Policy-driven politics the way forward, says expert

PETALING JAYA: Politics driven by good policies should be the goal for Malaysia, not simply collecting enough seats to govern, said an American political scientist.

New York State University professor Meredith Weiss suggested that systemic changes would allow for better policymaking, which in turn would let voters understand what they could expect of a government.

“A change of government is not enough, it needs more than that,” she said at an online conference by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs this morning.

“Whether it is Pakatan Harapan or voting out Donald Trump in the US, that alone is not enough to change what voters want and how they evaluate politics.”

Weiss added that the government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis would likely affect voting behaviour in the next general election, as people were prioritising long-term policies over basic handouts, especially at a time when many were unemployed.

“It is not simply turning towards a communal party because it represents one’s identity, but seeing who promotes policies that can literally save one’s life in terms of public health and economically, and recognising that there needs to be a better policy solution to these crises.”

Meanwhile, Wong Chin Huat of the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development said the pandemic risked causing an increase in clientele and patronage politics, as many were in need of materialistic incentives.

He stressed the need to shift towards “professionalised politics” to ensure a high voter turnout among “sophisticated voters”, people who would cast their votes based on more informed choices.

Wong called for institutional reforms, which involved redesigning jobs for the political class and establishing local polls, as an incentive for politicians to push for better policies in the interest of the people.

He also suggested that the opposition form a shadow Cabinet so all parties could coordinate their responses to the pandemic, rather than only focusing on ways to regain control over Putrajaya.


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