Imagine a Cabinet of Ministers appointed based on ability instead of political affiliation.
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Let’s discuss the possibility of a national unity government in Malaysia.
Are you done laughing or scratching your head because it honestly is a crazy suggestion? If so, then we’ll continue.
What is a National Unity Government?
A national unity government is defined as a coalition government made up of all major parties in the legislature, usually during a national emergency or time of war.
In Malaysia, that could mean a government that consists of at the very least MPs from DAP, Umno, and PKR.
It could also include any MPs from Bersatu, PAS, GPS, Amanah, Warisan, and even the smaller parties of GBS, UPKO, PSB, MCA, and MIC.
With Cabinet members made up of MPs from different parties, there would also be no real opposition.
Instead, all other MPs would be considered backbenchers serving as the checks and balances.
If you’ve watched the series finale of Game of Thrones, it’s pretty much that.
Why wouldn’t it work?
Simply put, just like the Game of Thrones ending, it would be universally hated.
With no clear majority, there would be no real winners and no real losers. Instead, everyone would have to compromise.
Furthermore, going through the legislative process would prove almost impossible without cutting deals as there would be no way to guarantee the simple majority vote needed to pass a law or policy.
How could it work?
First seriously mooted by former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as a solution to the political crisis in early 2020, it would have allowed him to pick and choose his Cabinet from among the best regardless of political party.
Cabinet members wouldn’t have to pledge allegiance to any coalition, and could simply follow the leadership of the Prime Minister.
It wouldn’t have to last very long either as it could be a temporary fix, buying time for everyone to think things through and pick a side or call for elections without rushing.
That’s still crazy
No doubt it sounds like a farfetched solution but it has been done before in other countries like the UK, which has the same political system as Malaysia’s.
When we discussed the idea early in 2020 with the Special Officer to former BN Backbencher Tan Sri Shahrir Samad, Asyraf Adlan, he likened a national unity government in Malaysia’s political landscape to a ticking time bomb.
“It’s not a good solution for the long term. I personally think it is impossible to achieve conciliation among Malaysian MPs from various parties working together for the betterment of the country.
“They will be too busy politicking against each other,” said Asyraf, who is also a former youth parliamentarian.
He opined that the process of check and balance should happen between the government and opposition but if that was not possible, then a third entity that consists of both.
*This story was first published in February of 2020 but was updated to reflect recent events
TRP's Head of Editorial, Hamzah was formerly a hard-news journalist who reported on politics, did investigative work, and occasionally went undercover. He now spends his days sitting at a desk, checking grammar and fielding calls from PR companies, which is totally fine and fulfilling. For sure. He's also married with kids now so his wife and mother said he can't do risky things anymore.