Commentary Politics

Indeed Malaysian opposition has changed — many times over

A motley crew of politicians with different ideologies got together on March 4, 2015, mainly to rally Malaysians to oust the prime minister. Parties in the opposition thought did not officially back the declaration.

A motley crew of politicians with different ideologies got together on March 4, 2015, mainly to rally Malaysians to oust the prime minister. Parties in the opposition thought did not officially back the declaration.

Written by Aziz Hassan

“Mid-week Notes” — a weekly column

IN the last general election, Malaysians who wished for a change in the government were overjoyed that the opposition alliance called Pakatan Rakyat secured a few percentage points more votes overall than the ruling Barisan Nasional.

The disappointment though was in not being able to take over the government because it did not win enough seats.

There remained the hope though that come the next election, possibly next year and certainly by 2018, that BN will no longer be ruling the country from Putrajaya. But just over two years from their best performance since independence in 1957, disunity again found its way into the opposition grouping.

Out went PAS in September last year and its place taken over by a group that broke away from it to form another party, Parti Amanah Negara. Amanah, as it prefers to be called, has six Members of Parliament who should have resigned to give the people a chance to make a fresh choice since they had contested in 2013 under a different banner.

And so the opposition alliance became Pakatan Harapan. Not the first time the name had been changed.

It started with Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah in 1990 which joined hands with Gagasan Rakyat. That too lasted only six years, with the DAP leaving in 1996 but in terms of the number of parties involved, this was the biggest, comprising DAP, PBS, Malaysian People’s Party, Indian Progressive Front, Malaysian Solidarity Party, Semangat 46, Kimma and Hamim.

Besides the DAP, S46 also quit when members decided that the party should disband to allow them to rejoin Umno.

Barisan Alternatif was next, a grouping formed following the dismissal of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from Umno and the government. Of the lot PAS did the best in the 1999 general election that followed, capturing Kelantan and Terengganu while the DAP, frustrated with certain issues, left in 2001.

If you thought that the parties had had enough of telling the country about an electoral pact you were wrong.

The year 2008 was when they decided to regroup, giving birth to Pakatan Rakyat.

But since last September it’s Pakatan Harapan but with Amanah in there, it’s highly unlikely PAS will want to rejoin despite a recent suggestion to this effect by PKR No. 2 Datuk Seri Azmin Ali. That this was not the official position of PKR could be read from a reaction to Azmin’s statement by party president Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Ismail.

Despite drifting away from the old Pakatan while also insisting that it remained a member, PAS has forged a relationship with unproven Ikatan formed by former Umno man Tan Sri Kadir Sheikh Fadzir. It’s safe enough for you to bet your last ringgit that Ikatan will not get anywhere in the next election.

To be a viable alternative to BN, the opposition must prove to the electorate that it has sound policies, credible leadership and unity of purpose. Any electoral pact or whatever they want to call it must also pass the test of time.

So far they have failed on every count.

The contradictions are many, with statements by the main cast amongst them relating to the Citizens’ Declaration launched by former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad a classic recent example of the disarray, of the absence of a common platform from which to reach out to the people.

PKR’s top leadership are consumed by the cause to free Anwar from Sungai Buloh Prison, the now opposition minded Mahathir is pre-occupied with wanting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak out of the government and Umno, PAS is a bit here and there while the target of being amongst those with the power to rule the country is probably the DAP’s main thrust.

With the opposition so fractious, the scale should tip in Umno and the Barisan’s favour in the next election. If this happens it would only frustrate Malaysians who want to experiment with a change in government even more.

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.