PETALING JAYA, 25 June 2009: Pakatan Rakyat needs to, among others, form a shadow cabinet in order for Malaysia to start having a two-party system, a political scientist said.
Monash University Sunway Campus’s Prof Dr James Chin said Pakatan Rakyat (PR) had to first formalise itself as a coalition before talk about Malaysia having a two-party system could be realised.
“In addition to this, a two-party or two-coalition system requires two equal, competing coalitions which are roughly of the same setup,” he said in a phone interview.
Chin noted that as a coalition, the PR was not yet of equal strength to Barisan Nasional (BN) and questioned whether the opposition could even be regarded as a coalition at this juncture.
“They are more like three people driving in the same car, and are unclear even about who the driver is,” he said, adding that conversely, the BN was a coalition with a very clear driver in Umno.
Khalid IbrahimChin added that if the PR failed to formalise itself immediately, for example by announcing a shadow cabinet, the only other option for a two-party system to emerge would be if it wins the next general election.
After the PR’s victory in the 7 Apr 2009 Bukit Gantang parliamentary by-election, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced that the opposition would not set up a shadow cabinet.
Instead, the PR would create panels comprising representatives from PKR, DAP and PAS to monitor the ministries. To date, however, the PR has yet to make public what these panels are or if they have come into force.
“We are definitely on the way to a two-party system, but if PR loses the next general election, its current structure will fall apart,” Chin said.
He was responding to Selangor Menteri Besar and Selangor PKR liaison chief Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s statement on 23 June 2009 that Malaysia’s “current two-coalition system” would provide better checks and balances compared to a unity government.
The unity government idea was mooted by Umno and PAS in recent months, but was effectively rejected by the PR on 22 June.
“A two-party system is only considered desirable in Malaysia because we have no history of a truly working democracy,” Chin stressed, adding that many citizens now consider anything that alters Umno’s one-party dominance as “a success”.
James Chin (© Monash University,
“People are just looking for a peaceful transfer of power now,” he said.
Nevertheless, Chin said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had a 50-50 chance of leading the BN to victory at the next general election.
“BN still has a unified machinery and money, while the PR parties’ machineries have not actually merged on the ground,” he said.
According to Chin, the PR’s strong cooperation now was only driven by its common hatred of Umno, a basis which might not be tenable for long-term cooperation.