segment of the population, resulting in a lot of sympathy for the ex-deputy P.M. Still, with the government's power over the local press it's not surprising that Mahathir's shenanigans didn't completely undermine confidence in the government and succeeded in limiting popular support for Anwar.

This can be seen in the fact that Anwar and the PKR still had to rely on PAS, the National Islamic Party which advocates Shariah law, and the DAP, which was to date an also-ran, to form some sort of opposition. The opposition's success at the polls bodes well for democracy in Malaysia but will also likely detract from the perception of political stability and reduce foreign investment. This may very well signal the beginning of real political debate in Malaysia which makes it an historic election indeed.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:08 AM on March 10, 2008

For those interested in what the youtube video was all about, here's a rough translation:

Man at podium: Ladies and gentlemen, our country is so advanced now!
We have Cyberjaya, Putrajaya, the IT song...hey!
Hey you! What are you doing?

Blogger: Oh, I'm just updating my blog.

Man: What blog? You're destroying our country!
Bloggers have put the country into a state of uproar for nothing.
We can't put our solidarity at risk!

Blogger: But I just wanted to share my opinion of things.

Man: All bloggers are liars!
Of the 10,000 bloggers on the dole, over 8,000 of them are women!
In the interests of our wonderful nation, I urge you,
the Malaysian people, to not be taken in by these bloggers
because they are only agents of foreign powers!
Um, hey - where can I find your blog?

Writing: People who babble on are only afraid of shadows.
This election, vote for change.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:21 AM on March 10, 2008

Excellent independent Malaysia analysis can be found at The Other Malaysia and Malaysia Today. divabat is right that the impact bloggers and internet-only news sites had on the election is really huge. Nik Nazmi is another blogger who won a Selangor state seat. None of the four have held office before. Nik Nazmi is in his mid-20's. It's a pretty clear indication how eager for new faces the voting public was.
posted by BinGregory at 12:29 AM on March 10, 2008

ooga-booga, PAS is willing to play ball. Check out their inclusion of a DAP minister in the Kedah cabinet despite the fact PAS won 16 seats to DAP's 1. They've backed way off of the Islamic State rhetoric of late as well. PAS is finally realizing they can't govern without support from non-muslims too.
posted by BinGregory at 12:38 AM on March 10, 2008

I grimace at the media's usage of the word "blogger", as if it's such a delightful and strange quirk.

the bizarre sodomy prosecution of Anwar
posted by dhartung at 10:17 PM on March 9

Bizarre indeed. I recall thinking, Sodomy? Really? Was that the best accusation they could come up with?
posted by Xere at 1:19 AM on March 10, 2008

Nice post, thanks!

The subtitles are also in Malay

Probably annoying to most who clicked on it, but I loved it—it was great to hear how the Malay words were spoken as I read them!
posted by languagehat at 7:19 AM on March 10, 2008

Oh, and thanks much for the translation, ooga_booga!
posted by languagehat at 7:19 AM on March 10, 2008

I wonder how regional rival Singapore will spin this?

Depends; the mainstream media's likely to downplay any significance of a long-entrenched incumbent party losing a significant number of seats in a national legislature, while simultaneously publishing stories about how empowered the minority racial groups are and how well the economy is actually doing compared to (i) the previous year, (ii) Malaysia, and, if the local population still hasn't gotten the point, (iii) a random passer-by.

The Singaporean blogosphere is probably going to overplay the importance of the shift in political allegiances and proclaim the imminent downfall of the incumbents in Singapore, heralding an unprecedented era of democracy, openness and liberty in the region.
posted by WalterMitty at 7:44 AM on March 10, 2008

Whoops! A mistranslation on my part - the text in the youtube video reads "People who are dense are afraid of shadows" - I got fooled by the false cognate. By the way languagehat, the accent of the man behind the podium is that of the the northern state Kedah, although it's not particularly strong here. The distinguishing feature is that the "r"s are pronounced in the back of the throat as opposed to in the front of the mouth.

BinGregory - it's encouraging that the impression is that PAS has dropped the Islamic State rhetoric, but even in the second link you provide they say, via the Menteri Besar of Kelantan who is a PAS member, "The people who are not Muslim, the Chinese, the Indians and (other minorities) now clearly accept our Islamic governance despite attempts by the BN's throwing of money and promises of development," he said. It shows how far they've come, admittedly, but it also shows how far they need to go before I start trusting them further than I can throw them.

Granted, it's part of the Malaysian constitution that Islam is the national religion and freedom of religion is a rather complicated issue over there. Nevertheless, the presence, influence and power of the religious police are far more significant in PAS-controlled states and though they are only supposed to police those who are muslim (essentially Malays with a small number of Indian muslims) there have been incidents where their grasp outstripped their reach. Nevertheless, having PAS in power in a state is equivalent to Jerry Falwell winning a governorship. Except without the American constitutional protections to keep religious chocolate out of governmental peanut butter.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:28 AM on March 10, 2008

« Older A Thin Blue Line   |   Things Vital to the Honor of Human Life Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments