KUALA LUMPUR – 9 May, 2018 will forever be etched in the memories of Malaysians all over the country, if not the world.
Dubbed the “father of all elections”, the nation’s 14th general election saw the PH coalition, comprising four opposition parties – DAP, PKR, Amanah and Bersatu – win 113 out of the 222 parliamentary seats and thus entitled by law to form a new government with a simple majority.
The coalition then chose Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 93, to be the prime minister. Tun Mahathir, who was Malaysia’s fourth prime minister from 1981-2003 when he helmed Barisan Nasional (BN) then, was later sworn in as Malaysia’s seventh Prime Minister (on May 10. 2018), after leaving the job for 15 years ago to become the world’s oldest elected prime minister.
This so-called political tsunami or people’s power created an unexpected victory hence generating a mood of euphoria in Malaysia where voters were eager for change and awaited a grand plan for Malaysia Baharu (the New Malaysia) from the newly-elected government with Tun M at the helm.
Among notable messages that night was that the PH led-government would stabilise petrol prices, abolish the Goods and Services Tax (GST), reduce the cost of living, review mega projects awarded to foreign countries, all which were later fulfilled.
Not forgetting, the successful resolution of the 1MDB scandal using legal channels, the restructuring and recovery plans of government-linked companies such as Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) and Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) and to combat corruption on a bigger scale and into high gear with the introduction of the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC) and National Anti-Corruption Plan, taking the lead.
According to local political analyst, Che Hamdan Che Mohd Razali, combating corruption and misuse of power were among PH’s top commitment since the first day the coalition stepped into power.
“It is the main agenda so far and the Prime Minister himself is constantly issuing reminders specifically to civil servants to make corruption their number one enemy. The assurance (by PHA) of a clean government must be supported by everyone,” he said,
Turning 94 this year, Tun M seems to ignore his golden age and is giving his all in changing and developing Malaysia’s future . He has allowed mammoth infrastructure projects like the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to continue but at a much reduced cost, reduced the construction costs of the LRT3 and Mass Rapid Transit 2 (MRT 2) projects, which are scheduled for completion by February 2024 (LRT3) and July 2021 (MRT2).
On the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, Malaysia is now looking into ways to further cut the cost and will be discussing this further with Singapore before the end of the suspension period on May 31, 2020.
Tun M’s stellar performance in PH’s first year in administering the country was aided by his deputy, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and his cabinet members despite most of his ministers being new and inexperienced when they took office.
In a special interview in conjunction with the PH’s first anniversary as the ruling party, Tun M explained that as a prime minister, he tries to teach and guide them, and is confident that they will be as good as the experienced ones, given time.
On this matter, Che Hamdan commented that having a female deputy prime minister and more women’s presence in this new government, was an honor in a way to show their credibility and fulfill their responsibility handsomely.
As the country celebrates the first anniversary of the PH victory in the GE14, forming and running the new federal government, it is natural to ask – how well has the government done in terms of the administrative perspective and delivering on its election promises.
Tun M did confess that the coalition made too many election promises because it didn’t expect to win the 14th general election.
“Actually, we did not expect to win, and we made a thick manifesto with all kinds of promises…We need to make sacrifices to fulfill our promises. If we can’t fulfill them, we will need a good reason that is acceptable to the people,” Tun M said.
Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin opined that the PH government needs another six months to repair the damage left by the previous government and bring the country back on track after taking over the administration in May last year.
The Council of Eminent Persons chairman said during this period, PH would have to face the people and give an accurate explanation when needed, especially on economic-related matters, so that the people would understand the current situation.
Meanwhile, geostrategist and former Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) lecturer, Azmi Hassan said the PH government is trying very hard to fulfill its obligations as the government of the day but due to several constraints, especially inexperienced ministers, improvement is very slow indeed.
“There’s no learning curve luxury for the ministers since they need to perform right from the day one and not to wait till the second year. For the last one year, PH has been harping on the issue of BN liabilities such as debt level and 1MDB issues,” said Azmi.
“So come the second year of its administration, blame on other parties can’t be used anymore to create reasons on why the PH can’t function as expected. So, in my opinion, the second year will be challenging for the PH government since the people don’t want to hear excuses but want results, so that teething problems such as high cost of living will be dealt by the government,” he added.
“The people seem to be very forgiving in nature for the past year but make no mistake, come May 9 and onwards they maybe will be in an unforgiving mood and demand results instead.”
Malaysians must take note that real changes or reforms equivalent to the “grand plan” for Malaysia Baharu, can only take place in the coming years.
Political analyst and professor at Department of Government and Civilization Studies, Faculty of Human Ecology, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Prof Dr Zaid Ahmad said one year is too short to evaluate PH’s performance since the administration needs to do a lot of housekeeping work.
“Now we are entering a new phase in the maturity of the democratic process in Malaysia. It is this maturity that will make democracy flourish. The winners are the rakyat (people),” said Zaid.