I highly recommend this video. The awful journalistic quality of Malaysian media deprives the nation of quality information about party platforms and propositions. I have both superficial and substantive comments about this interview of Anwar Ibrahim by Al-Jazeera:
First, the substance: Anwar Ibrahim is a tremendous orator. The key thrust of his campaign is a convincing one; Barisan Nasional propagates a culture of corruption and change will dismantle that pervasiveness in society. Of concerns of disunity among his coalition parties, Anwar Ibrahim says the problems are academic and theoretical. In reality, the parties can work together and have proven so in the four states that they currently govern. They have more in common then the divergent philosophical underpinnings of these parties suggest. Will his coalition be able to manage the economy? He says with eight years of experience as Minister of Finance, yes.
He answers the questions well, though there are a few issues he sidesteps along the way. He sweeps under the carpet some of the major ideological differences that plague his coalition. While it is probably fair to assume that his party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), and the secular Chinese dominated party, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) are largely compatible, even when leaving "theoretical and academic" arguments aside,the vast ideological dispersion within the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) is one of concern. PAS has led more Islamic regimes in the states of Kelantan and Kedah (as well as Terrenganu between 1999 and 2004) but its representation in the Selangor government and the short lived Perak government were much more secular. The ideological platform of the party is strongly conservative and Islamic, however to stay relevant in more urban and progressive areas, the party has acquired more liberal flair. While these differences need not be reconciled when ruling state governments where ideology is fairly homogeneous, it remains to be seen how PAS will position its governance at the federal level.Though it is likely to tow the line and give in to its more secular partners, how much dissent will arise among its conservative wing, and will the party be able to control this dissent? Anwar Ibrahim would probably say that dissent will be minimal, and in all likelihood a win will propel PAS towards a more liberal agenda, but that is an issue we cannot place too much confidence in considering evidence in the past.
As for managing the economy, Anwar Ibrahim's confidence is not entirely placative. His cabinet, should they come into power, will be largely inexperienced in interacting with the large force of civil servants that run the country and while there is good in replacing the corrupt politician-civil servant ties that abound in Malaysian governance, inexperience will probably cause some economic chaos, though the chaos will probably be very temporary and uninhibitive to the administration of the nation. The greatest concern lies within Anwar's own party. Lacking the strong philosophical framework and history that underlie the DAP and PAS struggle, PKR is filled with opportunists looking to make quick inroads to power and wealth. Because of the party's short history, it will be hard to figure out who the genuine and honest leaders are, and who is out to make some quick money by being in power. Many DAP and PAS leaders have struggled for years, even decades, as opposition politicians, much of the time with no realistic shot at coming into power. Their intentions to create a better nation have been proven by their struggle. Anwar Ibrahim, on the other hand, does not have history to rely on. He will have to be wary of the wolfs in his own backyard just as much as he is wary of the wolfs in his neighbor's yard. I have much lower confidence in PKR's ability to provide quality leadership. The level of unknown is great and a massive concern, large enough to make me hesitant to support the idea of turning over the reigns of the nation to Anwar Ibrahim.
Don't get me wrong, I want Anwar's coalition to win many states (preferably, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Kelantan and Negeri Sembilan) and maintain a strong presence in parliament (denying Barisan Nasional a two third's majority again) but I'd be more comfortable if they mounted their colossal challenge for power in the next general election. Five years of well managed administration of the states they win will be enough to convince me of their abilities to lead the nation. The first five years they have had has proven some but not enough.
On a lighter note, the interview reminded me that Anwar Ibrahim has a really sinister look about him:
Najib Razak, on the other hand, looks like a gentle Dunder Mifflin paper salesman. If I was picking the good guy based on looks, I'd bet on Najib not screwing me over. Judge a book by it's cover? I'd say sometimes it works out better than you'd think.