From The Choice.
You don't have to look hard in Putrajaya to find old men who are
nostalgic about the fabled two-thirds majority.
Many of them are older
Malay MPs and senior Umno officials who prefer to live in the past
because things were simpler back then.
BN was easily returned at every election, there was no need for
anything as extreme as political reform in tune with changing times, and
a seat in the Dewan Rakyat was, for the most part, a ticket for life.
The GE12 came along and ruined everything. The loss of the two-thirds
majority sparked a chorus of grieving not just because BN could no
longer alter the constitution, but because the old guard felt they had
lost prestige – and they had.
In turn they got rid of the man they blamed for the disaster, Prime
Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and breathed a sigh of relief when
Najib took the helm.
He'll get it back for us, they thought.
Except there is a good chance Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak
isn't even thinking about anachronisms like the two-thirds majority
right now. What Najib wants at GE13 is to be returned with a working
He doesn't want to just scrape over the line. 112 seats out of 222
would hardly send a message of a clear mandate and it wouldn't cover him
for absentees from the house or rebels who cross the floor in defiance
of the whip.
For a pragmatist like Najib, a working majority is enough for him to
form a Government able to weather the occasional act of defiance and
complete his reform agenda – no less, no more.
It begs the question: will a working majority be enough for the old
guard? The answer to that is, who knows.
But it would be a brave, if not
bloody-minded, 2013 Umno General Assembly that turned on the PM who
returned it to office just four years after suffering a 14 per cent
swing against it.
The painful reality is that the two-thirds majority might be gone for
ever. Party politics has become more fractured, our political tastes
have evolved and fewer people will say publicly that they vote for a
particular party "because my father always did".
These days issues and
leadership are key.
A look at other bicameral parliamentary democracies around the world
makes the two-thirds majority seem like the Malaysian constitutional
quirk that it is. It doesn't exist in the Westminster Parliaments of the
UK, Australia or New Zealand.
In those countries, the aim of any party is, once again, no more than a working majority to fulfil its mandate.
In Australia, the ruling Labor Party doesn't have a majority, let
alone a working majority, with just 72 of the 150 lower house seats.
result is that Prime Minister Julia Gillard's minority Government is
Evidence of this is its chronic inability to implement the
Malaysia Solution to deal with asylum seekers despite trying for more
than two years.
In the UK, the Conservative Party's coalition with the Liberal
Democrats has meant both parties making huge ideological compromises,
but they at least have a working majority of 83 seats in the 650 seat
House of Commons.
Pakatan Rakyat has a two-faced approach to the two-thirds majority.
It is happy to use it as a political weapon, readily reminding BN of
what it lost at GE12.
But at the same time, they wouldn't dare to make
it a prerequisite for success at GE13. Anwar would treat 112 seats as
the fulfilment of all his dreams.
The bottom line in all this is that Najib has proven that he doesn't
need a two-thirds majority to transform the nation.
He has completed the
most dramatic reform agenda in our history without it. He has
transformed the way we vote, repealed the ISA and the Sedition Act,
reformed the Printing Presses and Publications Act and introduced the
landmark Peaceful Assembly Bill.
And the bad news for those old men who yearn for the good old days is
that he is also reforming the BN seat selection process. Some of them
are set to be "reformed" into retirement.
Najib's transformation agenda is a work in progress and while no
leader would turn down a two-thirds majority, he has already shown that a
working majority is all that he needs to get things done.