Monday, October 12, 2009

Bagan Pinang: The Politics of Political Defeat

It may exist in the ether somewhere. I hope it does, though I'm not holding my breath.

You know, that letter cum article published quicktime after the Pakatan defeat at the hands of Barisan in Bagan Pinang? The one where we read of top Pakatan leaders (maybe even the PAS candidate Omar himself) and/or pro-Pakatan writers:
  • congratulating Isa and BN on the victory and pledging to work with him for the welfare of Bagan Pinang's community (maybe even mentioning specific projects which could benefit from experts in the Pakatan camp)

  • focusing more on what Pakatan failed to do (and the resources and steps they can take in the future, this one comes close but lacks depth; this one is certainly better) than on how unfair Barisan's victory was (and/or how it's 'really' a defeat in disguise)

  • providing firm reasons why Pakatan remains the right choice instead of why Barisan is the wrong one (I'm sure what Pakatan stands for is as important as what it stands against, but let's face it the former isn't exactly what's always being shouted from the mountain tops, eh?); Lim Kit Siang's call to go back to the drawing board is surely a move in the right direction, although I doubt he needed the parting shot about UMNO's inability to stop corruption (which sounds like an euphemism for, "I hate to lose" given that it doesn't add value to anything and certainly won't change anybody's minds)

  • NOT making sweeping statements like "BN endorses corruption because Isa was corrupt" which not only sound fallacious (like "Pakatan endorses party disloyalty because Anwar enticed 31 Barisan folks to switch camp") but also smacks of pot-and-kettle mentality (like Chelsea complaining that Manchester United players are exaggerating the impact of fouls committed on them - yeah, and the Blues are what? 100% honest-to-referee-and-God saints?? )

The Pakatan-oriented reactions to Bagan Pinang have to be such that it doesn't illustrate yet again the nature of the game we know as Malaysian politics. The game has its unique rules of engagement : Heads you're corrupt, Tails I'm correct.

You can bet your Malaysia Kini subscription that had the situation been REVERSED (e.g. had Pakatan fielded a popular candidate with a controversial history because all other means were exhausted), you would certainly hear Lim Kit Siang, Anwar et al talking about how politics is complex and flexibility is needed to make progress, how we're a "maturing civil society" and we can't always think in black-and-white, how (a'la Najib) we need to put aside dark histories and focus on the future, how we mustn't succumb to political insinuations about the character of candidates who "have the people's trust" and - you get the point.

In any other scenario where the loser slams the winner for winning, we'd call it 'sour grapes'. But in a Malaysian bi-election, we call it 'fighting corruption'.

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