Pakatan Harapan’s hope lies in self-reformation

PAKATAN Harapan’s (PH) brand is supposed to be its ideology and approach that run counter to and doesn’t conform to the deeply entrenched structures of power, especially in relation to governance at the federal level that has been perceived to be associated with the Barisan Nasional (BN) establishment system.

On this note, PH has made several critical errors that may have eroded Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) influence on Malay voters.

Taking in the so-called “Melaka Froggers” worked against PH’s originally distinctive brand. PH must, therefore, remain the coalition that will not sacrifice its long-held principles.

A fundamental prerequisite to winning against BN and Perikatan Nasional (PN) is to have a united opposition, an issue that may have painted a worsening internal and intra-coalition relationship among top PH leaders.

Also, this was easy fodder for Chinese haters among the hardcore communalist Malays, selling the narrative of DAP baring its fangs to PKR, fanning the “Cina pijak kepala Melayu” narrative.

These issues may have further alienated Malay votes for PKR and also could be causing the DAP leadership to question its partnership with PKR and/or the effectiveness of PKR’s leadership in carrying the Malay votes.

That said, the DAP leadership has also not been free from corruption charges. The call for clean politics or non-acceptance of the so-called court cluster applies to all. For example, the collusion of powers is evident on both sides.

PKR’s closeness to DAP has always been a controversial issue with these issues further diminishing the contrasting brand of the opposition. Thus, it represents clear political baggage not only for the DAP but – also by association – the PKR.

However, does that mean BN is secure and on track to win handsomely at the next general election?

Probably, but only in the very near term. It is clear that statistics on voter turnout and demographics greatly influenced the Melaka state election.

SHAH ALAM, 19 Nov — Pengerusi Perikatan Nasional (PN) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (dua, kiri) dan Presiden PAS Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang (tiga, kanan) serta Presiden Gerakan Datuk Dr Dominic Lau Hoe Chai (kiri) bersama barisan kepimpinan PN melaungkan ‘Perikatan Nasional’ pada Majlis Malam Melaka Bangkit Gemilang sempena Pilihan Raya Negeri (PRN) Melaka di sebuah hotel di Shah Alam malam ini.

Firming up an MoU

BN’s path lies in its political will to not be led by controversial figures, practice the true meaning of “Keluarga Malaysia” by encouraging fairer and more equitable governing and economic practices, enact key laws and crucial reforms such as the separation of power and empowerment of oversight bodies and anti-corruption efforts.

Adopting and implementing such values is a win for Malaysia, but would weaken PH’s contrasting brand.

PN’s path will be to deny that such changes are even remotely possible for BN and to fan the narrative that PH has had its chance and failed. Ironically, and incredibly as it might sound to both PH and BN supporters, PN’s positioning and posturing is the real and sustainable alternative.

Taking stock of these realities and learning from Melaka state election outcomes, PH may need to consider key changes such as re-examining the relevance and effectiveness of PH’s current senior leadership and making the necessary strategic changes.

This does not necessarily mean the removal of old faces, but new and younger faces will have to be put on a higher pedestal and given more air time.

There is also a need to re-look at the effectiveness of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between PH and the Government. The issue isn’t the content but the vehicle employed.

Breaking the MOU will only expose PH post-Melaka election to attacks on its credibility. It will also give BN a nice excuse to proceed with GE15 soonest by blaming PH as untrustworthy.

Therefore, instead of abolishing the MOU, perhaps PH should proceed to strengthen it through real, measurable, and binding commitments. The MOU should be renamed as something else and slightly amended to reflect stronger (binding) commitments.

The Government’s response to this will test their sincerity in implementing what is agreed, throwing the ball in their court. Whatever the response would be, it’s a strategic win-win situation for PH.

Going back to basics

Other approaches include roping in the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) to address the share of youth voters.

PH should act quickly and persistently in capitalising on shared values and principles to steer negotiations with MUDA in its favour as there is also a chance of MUDA’s Syed Saddiq joining hands with his former mentor Tun Dr Mahathir through Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) and Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan).

Dr Mahathir’s established influence on the Malays should not be underestimated. Combining this with MUDA which may command a significant portion of Malay youth voters, the partnership may turn out to be formidable.

Of course, MUDA has yet to be registered and it is in their interest to push for e-voting to be in place to make full use of Undi-18. e-voting and National Digital ID would overcome the worrying issue of voter turnout and skewed age profiles. With COVID-19 expected to be around for some time, this is a logical solution.

Coming back to PH, they need to go back to basics, strongly rejecting all forms of corruption within their own ranks, urgently applying internal reforms in addition to national reforms, and add socio-economic issues as a key agenda.

Uneducated or uninformed Malaysians, especially in rural areas and in isolated economies relate poorly to the individual-level impact of national-level issues that often become points of debate between political rivals.

Such issues include the gigantic debt left by the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal, increased government debt, increased fiscal deficit, loss of investor confidence, low corruption perception index rating, reduced financial ratings by foreign agencies, cartels controlling government projects worth billions of ringgit, and so on.

What people (especially youths) prioritise is whether they can get a job, put food on the table, keep their businesses running, pay salaries, have enough savings, and at least maintain a decent living standard (purchasing power, cost of living, etc).

This does not mean fundamental reforms take a backseat. After all, there is no growth and development without proper governance and the rule of law.

The BN machinery had many years to grow its roots. Hardcore communalist Malays and rural folks are fixed deposits for UMNO-BN. PH’s strategy in moving forward includes educating (and convincing) such people on how the issues mentioned above affect them and ruin Malaysia.

In summary, PH has to do much more and do it in advance. Last-minute campaigns will not do. The 15th General Election (GE15) could be the last chance for PH to instil major reforms that it believes to be the enabler for a trajectory of achieving shared prosperity for all by 2030. – Nov 29, 2021


Ameen Kamal is the head of Science & Technology at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

The views expressed are solely of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE