KUALA LUMPUR – Dec 29, 2015: As the new year draws closer, several political analysts who talked to The Mole predicted that Malaysians will soon switch their main concerns to economic issues instead of the current trend of relentless political discourse.
Independent political analyst Prof Dr Hoo Ke Ping believed that Malaysians in general will become somewhat “politically apathetic” as they become more concerned with issues such as rising cost of living rather than politics.
He said it would be highly unlikely there will be a repeat of mammoth political street protests next year.
“This is because people will worry more about retrenchments, business closures and joblessness.
“Even with the looming Sarawak state election, things will not be as hot as the previous general election in 2013,” he said.
Dr Mohd Azizudin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) shared Hoo’s views on economic instability affecting the level of public’s political engagement.
He deemed that despite the country’s seemingly positive economic projection by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the masses are still sceptical of how the local economy will perform.
“In fact, speculation of a possible further plunge in oil prices said to happen next year can definitely lower the level of the public’s political engagement,” said Azizuddin.
However, Azizuddin cautioned Barisan Nasional leaders that it is too early for them to rest on their laurel because the political scene may still get tense if they do not manage the sense of economic uncertainties well.
“For all we know, economic instability can also create more grouses.
“Should the government fail to come up with an effective solution to cushion the impact deriving from such instability, it will be politically disastrous for them (BN),” said Azizuddin.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Dr Azmi Hassan supported the view that economic instability will cause the people to become more politically inclined.
“Looking at the 2015 scenario, the people will blame the government for any issue related to the increasing cost of living.
“The toll hike, the declining of our ringgit value and the goods and services tax are good example where the people will try to put the blame on the government.
“So, since 2016 is predicted to be a more economically volatile, I believed the people will be more politically engaging for the coming year,” Azmi wrote to The Mole via email.
Azmi was of the opinion that 2016 is going to be an interesting year given the turmoil within the ruling BN and the opposition camp.
“Umno, MCA and MIC are facing their own internal problems…especially Umno.
“As for the opposition, the decision to exclude Pas from their pact posed interesting scenario because till today Amanah does not command the aura as possessed by Pas,” he wrote.
Another political analyst, Dr Chandra Muzaffar of the Global Movement for a Just World (JUST), reckoned that the same political pattern will continue next year.
“I don’t see any radical changes happening next year,” he told The Mole.
He said political development within BN next year will hinge upon the outcome of investigation on the controversial 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
“If the findings somehow impair the credibility of the Umno-led BN leadership, then we can expect to see some actions within the ruling coalition.
“Assuming that such a thing truly does happen, I don’t think Pas would want to cooperate with Umno because it will affect their credibility among its grassroots members,” said Chandra.
He reasoned that Pas members and supporters will not be keen on the prospect of Pas cooperating with Umno should the outcome of the investigation implicates Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
According to Chandra, the development of 1MDB investigation and possible Pas-Umno cooperation will determine the political growth of the opposition next year.
The major concern for the opposition will centre on whether PKR will be able to simultaneously work with DAP and Pas.
“It will be troublesome for PKR to do that because DAP does not want it to happen. They want PKR to choose only one.
“It’s the same thing with Pas…they don’t mind working with PKR but they don’t want to work with DAP,” said Chandra.
Describing it as a ‘difficult issue’, Chandra said matters concerning unity within the opposition fraternity will not likely be resolved next year.
He also said that it is still too vague for anyone to claim that the newly- formed opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), will be as strong as the previous Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
“So far, it is still unclear as to who is in and who is out.
“I think one of the main problems with Malaysian politics is that there was too much preoccupation with pragmatism.
“Each party is always on the lookout for the best options for themselves up to the point that they no longer look at the larger picture.
“In fact, there is no attachment to their own principles because they are too attached to their own self-interest and that is why our political scenario is in such a mess,” Chandra said.