Thursday, 9 April 2009

Najib handover can't stem BN crisis

The expedient handover of power from Abdullah Badawi to Najib Razak does not appear to be holding the tide of electoral and civil dissent in Malaysia. Nor is their much faith in Najib's 'reformist' promises to review the hated Internal Security Act or release a few ISA detainees. Likewise, his removal of punitive suspensions on opposition party media outlets has been seen as a placatory gesture intended, once again, to demonstrate the Barisan Nasional's (BN's) 'new democratic engagement'.

As this excellent post-by election analysis from Anil Netto shows, the old lines of communal voting and racial-party affiliation are continuing to dissolve, with disastrous implications for the long-ruling BN. The BN's recently attempted 'power grab' in Perak has also badly backfired, with the by-election victory there sending yet another opposition candidate to the federal parliament.

As stated before, a large part of this new electoral awareness and mobilisation lies in Malaysians' growing access to, and engagement of, alternative media, notably sites like Anil's blog journalism, carrying up-to-the-minute reports and analysis, all - unlike the mainstream Malaysian media's accounts of Najib's appointments - unhindered by suffocating political and editorial constraints.

Anil and his activist peers are helping to build a new radical template for how an open, challenging and self-critical Malaysian media could look after the BN's coming fall from power.


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