It is one of the ironies of parliamentary democracy, which is premised upon the governance of the majority, that the people stand to gain more under a government whose power hangs in the balance.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin illustrated this when he sought the support of MPs across the divide through a cross-party agreement, following defections in Umno that threatened to take down his government.
There’s no shame in admitting that he is on thin ice. The fact is, a pack of scandal-tainted leaders is bent on doing anything to avoid jail, including plotting a coup at a time when the people are grappling with mindless deaths and when hundreds of bodies fill the cemeteries every day.
The dual objective of Muhyiddin’s proposal is to prevent the collapse of the government at a critical juncture of our nation’s fight for survival, and to thwart the return to power of corrupt politicians. After all, it took 60 years to get them out the last time!
Muhyiddin has promised a list of reforms which he says his government will carry out in the next one year.
These promises are not peanuts, but “real tangible bipartisan reforms which the country badly needs”, as one opposition MP puts it. They represent the kind of reforms that a certain government had promised but was unable to carry out, despite the clear mandate it received in the last election.
The plan is certainly not an election manifesto that was famously dismissed as “not a bible but merely a guide”.
Yet, some party leaders were quick to reject the offer. Their reaction is understandable. Our politics has long been characterised by pride and emotion, and many politicians have gotten used to the archaic concept of party loyalty at the cost of the ultimate goal of serving the people.
The truth is, a cross-party agreement is a sophisticated and practical tool to ensure the continuity of policies that would benefit the country.
Successive governments in the UK, for example, have resorted to it to diffuse contentious issues, including the post-Brexit deal late last year.
It is therefore simplistic to dismiss the offer by Muhyiddin as a bribe or to mock it as a desperate attempt to cling to power. Those who make such claims are either ignorant of the definition of bribery, or stuck in a time capsule of parliamentary democracy.
By making the offer openly on national television, Muhyiddin has opened up a new chapter in Malaysian politics.
He could have enticed MPs with cash, positions and contracts in order to get them to switch parties and boost the government’s numbers.
On the contrary, MPs have been publicly notified with a clear request: give temporary support to prevent the government’s downfall during a critical time, and in exchange achieve whatever they have been championing.
At the same time, they can remain in their parties and continue their role as the opposition.
How that is a bribe defies the imagination.
The icing on the cake of this plan is that by accepting Muhyiddin’s offer, a whole pack of leaders tainted by well documented evidence of power abuse and high corruption will be relegated to the dustbin of politics. In that dustbin, some of them can be content posting cynical remarks and sink in the glory of social media comments from their artificial followers.
Abdar Rahman Koya is CEO & editor of MalaysiaNow.