Left-wing parties hoping to soar
Analysis By Baradan Kuppusamy
Left-wing parties are making a comeback in a political environment dominated by both race-based and multi-racial parties all pushing the same democratic centralism political ideology.
PARTI Rakyat Malaysia, a small but tradition-rich party, is causing some consternation among top PKR leaders with its announcement this week that it will contest in three parliamentary constituencies held by PKR.
Its newly elected president Dr Rohana Ariffin said that the party, founded in 1955 by Ahmad Boestaman upon his release from ISA, would contest in the Balik Pulau, Selayang and Petaling Jaya Selatan constituencies in the forthcoming general election.
In an interview, she said PRM was against three-cornered fights but hoped to hold discussions with Pakatan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and find an amicable solution.
“We are keen to contest in the three seats,” she told The Star, adding that Balik Pulau in Penang was a traditional PRM seat while Selayang was also a former seat with hardcore members and Petaling Jaya was where the party’s headquarters was located.
“We have many supporters in the three constituencies,” she said. “We are only asking for three seats out of 222 in the country.”
Dr Rohana said if an Opposition government were to be elected in the next general election, their participation would be crucial because they would offer alternative views from within.
“Diversity should be promoted and encouraged and many contrasting views make up a good government unlike with Barisan Nasional where Umno’s views dominate,” said the academician.
All well and good but PKR is in no mood to concede three of the best constituencies now held by party veterans just because PRM is asking for it, tradition-rich party or not.
The Selayang constituency is held by PKR treasurer William Leong, who did well in 2008 defeating his opponents in a three-cornered fight, including a PRM candidate Koh Su Yong, who polled about 2% of the votes.
Koh had stood in 2004 under a PKR banner and polled over 17,000 votes, losing nevertheless. His 2008 performance was lacklustre under PRM, a measure of what the right party can do for a candidate.
Although PRM has traditionally contested in Balik Pulau and never won, it believes it has a better chance now.
Currently, it is held by PKR newcomer Yusmadi Yusuf, who is very active in Balik Pulau as well as in Penang and in Parliament.
Petaling Jaya Selatan, on the other hand is held by Hee Loy Sian, who keeps a low profile.
PRM is hallowed in the left-wing history of the country, having been founded by Ahmad Boestaman and brought together all the Malay left in various organisations like KMM, API and other small groups.
The party was a member of the Socialist Front and contested in various municipal councils and in general election in the 1960s but the winning results were mixed.
It had to watch out for the Special Branch on one hand and convince the people to win elections on the other, making for difficult choices.
In 2003, he dissolved PRM and led its members into PKR but a small faction opposed the move and carried on under the PRM banner, which had a cow’s head as the party symbol.
The breakaway faction was recognised by the Registrar of Societies and in the election for PRM office bearers held in Petaling Jaya last week, Dr Rohana, the acting president since 2010, was elected PRM president.
Another small, left-wing party, the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), is also having trouble with Pakatan Rakyat, especially DAP, over seat allocation.Image via Wikipedia
In 2008, it contested under the PKR banner in three seats and won one with its president Dr Nasir Hashim in Kota Damansara and Dr D. Jeyakumar in Sungei Siput Parliamentary seat but secretary-general S. Arutchelvam lost in the Semenyih state seat in Selangor.
The tussle with the DAP in 2008 was for the Jalong seat in Perak which the PSM wanted to contest because of years of grassroots work there.
In the end, they contested as an independent after negotiation with the DAP broke down. In the three-cornered fight that followed, PSM lost to DAP’s Hew Yit Fong who, a year later, defected to Barisan Nasional together with two PKR assemblymen, giving away the state.
In retrospect, left-wing parties are making a comeback in a political environment dominated by both race-based and multi-racial parties all pushing the same democratic centralism political ideology.
They have no socialist trappings to speak off and only want to run a better government with the same foreign investment and development strategies.
The left parties are making a comeback in a big way overseas but without the violent themes of the past.
Their ideologies and policies would provide a fresh alternative to the dominant political parties on both sides of the divide here.
Both Barisan Nasional, that is trying to win hearts and minds with its many 1Malaysia reforms, and Pakatan Rakyat – with its “me-rakyatkan” economy initiatives in Selangor – could well use another party with a socialist bend to speak for and champion the people.
The left-wing parties have important things to contribute to the debate on national issues like privatisation of healthcare, food security and even on the government service tax.
Their re-emergence on the political scene should be welcomed and encouraged as these left parties have dedicated leadership who will go the extra mile for the people.