On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Think before seeking a change

There are many, it seems, who  are willing to take that emotional  position.

In a democracy, demands for  greater
transparency, accountability and democratic space are justified.

But the coming election isn't just  a
fight between Barisan Nasional  and the
opposition front. It's a tussle between Umno and PAS, a fight  between moderation and extremism.

The rest of the component parties would merely be playing a supporting role.
With Parti Keadilan  Nasional and PAS
flags flying side  by side, the voter
might get the impression that they are one and the  same.

While the two parties may broadly agree on some fundamental issues, the biggest
threat to Umno is  finally PAS.

PAS is far more experienced and  better
organised than Keadilan. In  the
opposition front, PAS would  play the
dominant role.

Keadilan, on the other hand, comprises former Umno members who  have benefitted from the system  over the past 16 years.

Many of them had made their  money from
allocated shares,  which they bought
through easily available bank loans. It is the very  system that many of them criticise  now.

They are not the only ones. There  are
also those supporting the government who became millionaires   not through business acumen but  through such privileges.

Then, there is another core group  in
Keadilan, the idealistic academicians who have never run a political campaign
before. They assume  that winning an
election is merely  writing a thesis and
speaking at a  ceramah.

It is the PAS machinery that will 
dominate the opposition campaign, 
not even the DAP which can only 
contest in urban seats.

Mathematically, if all the Chinese voters back the DAP, the party will win up
to 28 parliamentary  seats.

It remains a minor party in the 
opposition front, though. The DAP 
can no longer take for granted that 
the Chinese will back the party, 
given the present sentiments of 
Chinese voters in wanting to vote 
for stability.

The DAP is, in fact, in danger of  losing
the post of Opposition Leader to PAS or Keadilan if these two  parties get more seats.

For the first time in DAP history,  the
party is banking on non-Chinese votes to win more seats. It has  to break free from its communal  image or lose substantial support.

Thanks to Keadilan and DAP supporters, PAS would probably walk  away with the most number of  seats.

The likely scenario is if the Opposition forms the next federal  government, PAS, being the dominant party,
will push forward its  plans to set up an
Islamic state.

If PAS doesn't get its way because Keadilan, DAP and PRM are  against its policies, we will have a  squabble over how the government  should be run. A feuding government will not
benefit anyone.

While the DAP is clear on its secular government stand, we are not  so sure about Keadilan. Its position  has been vague.

What happens if the Opposition  cannot
form the next federal government? There is the possibility of  more opposition MPs. From a positive view,
there will be a stronger  check and

At the same time, increased representation for PAS would mean a  louder voice for its demands.

A secular government without a  strong
mandate would have to play  a balancing
role. Fearful of losing  its grip, it
will be submissive and 

Without its two-thirds majority,  it will
be more concerned with politicking than in the running of the  government.

Given the uncertainties, the  stock
market will suffer overnight  as fewer
people will be willing to 

The line between PAS and Keadilan is now blurred because both are  shouting reformasi.

The two parties, however, have  different
agendas. One is honest  enough to say
that it wants an Islamic state. So, if PAS sets out its  orthodox policies later, Malaysians  shouldn't complain.

Keadilan is preoccupied with  freeing
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim   period. The
rest are merely issues drummed up to win votes.

It is time for moderate Malaysians to appreciate the importance  of the principle of secularism for  the realisation of national unity.

Yes, there are flaws in Malaysia  that
need to be corrected. Yes,  there are
better ways of handling  some

Being emotional is one thing; dismantling the entire system without  realising it is dangerous.

Malaysians should not vote for a  change
for the sake of changing because they might get something  worse.

We must never allow any move  by any
political party to remove  our liberal
lifestyle, which we now  enjoy due to the
existence of a secular government.

There are those who talk about  freedom
and justice but make no  bones of their
intention to impose  their moral
standards on our social  and cultural
life. These politicians  confuse
liberalism with permissiveness.

In our struggle for democratic  rights,
we must be aware of those  who want to
curb values which we  have taken for

Before casting their votes, Malaysians should ask themselves  whether the alternative is capable  and effective enough in ensuring  their political, economic, social,  cultural and religious rights.