Tuesday, 11 March 2008

A test of solidarity: forming a Shadow Cabinet

When the dust settles, the euphoria dies down and we all go back to our business, I hope the opposition led by the PKR does one thing: form a Shadow Cabinet.

I don’t mean to say this is an easy thing. It’s not. In fact, let me articulate how difficult it is: the opposition parties have 82 seats in parliament giving them 37% of the total seats. PKR has 31 seats, DAP has 28 and PAS has 23, meaning to say that none of the component parties has even an outright majority within the Opposition, even though PKR has the most number of seats. Trying to craft together a Shadow Cabinet, presumably one led by PKR, would mean that the other 2 parties are willing to play ball. The resulting Shadow Cabinet needs to be competent but must also be seen to be inclusive in terms of parties, of race, of religion and of State representatives. The mere effort of trying to form one may precipitate internal splits within the Opposition coalition.

Nevertheless, a Shadow Cabinet must be formed. It will force the issue of whether the opposition can effectively devise their own method of power sharing in the appointment of Shadow Ministerial positions. Having a Shadow Cabinet provides a serious and effective platform for the Opposition to call out policies or projects proposed or executed by the BN, and provides avenues for leadership positions within the fledgling opposition movement.

Most important of all, having a Shadow Cabinet also enforces to the Malaysian public that the Opposition is serious about grabbing the reins of the government eventually and that, following this political tsunami of 2008, the tide does not roll out too far back in the next general election!

There should be no question that the opposition party with the most number of seats in Parliament, which is PKR, should have the honour of forming this Shadow Cabinet, just as its leader has the honour of being Leader of the Opposition. Moreover, since the real Cabinet has grown into a multi-headed hydra in the preceding decades, it might be a good idea to have a Shadow Cabinet much leaner than the real one, combining some dubiously created and rather ineffective ministries.

As a concerned public citizen who welcomes true multiparty democracy, I do want a viable opposition and an improved BN that a viable opposition would bring. In this way, the people will ultimately benefit. Having a viable, functioning, competent and critical Shadow Cabinet will be one step towards achieving that goal.

Since this election started as a groundswell from the people, I would like now to ask everyone: who would you nominate for Ministers in this new Shadow Cabinet, amongst the MPs and leaders of of the Opposition?