Studying The “Katak” (Frog) Political Pool In Malaysia

by Patrick Liew on August 19, 2019

Studying The “Katak” (Frog) Political Pool In Malaysia

“Katak” is a Malay word for frog, and the “katak” practice refers to the phenomenon of politicians switching from one party to another party or from one coalition to another coalition.

They do it for reasons best known to themselves because the reasons that they offered to the public may not be the true reasons.

The official reasons are obviously sanitized to make politicians look good to their voters and strengthen their political equity.

The reasons are largely based on “push” and “pull” factors, including unpublicized personality crashes and under-the-table dealings and rewards.

For example, on the “push” side, politicians might have done their “research” and were withdrawing from their previous parties because they were convinced that their parties were unable to achieve greater good for the country and for the people.

Their parties were on a downward decline and have no effective plans, leadership, systems, and other resources to turn themselves around.

On the “pull” side, they might be convinced that the other camp was able to do a better job.

Also, they might have negotiated for a better deal with the other camp for their voters and supporters to improve their constituencies and achieve desired objectives.

The “katak”practice is not unusual in Malaysia’s political arena.

In recent times, 17 out of 54 members of parliament who won their seats in GE14 have crossed over from UMNO to Pakatan Harapan (PH).

In particular, the UMNO’s core team of leaders in Sabah have become independents.

They have publicly announced that they plan to be friendly to Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan.

The recent “katak” phenomenon is unprecedented because UMNO has always been the master strategist in exploiting “katak” political strategy to strengthen its party and stronghold in the parliament.

When Mahathir was the previous Prime Minister, he fine tuned exploitation of the “katak” maneuvers to almost a fine art.

Most of the defectors from UMNO have joined or are apparently considering to join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), the political party founded and led by Mahathir.

Currently, Bersatu has increased its number of seats in Parliament from 13 to 16 seats after GE14.

Although the number is insignificant but the game is not over yet.

According to a report by the Star, Bersatu has clarified that it has “a special committee to assess and examine each membership application prior to approval.”

Bersatu will only take in defectors who have “no issues related to integrity, abuse of power, or involvement in any corruption scandal.”

It remains to be seen if these statements are purely rhetoric, or they will be strictly adhered to.

As it stands, Bersatu has taken in the Former Melaka Chief Minister Tan Sri Rahim Thamby Chik.

Rahim has been accused of many scandals, including the alleged statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl in 1994.

DAP’s Chief Lim Guan Eng defended her and spoke out against UMNO for not taking any action.

For that, he was jailed under the Sedition Act 1948 and Printing Presses and Publication 1984.

Rahim was also alleged to be the mastermind behind use of a fake sex video in 2001 to frame Anwar Ibrahim.

Why is Mahathir relatively open in accepting defectors?

There are ten plausible reasons:

1. By accepting the defectors, Mahathir may be seeking to weaken UMNO.

In doing so, he will have less resistance to carry out his manifesto and create the promised new Malaysia.

2. Mahathir may be looking into strengthening Bersatu to ensure that it has a stronger clout in leading PH.

He may also be recruiting experienced leaders to help him lead and improve Bersatu.

By comparison, Bersatu has a smaller pool of leadership talents than (Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) to govern Malaysia.

3. As one of the smallest political parties in Malaysia, Bersatu may not have the strength to operate effectively during his current term of office and also in the future.

Mahathir may be strengthening Bersatu to ensure its sustainability and in doing so, enhance his legacy and place in history.

4. Mahathir is an experienced, crafty and combative politician.

He may be sending a signal to component parties of PH not to act against him in any way.

They should never underestimate his astuteness and ground support to create problems for his successor and for the other parties.

5. Mahathir has agreed to be the Prime Minister but only for a short period.

However, he has not been the most credible and reliable in fulfilling his commitments and delivering his promises.

He may be beefing up his party’s strength and support so that he can have a choice to stay on in power if need be.

6. Mahathir may be setting the stage and strengthening his puppet-master role before handing over the Prime Minister’s position to his preferred successor.

His choice may not necessarily be Anwar Ibrahim.

There are running rumors that Mahathir prefer to have PKR deputy president Azmin Ali to succeed him.

Mahathir’s relationship with Azmin goes way back in the 1980s when Azmin was still a student.

Subsequently, it was Mahathir who appointed Azmin to work with and learn from Anwar Ibrahim.

On 21st May 2018, Mahathir was instrumental in appointing Azmin as the Minister of Economic Affairs, an important portfolio in the larger scheme of improving Malaysia and in the political arena.

7. Mahathir knows better than anybody that PH was clobbered together literally at the eleventh hour before GE14.

Leaders of the component parties do not have a long and deep experience in working together.

Even until now, PH is muddled and muddied with infightings, jockeying of power, and public disputes.

Mahathir may be putting together various bolts and nuts, including strengthening number of leaders and activists in Bersatu to make sure that he can still call the shots.

Move enough pieces on the political chess board to achieve his desired outcomes.

These outcomes may be held close to his chest and may not be revealed even to his closest aides.

8. As a long term strategist, Mahathir and his leaders may be developing more options to strengthen their power and stay in power.

There’s no telling that Bersatu may not go to bed with UMNO and other political parties in the future to serve mutual interests and aspirations.

Although such a scenario is improbable, it may not be impossible.

As long as racial and religious politics prevail in Malaysia, the national interests and that of the other communities and cultures may have to take a backseat.

To ensure that they can win and stay on in power, politicians will continue to please the Malay that formed a large part of the electorate.

And fight to preserve political power for the Malay and Islam.

1. Mahathir may also be concerned that after stepping down as the Prime Minister, his successor and other influential leaders may act against him and his loved ones.

He has to start ring fencing himself and his loved ones, and chalk up enough political brownie points to bargain with his current and potential adversaries.

1. For argument sake, it’s also possible that Mahathir might not have any major political reasons for enrolling politicians from other camps.

And neither was he acting rationally, objectively and pragmatically for national or even party interests.

Mahathir may be building up an inner circle of grateful supporters.

After all, many politicians are known to surround themselves with fans, cronies, runners, abettors, and obliging scapegoats.

Knowing full well that Mahathir is an astute politician who is a master in playing the political chess game, this reason is unlikely the case or not the full reason for accepting defectors into his party.

Whatever the true reasons, I continue to love and want the best for Malaysia and Malaysians.

I trust that regardless of how the “katak” and other political maneuvers are being played out, political leaders will always have the heart, mind and spirit to lead and serve for a greater good.

They will ride on the economic tide that’s flowing from the West to the East to strengthen Malaysia, a country with tremendous potential and blessed with great possibilities.

Political leaders will develop Malaysia to become a livable and lovable country and a model and shining light in the Fourth Wave.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

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