New Politics Is Needed

Posted on April 3, 2016


In an Instagram post recently, Datuk Seri Nazir Razak the brother of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said that the future terrifies him.

He just can’t see how our institutions can recover, how our political atmosphere can become less toxic, and how our international reputation can be repaired.

He is not alone in feeling this way. Countless number of people I met recently have expressed similar sentiments. Many are totally disillusioned with the endless politicking between politicians while there seems to be no solution in sight to the economic quagmire we are in.

Who, or what, can blow away the dark clouds that hangs over our nation and restore hope to us?

Many are weary of the current type of politicking, where it is mostly about blaming the other side, boasting about achievements but hiding the shortcomings and the pursuit of self-interests instead of the nation’s.

This is old politics and people are tired of it. All over the world, people are distrustful of politicians who make empty promises and see public office as a means to power, prestige and wealth.

We need a new way of doing politics and a new breed of politicians who are totally people-centric and who see public office as a way to improve the lives of others. We need servant leaders.

Servant leaders are leaders who listen to and empathise with the people. They are peacemakers who seek to bring the people together and propose sustainable solutions that soothe the anxieties of all communities.

They are thinkers and strategists who make decisions that would bring prosperity and well-being to the nation.

People the world over are looking for a Jokowi (Indonesian president Joko Widodo) or a (US president) Barack Obama-type character to reignite hopes for real change.

Admittedly, Jokowi and Obama may have failed to lived up to the expectations of some but one cannot deny that when they first came on the scene, it was like a breath of fresh mountain air blowing down on the smog of old politics.

They are seen as not part of the old establishment but are with the common people on the ground.

Jokowi built his reputation when he was the mayor of Jakarta and was a man of action who personally went to the ground to hear the people’s grouses and resolve long-standing issues.

He was seen as approachable, in-touch and humble, qualities that endeared him to, not just the residents of Jakarta but to many Indonesians who yearned for change. With that he was elected to the highest office in the land.

For a brief moment, we thought we had found our own Jokowi in the person of Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali when he took office as Selangor Menteri Besar. He went to the ground to tackle issues that affected people’s daily lives, including cleanliness and traffic congestion.

Azmin was also quick to play a role in resolving the long-outstanding confiscation of Bibles issue and spoke up clearly on the Taman Medan church protest.

He was saying and doing all the right things in the eyes of many.

But alas, like a morning dew, it was all too brief and Azmin is now perceived as being detached from the people and their concerns. Fewer too are the hands-on approach he showed earlier and the reassuring statements we would expect from a leader.

But it is still not too late. Azmin can still do a lot to model servant leadership to restore hope and the public’s perception of him.

What can Pakatan Harapan (Harapan) do to show the Malaysian public that they are really different from their opponents in the Barisan Nasional? To show that they are worth the gamble at the next general election (GE14)?

My suggestion is that they should take a gamble themselves. Allow the next echelon of young and dynamic leaders to take over the mantle and lead Harapan into GE14.

The older generation who have served well can still do so as mentors and advisers to prepare the next generation of statesmen and women.

Harapan need to do what DAP did at the Teluk Intan by-election when they fielded a totally unknown, fresh-faced Dyana Sofya. Yes, they lost the battle there but they made a paradigm shift in their party’s posturing.

Even good senior leaders come with all sorts of political baggage and are perceived as tainted by old politics. They need to make way for the younger generation who can understand and appeal to younger voters.

Candidates who are well-educated, professional and even political newbies would be a bold step in the right direction.

Also, given that around 50% of voters are women, fielding more women candidates would be a good move and a clear sign that Harapan is committed to new politics.

Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

When it comes to strategies to win general elections, Harapan must think out-of-the-box and be willing to embrace a new a way of doing politics. It’s just insane to expect a different result at GE14 if they keep doing it the old way.

First published in The Malaysian Insider on February 1, 2016.