What Politik Baru?
Most political parties in the country are stuck in the old mode of thinking, so any new development in the political landscape provokes in them emotional and contentious reactions.
“This is the trouble with politics today,” said political analyst and constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari as he pointed to the crisis plaguing parties like PAS, MCA and PKR.
Adaptability, said Abdul Aziz, is a crucial attribute that all political players need to survive in the framework of ‘New Politics’.
‘New Politics’, he said, is a framework of broader issues and ideas forming the basis for discourse unlike the often damaging practice of traditional racial and sectarian politics.
It dovetails with the views espoused by Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah in his book, aptly titled ‘New Politics’.
Knowing the rules of this new game and how to play it, added Abdul Aziz, “will determine the life and death of all the political parties in the arena today.”
In PAS for example, the UIA (International Islamic University) professor said, the issue is no longer about professionals (dubbed Erdogans) versus Islamic scholars (ulamas).
But rather between those who follow the old school of politics and those with more open and modern policies aligned with ‘New Politics’.
Both sides of the current robust ‘discussions’ between spiritual advisor Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and president Abdul Hadi Awang, explained Abdul Aziz, embrace both ulamas and Erdogans.
Selangor PAS commissisoner Hasan Ali and secretary-general Mustafa Ali, for example, are not ulamas, but they are close to certain groups within that community who follow the ‘old ways’.
The battle in PAS
Much like the very vocal hardliner Hasan Ali, these ‘old style’ leaders are not that in tune with the more moderate values like transparency, acceptance and the like.
This is in contrast to ulamas like Nik Aziz and those he leads who are more modern, the Erdogans.
These crop of ulamas and Erdogans operate within a more moderate political framework while still maintaining their Islamic identity.
“This is why they do not find it difficult working with the DAP and the PKR,” added Abdul Aziz.
The political expert added: “Far from being a slave to de-facto Pakatan Rakyat leader Anwar Ibrahim, the more progressive members of PAS, however, have learned to tolerate and work with him.”
Abdul Aziz gave the example of Erdogan stalwart Husam Musa whose open criticisms of Anwar once even aroused the ire of PKR vice president Azmin Ali. Still, he pointed out, Husam continues to support a cordial working relationship between PAS and PKR.
Thus the real battle in PAS, concludes the professor, may be likened to be between the more progressive elements under Nik Aziz and the hardliners under Hadi.
PAS not alone
But Abdul Aziz said, PAS is not alone in facing this duality. In DAP for example, the professor explained, we can see the rise of new faces like Liew Chin Tong, Anthony Loke and Tony Pua, (right) all of whom are champions of democracy and reforms.
“However, they do this in a clever way, without hurting the feelings of the Malays,” said Abdul Aziz.
This, he argued, differentiated the young guns of DAP from the likes of party stalwarts like supremo Lim Kit Siang and chairman Karpal Singh.
The party’s venerable old lions are still trapped within their old political mind set, despite espousing the same democratic and reformist ideas of the younger generation, they use more abrasive means to get their message across.
Even in PKR, Abdul Aziz said, the same tale is retold. There are many new faces with views much like the DAP young guns. These new PKR lineup are not aligned to the old style politics of some in PKR, especially those who were ex-Umno members.
A new dimension
“This emergence of a new wave of leaders will give a new dimension to Pakatan,”said Abdul Aziz. “If Anwar and Nik Aziz can guide and nurture them, then Pakatan will find it easier to directly connect with a more progressive rakyat. A fact which will be a major discomfort for BN.”
‘New Politics’, he said, will not only help to smoothen the country’s administration by bringing politicians closer to the rakyat but also help sooth ruffled feathers caused by many interpretations of the constitution.
One major area of contention, pointed out Abdul Aziz, is the often discussed special Malay rights (Article 153) and the status of the Malay language (Article 152).
He claimed that Umno has failed to understand the real philosophy behind these provisions, and this is the cause of their failure to address the issue properly.
He added, that the old style of politics and their failures has directly caused friction among the races and followers of different religions.
However, Abdul Aziz also does not think that the flawed interpretations espoused by Karpal Singh, for example, had helped to mend fences.
In fact he said the reactionary responses from those like Karpal Singh has allowed Umno to continue to survive, as they exploited his outrageous claims to champion the cause of Malays.
One of the more attractive aspects, said Abdul Aziz, is that the ‘new politicians’ no longer talk about divisive racial and sectarian issues and hard to explain concepts like ‘secular nation’ and ‘Islamic state’.
Cleansing process needed
In order to truly explore the landscape of ‘New Politics’, Abdul Aziz opined that a cleansing process is needed to remove remnants of ‘old politics’ which continue to stand in the way of progressive politics.
This, he said, is something that PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim – renowned for his political cunning just like Nik Aziz – may have started.
His ultimatum to time-wasters to leave PKR may have been the ammunition the party vice-president needed in order to train his guns on errant representative Zulkifli Nordin.
Zulkifli’s outright challenge to Sivarasa, claimed Abdul Aziz, was a desperate move because the Kulim-Bandar Baru parliamentarian panicked.
Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim even called him a waste product of PAS, according to Abdul Aziz. “Sivarasa is a vice president and closer to Anwar. He is simply too strong for Zulkifli to take on,” he added
“Zulkifli is a classic example of a political player who failed in the context of ‘New Politics’. His actions reveal his shallowness and his inability to be a team player, much like Hasan Ali.
“Those who fail to play by the rules of ‘New Politics’ will soon be out of the game. There is no more safe haven for them.
“Even Umno is no longer interested in these dregs as the Malay party is trying to play by ‘New Politics’ rules as can be observed with their 1Malaysia campaign and recent reforms,” said Abdul Aziz.