Every country needs a hero, a saviour.
The more issues faced by its people, the more dire the need for a leader who can lead the country from the brink of further chaos.
Most Malaysians would remember the almost three-year period that we went through after the machinations of the infamous ‘Sheraton Move’, plunged the country into disarray.
While those behind the ‘Move’ had their supporters, there were more who were content with just sitting on the fence and watching from the sidelines, when it came to politics.
Granted, Covid-19 was unprecedented. There was nothing to fall back on. No quick reference checklists, plans of action, no contingency programmes for countries staring down the barrel of a planet-wide pandemic, an imploding global economy, and massive layoffs across the board.
These assaults, across multiple fronts, required the attention of capable, thinking leaders. Malaysia had Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who served as prime minister for 14 months. He was later replaced by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Ismail Sabri’s appointment came as a surprise, considering his less than sterling performance as a Barisan Nasional politician.
Muhyiddin and Ismail Sabri’s ascension to the highest office in the country not only raised questions, but also saw allegations of impropriety, that their administrations were riddled with mismanagement and abuse of power.
As a result, many Malaysians turned to social media to voice their dissatisfaction.
Their displeasure boiled over during GE15, with the fall of BN – once a juggernaut of Malaysian politics.
Analysts said the election results marked the “end of an era” for BN. Widespread corruption within the party had played a key role in its downfall.
Pakatan Harapan (PH) won 82 seats, while Perikatan Nasional (PN) emerged victorious with 73. BN finished a distant third with a mere 30 seats, down from the 79 it won in the last polls.
The message couldn’t be clearer. The rakyat, though divided, had grown tired of the old political shenanigans, and were clamouring for a new and fresh Malaysian political construct.
In this excitement for change, the much-vaunted hero and saviour for many, was 75-year-old Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, whose political journey has been bumpy and fraught with challenges. Over the years, he has managed to surround himself with a strong and formidable group of devoted supporters.
During GE15, Anwar, who contested in a four-cornered fight in Tambun, won against incumbent Bersatu deputy president, Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu, with a 5,328-vote majority.
With his charisma, quick wit, and powerful oratory skills, Anwar, the seasoned politician, became the darling of the nation. With the ‘saviour’ now upon us, Malaysians heaved a sigh of relief, and could now sleep soundly, with hope that things would be better.
However, Anwar’s appointment as prime minister was not straightforward. Despite PH boasting the biggest representation in the Dewan Rakyat, it was still not enough to form a majority government.
Support from other parties was needed and it came from none other than Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. The same Ahmad Zahid tainted by scandal, and facing 47 charges of corruption.
Detractors rallied against this appointment, citing hypocrisy on Anwar’s part. Ahmad Zahid countered by saying that it was to save this beloved nation.
Despite facing 47 criminal charges, Ahmad Zahid was named deputy prime minister, making him the second most powerful man in the country and the first to hold that position with a pending court case.
Many voters saw Ahmad Zahid’s appointment as a betrayal, as PH had ridden on the ticket of eliminating corruption during the election campaign period.
Malaysians were divided. There was no shortage of those who were disillusioned by the loss of innocence, the death of idealism. Many saw it as a continuation of the same old system, albeit with a glitzier, more palatable packaging.
Others were more realistic, saying that this was the harsh reality of Malaysian politics. They were willing to swallow it, bitter though it may be, all for the sake of the country’s wellbeing.
Malaysians were forced to make concessions. Even those who had been vocal about an overhaul of the nation’s politics, began to back down and chose to be silent. Those who had been critical meanwhile, were called out and labelled unpatriotic, or worse, of supporting ‘mediocre’ leaders.
The rise of the Islamist party, Pas, in the national polls, helped make the support for PH, warts and all, an easy decision for many. This was a case of choosing the lesser of two evils. And somehow, it justified the appointment of Ahmad Zahid as deputy prime minister, despite his pending court cases.
Recently, Malaysian politics was again rocked when PMX, as Anwar is fondly referred to, appointed his own daughter, Nurul Izzah, as his senior economics and finance advisor. For many, this reeks of nepotism.
The argument that Nurul Izzah is doing pro bono work doesn’t hold water. There is obviously a conflict of interest, especially when Anwar is also finance minister.
With more supporters starting to speak out and rejecting arguments justifying Nurul Izzah’s appointment as senior advisor to the prime minister, it seems Malaysians are slowly heading towards mature politics, when until only recently, hero worshipping seemed to be the norm.
The ability to discern and distinguish between right and wrong without being clouded by emotional affiliation can be acknowledged as a positive change to a country so used to divisive, ‘us against them’ tactics.
At the end of the day, the question we need to ask ourselves is pretty straightforward – how many concessions to our principles and values are we willing to make?
Being critical in calling out abuse of elected officials’ position and power is not ‘unpatriotic’. Citizens have a huge stake in their country, and it is only natural to demand the best from their elected representatives.
Having to continuously make concessions will not augur well for this nation.
The act of mindless adulation has never ended well, both for those doing the adulation, and the object of such admiration.
A leader, like any other mortal, is not without fault. Hence, it is incumbent upon only the truest of supporters to point out the error of the former’s ways.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.