Umno’s Azalina gives quick Twitter lesson on running a coalition government in Malaysia

Ida Lim
Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said speaks to reporters at the Umno headquarters after a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, March 12, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — Former minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said today shared on Twitter her ideas on how to implement and sustain a coalition government that is formed from political parties with diverse and differing ideologies.

In sharing her thoughts, Azalina said there was much to learn from the experience of 420 past coalition governments in 23 countries between the years 1945 to 2015, before providing her suggested 10 steps peppered with buzzwords in the form of hashtags.

“Key Questions - How do we mitigate the risk of a Coalition Government being seen as weak or indecisive? How can we help Voters distinguish between Party vs Government policies?” the Pengerang MP from Umno wrote on her Twitter account today.

“Step 1: ENSURE that the Coalition Government (CG) Shared Agenda and Policies Agreement is ENDORSED by all members of the COALITION to formally cement the CG (refer to Phase 1: How to Set up a Coalition Government 101 dated 13/03/2020). #biggestelephantintheroom,” she wrote when stressing the importance of having a common agenda and policies that all coalition members agree to.

Azalina then also spoke on how meetings of the Cabinet — or ministers — should be carried out, including having experts to serve as internal watchdogs before such Cabinet meetings are held.

“Step 2: Set up Ground Rules for Administration and Management of CABINET MEETINGS (this is important to minimise in-fighting & backbiting). #decorum #confidentiality #ingoodfaith

“Step 3:PRE-CABINET Meetings-Appoint Special Advisors or Committees for each Ministry to monitor and ensure adherence to the Shared Agenda and Policies Agreement.This can include Party reps who are subject matter or technical Experts and well-known Local Experts #internalwatchdogs,” she said, adding that the fourth step was to hold Cabinet meetings with the tagline #businessasusual and post-Cabinet meetings with the tagline #businessasexpected.

Azalina said the sixth step should be the appointment of an oversight body for post-Cabinet meetings to monitor the progress of implementation of Cabinet decisions to ensure accountability, adding on the taglines “#accountabilitytorakyat #befairorbesquare”.

Azalina envisioned the party brokers, special advisors such as political party representatives, and the oversight body for Cabinet meetings to fall under the coalition government framework on its common agenda and shared policies.

Azalina said the seventh step would be to acknowledge the informal machinery as a “forum to influence”, cautioning the need to pay careful attention to the dynamics between frontbenchers and backbenchers.

“CGs require unceasing management of “uneasy relationships” in order to engage and promote mutual “fellowships”. #managetrustissues,” she wrote.

As for the eighth step, Azalina suggested that the coalition government mobilise and empower a joint political parties committee composed of parties from the ruling bloc, and also create a coalition government backbenchers committee for the ruling bloc.

For the ninth step, Azalina said the existing parliamentary select committees that comprise MPs across the political divide but minus the frontbenchers should continue on.

The last step that Azalina urged was: “Step 10: Balance, Balance, Balance! #partyvsgovernmentpolicies #formalvsinformalmachineries #banyakbendamesticonsider”

 

 

Azalina’s suggestions comes less than a month after the new coalition under Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM) president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin took over as federal government of Malaysia.

The Perikatan Nasional coalition includes PPBM, Barisan Nasional parties Umno, MCA and MIC, Umno’s new ally PAS, with the coalition government being run in partnership with Gabungan Parti Sarawak that is currently governing Sarawak.

Azalina said her Twitter thread today was phase two of her previous “101” lesson on setting up a coalition government, having previously also shared 10 tips as part of her first phase of tips on Twitter on March 13.

Previously on March 13, Azalina spoke of the need to have a legal document for the coalition government’s shared agenda and policies agreement, the reduction of the dominance of any one political party in the negotiation process for core posts and functions, as well as the evaluation of proportionate representation of coalition members against Cabinet posts.

She had also stressed on the importance of a coalition government reaching a consensus on common policies despite the differing ideologies of different political parties, as well as the need to have a conflict management team as part of a lesson from past mistakes and to not depend on one kingmaker only.

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