Middle East Protests – can Malaysia do the same?

In recent days, I have watched news on television in awe, wondering what it all means. I had the BBC news on most of the time over the weekend as it flashed across Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and even Iran and in eastern Africa other than Egypt, which was the first major turn. Thousands of protestors teemed public squares and urban streets, thoroughly vocal and animated. Muslim middle-eastern protestors – women included – across the Arab world want democracy, tired of monarchs and long serving leaders who weren’t chosen by western style democratic processes. I’m waiting to see if this ever gets to Saudi Arabia – that would be the big one, I’m sure.

I wonder if the same thing would happen in Malaysia.

Malaysian leaders would no doubt and in a flash, say Malaysia has had regular democratic elections and every government it has had has been chosen by the people via general elections. That is true but take away the formal veneers and you’d find elements very similar to what the people of the Arab world has been protesting against. The Arab world wants true and fair elections which are not designed to see the incumbent holding on to power. They want fresh leadership at regular intervals similar to the US and other western styled democracies.

Malaysia may have had Najib, Abdullah Badawi and Mahathir Mohammed in the past decade but it has had an UMNO dominated ruling class for more than 50 years. Its leaders are selected within a closed system which rewards those loyal not to ideals which serve the country, but party agenda. It has almost always been what is best for UMNO, not the country, which determines the leadership. In this sense, UMNO has been the ruler of Malaysia for the last 50+ years, an uninterrupted reign not unlike the regimes of the middle-east like Gaddafi. Mahathir could have gone on to be PM beyond the 22/23 years, had there been no Asian financial crisis to shake up his empire. UMNO remains intact and predominant regardless, and UMNO is the regime which has the same tired, corrupt and self serving elements not dissimilar to those in the Arab world.

The elements giving rise to mass uprising against the ruling regimes in the Arab world, are also present in Malaysia today. If Malaysians want to wake up and seize the moment, they should see what is happening in middle east now.


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