Singapore forum finds GE13 ‘opened up civil dialogue’

11 May

SINGAPORE, May 11 — A former Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia has described Malaysia’s recently concluded general election as being good for the country, as civil dialogue has opened up and voters are able to talk and debate a wide range of issues.

“There was no more the kind of suppression that there was in (former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s) era,” K. Kesavapany was quoted in a Singapore Straits Times report today as saying at a panel discussion on Malaysia’s 13th general election organised by the Singapore Press Club.

The outcome of the May 5 election in which the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was returned to power is also good for Singapore “because we have people with whom we have done business and will continue to do business”, said Kesavapany, who was High Commissioner to Malaysia from 1997 to 2002.

He was one of four panellists who shared their views on a broad range of topics, from allegations of electoral fraud and irregularities to the fate of key political leaders, at a discussion held at the Singapore Press Holdings’ News Centre Auditorium.

The other speakers at the event, “Malaysia: What Next?”, were Professor Joseph Liow of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, The Straits Times foreign editor Ravi Velloor and assistant foreign editor Reme Ahmad.

BN, led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, won a simple majority with 133 out of 222 parliamentary seats, but lost the popular vote for the first time. The opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim garnered 50.8 per cent of the popular vote to BN’s 47.3 per cent.

According to the Singapore daily, Liow said the outcome leaves Najib, who had pledged to regain BN’s two-thirds parliamentary majority, which would have allowed the coalition to amend the Constitution, in a precarious position.

He felt leadership politics within Umno, the dominant party in BN, “could get a bit messy” as Najib would face a tough political fight to retain his party presidency. 

Velloor was reported as concurring that it would not be so easy for Najib’s political rivals to remove him as party leader as he is personally popular with ordinary Umno members.

The panellists said BN must take electoral fraud allegations seriously as well as take firm measures to address corruption if it wants to win back voters.



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