Commentary Politics

Pakatan doesn’t seem to have learnt the lessons it said it had

Jeck Seng returned to Tanjung Piai with a resounding victory.

Written by Aziz Hassan

January 28, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

FIVE defeats in 10 by-elections in less than two years for a ruling coalition, any coalition in fact, must be a cause for real concern and especially for a Pakatan Harapan that did the unthinkable by ousting a government that had been in power for 61 uninterrupted years.

But with all the losses coming in the last six by-elections, indications are that the further the country moves ahead after the 14th general elections in May 2018, the less the people’s support for the ruling coalition.

Reactions like “we accept the people’s decision” mean nothing because saying this is saying the obvious but look back at all the statements made and you would see a glaring repeat by Pakatan leaders.

The main themes were about “learning a lesson”, “heeding the people’s concerns on the economy and cost of living” and “a need to ensure that pledges made prior to the 14th general elections are fulfilled”.

Each defeat means lessons learnt. Really?

Pakatan got beaten again in the most recent by-election for the Kimanis parliamentary seat and what did Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail say soon after? “Pakatan will learn a lesson from the defeat”.

And DAP leader Lim Guan Eng? “Pakatan will take the result as a lesson.”

Muhyiddin Yassin after Pakatan’s defeat in Cameron Highlands in late January 2019? “A lesson to Pakatan to fix weaknesses”. But because Pakatan went on to lose four of the next five, it is safe to assume that if indeed the coalition had learnt a lesson, its remedies have not been good enough.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim said a bit more though after the Kimanis defeat but still nothing really new: “It’s a clear sign people are dissatisfied with the Pakatan Harapan government.” But at least there was this more direct reminded to his colleagues in the coalition: “Face reality or face the consequences”.

In terms of results per se, a big blow to Pakatan’s ego must have been the failure to retain the Semenyih state seat it won in GE14 during the by-election on March 2, 2019, when Zakaria Hanafi managed to swing 19.10 per cent of the votes more for BN while Pakatan had 5.2% less. But the worst hammering so far for Pakatan was in the Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election last November 16, with the vote swing favouring BN by 19.48% while Pakatan saw a drop of 20.55%.

After the result for Kimanis was known, another immediate reaction was to talk about a post-mortem, another one of course.

Another folly that is not lost on voters is the blame game by Pakatan leaders, blaming BN that is, especially on the performance of government agencies, the economy and the cost of living. Sure, to be fair a government should be given the full-term of five years to prove its worth but people tend to get impatient, more so when times are not good, and perhaps unfortunately for Pakatan, that’s how the economy has been since GE14.

GST blamed for high cost of living but the SST hasn’t done any better

Much of the blame on the rising cost of living was directed at the Good and Services Tax introduced by BN but 20 months after GE14, the Sales and Services Tax that replaced the GST has done any better, if not worse.

The stock market is down and so too the ringgit and many foreign news commentaries attribute this to the political uncertainty regarding the transition of power at the top as a main reason for the lack of investor confidence in Malaysia.

There are a few reasons why many among the Malaysian urban middle class are feeling frustrated and letdown.

The much promised institutional reforms seem a long way off, corruption remains very much an issue despite a recent improvement in an international ranking and political appointments to the boards of government-linked companies are very much the norm despite the BN being slayed for doing so.

The main issue with the Pakatan government looks like one of credibility. The coalition also gives the impression that it lacks coordination and this doesn’t inspire confidence. The many contradictory statements on how best to deal with the current Wuhan coronavirus problem is a clear example of how disorganised the government is.

Surely they would have discussed such a serious issue in the Cabinet but why the different positions taken by leaders from different parties which point to the absence of one clear plan of action?



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.