(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamadís said yesterday that the Barisan Nasional (BN) must retain its two-thirds majority in Parliament so that no component party or Member of Parliament will be in a position to threaten the BN's stability and strength.
His reason that a two-thirds majority win is necessary so that no BN component party or elected representative would threaten to join the opposition party is both preposterous and scandalous.
Preposterous because of Mahathirís claim that without two-thirds majority there can be no strong or stable government.
As there will be 193 MPs in the next Parliament, if the Opposition wins 65 seats, the Barisan Nasional would be denied of a two-thirds majority. However, the Barisan Nasional would still have 128 MPs, allowing it not only to form a government but with a very comfortable majority of 63 seats.
How can Mahathir claim that a Barisan Nasional government with a 63-seat majority in the Dewan Rakyat cannot be a strong and stable government?
How many governments in the world will claim that it cannot be strong and stable although it has majorities of over 20 seats? Mahathir must be the only person in the world to make such a claim. Will Mahathir state that he would not be prepared to continue as Prime Minister unless the Barisan Nasional is returned with a two-thirds majority in the next election?
Two-thirds majority is the exception rather than the rule in other parliamentary of governments, but in Malaysia, Mahathir is insisting that it should be the rule - which is why Malaysiaís democratic model has become so authoritarian, where nothing, not even the Malaysian Constitution, is sancrosanct.
It is precisely because the Barisan Nasional government had never lost two-thirds majority that over the decades it had developed a culture of political hegemony which is highly detrimental to the healthy growth of democracy, allowing the government to subvert the independence and public confidence of important institutions of state, whether Parliament, the judiciary, the office of Attorney-General, the police, the Election Commission, the media as well as erode fundamental rights of Malaysians to justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
Mahathirís statement is also outrageous for its shows his lack of confidence not only in UMNO MPs but also in the other component parties in Barisan Nasional to the extent that he could say publicly that if the Barisan Nasional government is not returned with two-thirds majority, it would be placed in a position where it could be "threatened" by a component party or Member of Parliament to join the opposition if its or his demands were not met.
Mahathir clearly does not have a very high opinion on the integrity, political or otherwise, of UMNO MPs or the other component parties in the Barisan Nasional. What is holding the Barisan Nasional together is primarily power and vested interests of the political players in the ruling coalition.
I do not think anyone envisages that even if the Opposition parties win 75 to 80 parliamentary seats, with the Barisan Nasional getting 113 to 118 seats, which will still give the Barisan Nasional a comfortable majority of between 33 to 43 seats in Parliament, the Barisan Nasional would not be able to form a strong and stable government.
Such a government however would be forced to be always "on its toes" as it would not be able tio ride roughshod over the views of the Opposition or the civil society, as it is used to do when it has two-thirds majority, which even allows it to amend the Constitution at its whim and fancy - but must learn to respect and be accommodative of the views and demands of the Opposition.
There would however be pressure for Mahathir to step down as Prime Minister as he would be seen more and more not only by other Barisan Nasional component parties but also by UMNO leaders and members as a liability - being the first Prime Minister to lose two-thirds parliamentary majority.
Furthermore, the denial of two-thirds majority to the Barisan Nasional government for the first time in four decades of Malaysian electoral history would serve as an unmistakable warning to the Barisan Nasional government that unless it responds to the new demands of Malaysians for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, then it could be denied of its mandate of power in the subsequent general elections whether in 2,004 or 2,005 and be thrown out of office.
The denial of two-thirds majority to the Barisan Nasional government is therefore the greatest political development that could take place in Malaysia on the threshold of the new millennium, as it would unleash new energies and creative forces in Malaysia to usher in greater democratisation, accountability and transparency resulting in a vibrant democracy and civil society and the beginning of a new political era in the country.