MALAYSIA - The political choice for Malaysians is not whether to embrace change, but which kind of change they prefer.
In life, change is said to be the only constant. In politics change is a given, even mandatory.
If a governing system does not change its style or policies the way people want, then the system itself may be changed. Such change may be democratic or autocratic, evolutionary or revolutionary, peaceful or violent.
Much will depend on the type and degree of change. Who will be affected by that change, and in what ways?
Will the promised changes be what people had been led to expect? What other changes are likely as a consequence?
Will the pros outweigh the cons of those changes? And if the people find the actual changes not to their liking, will those changes be reversible?
Such questions often arise at general elections. Malaysia's coming 13th general election seems to have unearthed more of these questions than any other election in the country's history.
This comes partly as a residue of the 2008 general election. In that "political tsunami", more seats in the Federal Parliament changed over into Opposition hands than ever before.
At the time, many voters who opted for the Opposition had not actually wanted to change the Federal Government. They merely wanted to teach Barisan Nasional a lesson for non-delivery and general indifference since 2004.
Voters did so by clearly denying Barisan its two-thirds majority. This had come right after the 2004 general election, which had won Barisan 63.9% of the popular vote (more, if Barisan had contested all constituencies).
So in 2008, Barisan scored only 50.3%, an all-time low.
The previous low count was in 1999, which saw Barisan win only 56.5% of the popular vote.
Will the general election this year see a swing of support back to Barisan as it hopes, or a further boost for the Opposition as it imagines? Will there be a pendulum effect in favour of Barisan, or a slide favouring Pakatan Rakyat?
As soon as Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak assumed the premiership in April 2009, he had seen the writing on the wall.
He opted for a major overhaul of policy and mindsets with the emphasis on transformation (change).