The PM announced that a parliamentary select committee to study electoral reform would be set up. I think this is a good first step. By announcing the formation of such a committee, he is indirectly conceding that our electoral system has many problems.
That is what Bersih 2.0 was trying to point out.
If he had allowed Bersih to march, and taken the initiative to set up a commission to study electoral reform after the Bersih March, he would have been welcomed as a democratic reformist during his visit to UK and Vatican. He would have been hailed by overseas media and came home as a hero. He would have gained the votes of some fence sitters.
Instead, the clampdown on Bersih has put a black mark on his records, and the debacle of mishandling of Bersih gave the opposition the much needed adrenalin jab in the run-up to the next GE. It also gives bullets for certain faction in his party rumoured to be trying to push him out.
He has finally conceded that electoral reforms are needed after taking a big detour, so to speak. Perhaps he should take a leaf from Mr Lee Hsien Loong, who apologised to his nation on some of the mistakes that his government has committed. That apology in fact saved the day for PAP, as a high official told me that Mr Lee won back at least 5% of votes with his sincerity and humbleness when apologising.
A Parliamentary select committee to study electoral reform may not be enough. “A select committee is a committee made up of a small number of parliamentary members appointed to deal with particular areas or issues originating in the Westminster system ” according to wikipedia. So a parliamentary committee would have excluded the NGOs and the civil society.
I think certain personalities within the civil society, like those in the Bersih steering committee, should be consulted on electoral reforms. Thus, a commission would be a much better option. A commission that comprises politicians, civil society, academicians and Bar council would have been better than just having politicians; a wider scope of reform would have been made possible by having more ‘brains’.
It is also interesting to note that almost immediately, the No.2 has come out to say that there is nothing wrong with the electoral system, only minor adjustments are needed. This seeming diverse view reminds us of the dichotomy of paths taken by No 1 and No 2 in whether a Malaysian should place his Malaysian or ethnic identity first .
Had this dichotomy existed 20 years ago, No. 2 would have been packed off somewhere, if not charged with something. This says plenty about the support of our PM within his own party.
But as PM, he needs to set a path for himself and cannot be seen as flipflopping and taking about turns all the time. He has to rule and he must be firm and stern in doing what he believes is right which is adopting a centrist stand.
This is a multiracial country and there is really no place for right wingers and extremists. Had he pursued a moderate stand and firm in implementing reformist and non racial policies from the very beginning, and get the people on his side, the extremists would have found themselves isolated and would be in no position to push him out.
He has missed a chance but being PM, a very powerful position in Malaysia, he can still push for changes if he dares to put his head on the chopping block, and by taking chances well, he can still out manoeuvre his foes in his backyard.
I hope this is not the beginning of another flip-flopping.