Anatomy of an Electoral Tsunami.

AuthorBelle, Carl Vadivella
PositionBook review

Anatomy of an Electoral Tsunami. By Lim Teck Ghee, S. Thayaparan and Terence Netto. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Strategic Research and Development Centre, 2018. Softcover: 245pp.

On 9 May 2018, the Malaysian electorate terminated 60 years of dominance by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) of Malayan/Malaysian politics by voting into office the opposition Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope). The Anatomy of an Electoral Tsunami, written by three of Malaysia's leading political observers, is not so much a dissection of the election itself, but rather a compilation of opinion pieces which analyse the increasing social, political and economic decay which, under the UMNO-dominated government of Prime Minister Najib Razak, threatened the future of Malaysia as a viable parliamentary democracy. All three writers are well credentialed for this task. Lim Teck Ghee is a long established public intellectual, S. Thayaparan is a pungent and incisive political analyst and Terence Netto is a respected veteran journalist.

The comprehensive coverage of issues of concern within the Malaysian body politic makes for discouraging reading. The book details gathering authoritarianism and intolerance of opposition, the rapid growth of religious extremism--spurred by UMNO-PAS rivalry and impacted by an increasingly assertive and intrusive religious bureaucracy--unchecked racial chauvinism and bigotry, declining educational standards, economic stasis and massive corruption.

As Lim observes (pp. 13-14), corruption, including a series of major economic scandals, had long been a feature of Malaysian political life. Routine government abuses included extensive patronage and cronyism, rent seeking, dependency on government handouts, and tolerance of gross inefficiencies. However, revelations regarding the lMalaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) took corruption to a new and indeed grotesque level. Reports revealed losses totalling RM42 billion (US$11.7 billion), of which a reported RM2.7 billion (US$700 million) had been allegedly deposited in Prime Minister Najib's personal account. The suppression of any investigation into the 1MDB scandal resulted in the dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Attorney-General Abdul Ghani Patail, a Cabinet reshuffle which resulted in the termination of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee investigation, together with collateral damage visited upon associated prosecuting agencies including the police, the...

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