The three black swans in Malaysian politics

Nothing is impossible in politics.

In the olden days, the Europeans believed all swans were white. No swans should come in a different color!

Later they went to Australia and saw that there were indeed black color swans there!

Several years back, Lebanese American professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb published a bestselling book based on the unusual black swan phenomenon, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

Simply put, he told everyone the following:

  1. Anything that is unpredictable could happen.
  2. When it happens, the impact is going to be immense.
  1. After it happens, people will start to realize that there is a reason for it, and that it doesn’t happen by chance.

Just like the September 11 attacks, the 2007 global financial crisis and the sinking of RMS Titanic, all unanticipated but explainable and with far-fetching effects!

Back in Malaysian politics, we have seen a great deal of black swan incidents in recent years that have smashed the stereotyped conventions and have had tremendous impact on the country’s political ecosystem.

I would like to cite the examples of past, present and future black swans in Malaysian politics as follows:

Past black swan: Pakatan Harapan of 2018.

No one would have expected PH to win the 14th general elections, not even Tun Mahathir himself. People began to realize that it didn’t happen by chance and had actually been in the making for some time, after it happened!

The black swan began with the unexpected reconciliation between Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim, and between Mahathir and his ex-rivals DAP. It later became official when Nurul Izzah flew to London to tell Mahathir PH accepted him as PM-designate.

Their past was a concoction of bitter animosity and rivalry, but when they came together, a powerful force came into being. This, coupled with 1MDB, GST and Umno-PAS rivalry created a perfect storm to make it happen.

In other words, these vaguely visible black swans came together out of the blue and managed to seize the right moment to turn explosive!

The polling day on May 9 marked the moment RMS Titanic charged towards the iceberg. It was already there! Just as the black swans had existed but out of the sight, and therefore the knowledge, of the outside world.

Present black swan: The Umno-PAS Muafakat Nasional.

Umno and PAS used to be sworn enemies. They only forged a short-lived alliance when Barisan Nasional was established in 1973, and their partnership lasted only a couple of years.

Both parties were basically wooing the same group of people: Malay-Muslim voters and were fighting tooth and nail to win Malay seats.

The turning point happened when they came to the realization that they had to join forces to confront their common foe after being beaten by PH in GE14.

The two parties tried to work together in the by-elections in Semenyih and Cameron Highlands by fielding only a single candidate in each constituency to fight PH while campaigning for the same candidate.

More than half of the parliamentary seats in the country are predominantly Malay, and these are almost sure bets of the two parties. As if that is not enough, they can work with their allies from Sabah and Sarawak in some of the mixed constituencies. All they are waiting is a date for the general elections.

Future black swan: reshuffling in politics that see former allies team up again.

The Umno-PAS alliance is taking shape, and the only possible opponent that can challenge it, is a yet-to-emerge third black swan!

The current PH or PH++ are no fight for Umno-PAS, to be honest. PH has been dumped by the mainstream Malay society and is beginning to get marginalized. It can only look to non-Malay supporters for survival.

Mahathir and Anwar have gone separate ways now, spelling the collapse of PH++.

Neither the existing PH nor the aged Mahathir can withstand the onslaught of Umno-PAS. A new political team needs to be put up to do the job.

We may see a third black swan if Muhyiddin, who now basks in enviable popularity among the Malays, teams up with Anwar who has the undivided support of the country’s multiracial electorate.

Muhyiddin joined hands with Umno-PAS to form a new government, but the latter swore to make him a lame duck PM, a disposable commodity to be discarded once he is of no more use to them.

Meanwhile, the loyalty of Anwar’s allies in PH has been flickering, not to mention the unfortunate fact that DAP is widely perceived as a liability in the Malay society and will potentially jeopardize Anwar’s image.

Both Muhyiddin and Anwar may not go far if they stick to their respective camps, unless they seek a new way out.

And once their parties (PPBM and PKR) team up again, from the perspectives of political philosophies and power structure, they will be able to more convincingly talk East Malaysian parties into joining them to fight Umno-PAS.

This could be a third black swan, but before this comes into play, people are generally skeptical.

By : Tay Tian Yan – Sin Chew Daily

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