Within Malaysian politics, I do think economic philosophies have taken a back seat to the point that typical left-right classification of political parties is meaningless. Nevertheless, I would like to classify Barisan Nasional, DAP, Keadilan and PAS accordingly. I will leave the others alone since I do not think the rest are worth talking about at this point.

First stop is the Barisan Nasional, the coalition that has ruled this part of the world for more than 50 years; BN itself is older than Malaysia. Labeling BN is no easy task because, in my opinion, the parties of the coalition band together for power more than anything else. Classification is not made any easier when, the most important party, UMNO for instance, has pursued liberal economic policies as much as it has advocated some left leaning ones. More often than not, UMNO economic policies are ethnocentric which perhaps could fit into typical protectionist policies. UMNO and in my opinion, even MCA and MIC for that matter, are too pragmatic to simply fit into a class. Another component party, Gerakan, on the other hand is pretty liberal. Regardless of Gerakan, given how much central planning is observable in this country and the fact that Malaysia is a mixed economy, I would say BN sits somewhere in the center with slight variation from time to time.

If the act of classifying BN is tough, trying to do the same thing with Keadilan is harder. While BN is a coalition of parties with diverging economic ideals where pragmatism has taken over, at least, if one goes through of the component parties, one might be able to recognize each party’s leaning. The same method unfortunately will not work with Keadilan because Keadilan is a party by itself. Instead of a coalition of parties with different backgrounds, Keadilan is a party of individuals with different backgrounds. They have liberals in classical sense, they have communists, socialists, Islamists; you name it, they have got it. I do not know how Keadilan manages to get liberal and socialists along with Islamist under one roof. A greater mystery is how Keadilan manages to keep them from ripping each other apart. Therefore, I am unsure which direction Keadilan would be taking and I bet Keadilan as a party itself is unsure which path it would want to embark on. The best word I could uses to describe Keadilan is populist. Some people that I know in Keadilan themselves are contented to be mere populists.

Contrary to the two, DAP is easy to label. Without doubt, it is a socialist party. Or, if you like it, a social democrat party.

Finally, PAS. I am happy to say it out loud that PAS has no economic policy; they are too busy policing morality that they have no time for the economy. Nevertheless, Islamic economics does support welfare state arrangement to some extent. Yet, I am hesitant to take that into account as far as PAS is concerned because PAS is pretty clueless about the economy.

10 Responses to “[1134] Of Malaysian political parties on the economic spectrum”

  1. on 17 Mar 2007 at 13:27 johnleemk

    Populism is a dangerous economic philosophy. Sometimes it ends up combining the worst of leftist and liberal (in the classical sense) policies. :p

  2. on 17 Mar 2007 at 21:50 Wan Saiful

    From your description, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that apart from DAP, BN too is confused. As a coalition, it seems to have no clear economic philosophy, although the individual constituent parties may believe in ‘something’. A case of 1 + 1 = none?

    I am more inclined to say that in Malaysia, apart from DAP, all else are populists and/or pragmatists, but almost all have a tendency to revert to central planning and protectionism.

  3. on 18 Mar 2007 at 13:08 Hafiz

    oh yes. I do agree with you that almost all Malaysian political parties have a tendency to central planning and protectionism. IMHO, this includes DAP as well.

  4. on 18 Mar 2007 at 13:47 sigma

    I agree with you on most of your points, except perhaps for Keadilan.

    If we take Anwar’s declaration that it would adopt a socio-economic based NEP, then I guess we can say, economic-wise, PKR is more centre-left. Who are the neocons in PKR? As far as I know, Anwar, Syed Husin Ali, and possibly even Tian Chua are all pro-reformed NEP.

    BN is protectionist in terms of anything bumiputera-related, like the GLCs, steel, car industry, etc. But I think we can concede that it is neoliberal in non-bumi economic matters. It practices quite a schizophrenic economic ideology, me thinks actually. On one hand, BN provides a very comprehensive cradle-to-grave welfare state to the bumiputeras, but on the other, it practices a very laissez-faire system when it comes to the non-bumis. Strange. Ethnocentric politics, I guess.

  5. on 18 Mar 2007 at 16:14 Hafiz

    Errm, I might have miswritten neoliberals as neocons. So I am replacing the word neocons with liberals. Within Keadilan, Institut Kajian Dasar at http://info.ikd.org.my/ probably is the main driver of neoliberalism.

  6. on 19 Mar 2007 at 03:46 freelunch2020

    hey there..agree with sigma that as it is now, Keadilan’s policies are more centre-left or tending towards just ‘left’….cos anwar has a socialist background….welfare state for the poor etc etc etc………

    my opinion is PKR may turn into a PAS ngo~~~but nurul izzah said they won’t merge with PAS cos of the ideological difference~~~~but then that’s the official party line…hahahhahahahhaahahhahah

  7. on 19 Mar 2007 at 12:45 Hafiz

    surely, there is more to keadilan than just Anwar and PRM commies.

  8. on 19 Mar 2007 at 16:25 sigma

    Hafiz: There is. There’s a sizable Islamic Right faction in there. But like what you’ve said with PAS, this faction doesn’t really concern itself with the economic side of things. They harp more on morality and lifestyle issues. And even if they had an economic model preference, it would probably be a left-leaning one, due to what you’ve said about Islam’s encouragement for welfare states.

    Speaking of the Islamic Right, this reminded me of the so-called New Right ala Reagan political ideology, that’s strong in many Western countries. How in the world does neo-liberal free-market economic prescriptions go together with Christian beliefs? Odd couple, of you ask me.

  9. on 19 Mar 2007 at 19:35 Hafiz

    heh. You could blame the predecessor of American libertarians. Read about it at The Economist. In fact, American politics is still frustrating for libertarian.

    Perhaps in Keadilan, the “liberals” might be having that problem too.

  10. […] ideological standing. It is a patchwork of this and that, neither here nor there. Its members are too ideologically diverse and they possibly band together with one purpose: protesting. Yes. Keadilan from my point of view, […]

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