“UMNO digging a grave for Pakatan…with the latter providing shovels” (Part 1)

IN the last general election, Pakatan Harapan (Pakatan) received strong public support. The Sheraton Move, however, eroded public morale on the coalition after Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) betrayed its coalition members and formed Perikatan Nasional with UMNO and PAS.  

Political instability followed and coupled with COVID-19, the public have seemingly lost faith in their elected leaders in the past two years. Making matters worse, Pakatan’s series of gaffes following their ouster from Putrajaya eroded public trust on them as well.  

Pakatan’s attempts to reclaim power were thwarted after UMNO employed several “correct” strategies. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the Government and Pakatan have indeed brought some level of political stability to the country but it had backfired tremendously on the Opposition’s credibility.  

BN vs Pakatan  

Last week, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri announced that he will accept UMNO supreme council’s decision not to prolong the MOU beyond July 31. Some UMNO leaders even deflected the blame on Pakatan for it! 

Unfortunately, several Pakatan leaders, despite being veterans, continue to fall for UMNO’s “mind games”.  They keep swallowing UMNO’s narrative and emphasised that the agreement is between Pakatan and the current Government, led by the Prime Minister.  

It is ridiculous that Pakatan missed the part where UMNO is part of the Government and it wields considerable influence in the prime minister’s decisions! By deflecting the blame on Pakatan, UMNO is actually testing their response before mooting strategies to defeat the Opposition in the 15th General Election.  

It is puzzling that even veteran Opposition leaders are acting so naïve. To its credit, UMNO is being very Machiavellian in its approach and it looks like they have taken time to study Sun Tzu’s strategies to defeat their opponents.  

Interestingly enough, former PKR vice president Nurul Izzah Anwar recently stated that the Pakatan will not be able to win the upcoming election and the coalition will not be able to win back Putrajaya for at least one decade.  

Unsurprisingly, several PKR leaders jumped out to disagree with her assessment but from my observation, I agree with Nurul Izzah’s prediction. Pakatan’s 22-months in power was nothing short of a catastrophe and UMNO is “playing them out” even now.  

So, what was Pakatan’s flaws in their 22-months hold on Putrajaya? To begin with, they got too busy countering UMNO’s attacks instead of instituting reforms and implementing the promises made.  

If you study Malaysian politics since the 1960s, you will realise that it has always been centred on the 3R (race, religion and royalty) strategy. UMNO has been using this narrative effectively for decades to undermine its opponents.  

And Pakatan, despite holding Putrajaya, still fell for UMNO’s 3R strategy! Pakatan leaders could have used the opportunity by instituting reforms in the Government such as strengthening the independence of the judiciary, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the police.  

They could have also taken the time to at least, fulfil the pledges made in their own election manifesto which surely would have endeared them to the voters.  

We can all agree that Pakatan’s reign was short-lived but voters see things differently. The public saw how Pakatan was devoting too much attention to subjects that were inconsequential to them. The public wants real change, not cosmetic reforms that have no bearing on the country’s future.  

The question now for Pakatan is how to regain public’s trust. This should be the priority instead winning the next general election. Besides, Pakatan leaders should realise that once public trust is there, winning an election is a direct consequence of it.  

So, it is no-brainer that Pakatan should start endearing itself to the public again but how do it?  

Address issue affecting the people 

Firstly, they must explore why voters chose them in 2018. Why the people, who massively favoured them in 2018, are now shunning them?  

Subsequently, like or not, all those Pakatan leaders who tried to endear themselves to UMNO and BN after the Sheraton Move must go. Either they should take the back seats or retire gracefully.  

Thirdly, all those advisers and strategists who encouraged Pakatan leadership to cooperate with UMNO must also be dismissed. They should never be part of Pakatan’s future endeavours. 

Another thing that Pakatan should seriously pay attention to is the Undi18 voters. These massive group of youngsters will decide on Pakatan and BN’s political fortunes sooner than anyone thinks.  

They are distinct from older voters as these group of youths can see the difference between horse manure and what is real…especially when it is coming out from a politician’s mouth!  

Younger generation of voters want to hear real strategies and ideas especially when it comes to the country’s well being such as rising unemployment, economic malaise, attracting investments, crime-busting and others.  

They also want Malaysia to have a clear foreign policy that prioritises the country’s interest, instead of being servile to any superpowers. 

Just look at what is happening in Sri Lanka, which has declared bankruptcy. The youths are the ones who spearheaded the protests against their Government and calling for massive reforms to take place.   

The youngsters are unlikely to depend on the older generations to guide them to face the new challenges facing the world. These are the people who would rise in power later and influence the direction a country is taking.  

And this is the group Pakatan needs to endear itself to. They will decide on the coalition’s future and it would be wise for Pakatan’s leadership to provide them the platform to show their prowess, and groom them to become future leaders.  — April 19, 2022.  


R Paneir Selvam is the principal consultant of Arunachala Research & Consultancy Sdn Bhd (ARRESCON), a think tank specialising on strategic national and geo-political matters. 

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


Main photo credit: Malaysia Today

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