10 things Anwar must do

P Gunasegaram
May 17, 2013

QUESTION TIME By now the cabinet has been appointed and while there are fresh faces, no one I have spoken to expects any drastic changes from the norm especially as Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is bound to face pressure from Umno delegates at the forthcoming Umno general assembly.

We seem to be going from one election to another and delaying much needed change accordingly. And as everyone knows by now, Umno delegates don’t at all represent the common voice of the Malays but posture to make it appear as if they do.

Thus it was that when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi got a massive mandate from the people in the 2004 elections, obtaining over 90 percent of parliamentary seats, he refrained from taking measures he promised because his advisers told him there will be a backlash from Umno delegates.

Ah, well, history repeats itself, especially when you don’t learn from it, and one can expect the pressures from within Umno to stop any push towards major change which will benefit the country as a whole without descending into the morass of race, religion and language.

For Pakatan Rakyat, very much still in opposition, the fight continues in earnest. But if it wants to wrest Putrajaya from Barisan Nasional, there are a number of things it has to do and its de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim will have to bear these in mind.

Pakatan would have made much more headway in the elections just past if they had focused on even half of this. But no matter, there is always still time and it is necessary to build on the gains if Malaysians are to see the two-party system emerge.

To my mind, a two-party system emerges only when there has been at least one change of power. That has not happened yet and here is our list of 10 things that Anwar must do if he wants a fair chance of Pakatan forming the next government.

This follows upon our list of 10 things that Najib must do if he wants BN to win again which we highlighted last week.

1. Accept the election results or challenge it in court soon

The elections are over. We all know about election fraud. If there is any, pull out the evidence and take it to the courts. Or forever remain silent and move on to the future. Yes, by all means take steps to stop gerrymandering if you can but there is no point lamenting endlessly that some constituencies have many times the number of constituents than others. Take over government and change that.

2. Stop the 505 rallies

There is no point going around the country complaining about election fraud now. If it’s the intention to mobilise effort, it is much better to do so later when Pakatan has reorganised itself along the lines we have suggested. Then it will serve a purpose because you can tell the people what Pakatan is going to be doing in terms of the next elections and get their buy-in and support.

3. Focus on the next election

The question on most people’s lips post-election is: What now for Pakatan? How is it going to win the next election? That’s what the focus should be for Pakatan – the next election and how it plans to win it. Obviously it can’t win without support from Sabah or Sarawak and obviously it can’t win without more support from rural areas in peninsular Malaysia. That will be the two points Pakatan must address plus hold on to current seats.

4. Devise a strategy for Sabah and Sarawak

Clearly the Sabah and Sarawak strategy is not so great. Contesting under the banners of peninsular parties in the eastern states is a recipe for disaster outside of the handful of highly urbanised areas. There is a great need for grassroots organisation and for people who can work that. That can come only from local people and local parties.

Pakatan needs to find such people and parties, not easy, yes, but impossible to make inroads otherwise. They wasted five years earlier, better not waste another five.

Here’s something that can be promised Sabah and Sarawak if Pakatan comes to power – a deputy prime minister (say two-and-a-half years each) from the two states.

5. Think about reaching out more to the rural areas

Yes, BN won with less than the popular vote, yes Pakatan had the majority of votes but everyone knows about rural seats being smaller in terms of number of constituents. It’s been that way always with changes to the federal constitution to make the difference worse.

So what is Pakatan doing to get the rural vote? Bad government is out as Kedah has shown. PKR needs to work the ground much more, while DAP and PAS need to widen their appeal to different communities instead of steadfastly remaining in their own pockets of strength. If rural votes are over-represented it makes good strategic sense to go and put more efforts there.

6. Announce the candidates list for the next election now

Pakatan needs drastic change too. Why not make the bold and unprecedented move of announcing their entire slate of candidates – state and parliamentary seats – say six months from now and by as much as four-and-a-half years before the next election. That will give all their candidates a long enough time to work the constituency and for the aspiring wakil rakyat to shake hands with his constituents at least once before elections.

Imagine the kind of competitive advantage that a move like that will give Pakatan and the kind of opportunity to work the ground, which will be the key determinant of the results of the next election.

7. Announce a full shadow cabinet at federal and state level

Follow up number six above with an announcement of the full state and federal cabinet line-up, including for prime minister and deputy prime minister/s and chief ministers. That is a fantastic way to keep the current government in check by offering constructive criticism, suggestions and where necessary brickbats for measures that may be taken.

That also signals to the general public that there is enough cohesiveness in the opposition coalition to form a viable, reasonable government. Do these two within six months.

8. Spell out in one clear voice how you will be different

Really, we can’t have PAS saying it wants an Islamic state and hudud and DAP talking of a Malaysian Malaysia. Focus on the common things that everyone wants and think about what it is the people themselves want. And think about what is right and wrong from a moral and ethical point of view. Evolve this common platform, everyone stick with it and move on and away from these contentious issues between the coalition partners.

The trick is to take a common stance on substantive issues and where there is little likelihood of a change in positions, simply compromise. PAS is not likely to get hudud and the official religion will be Islam nevertheless – just live with that. To go into an election with mixed messages is dangerous for everyone.

9. Make a clear stance on corruption and education

After the last election, Anwar promised to overthrow an elected government with a majority of 28 seats by getting frogs to jump parties. That’s clearly wrong. Take a firm stance against both criminal and moral corruption and stick with it come what may. The moral compass must always point in the right direction.

Similarly, education is not to be played around with for political purposes as has been done in the past. Indications are clear that most Malaysians want the quality of English to improve, for instance. Yet, Pakatan has not supported the teaching of Maths and Science in English in a clear concession to pressure groups. Good education must not be compromised for political expediency.

10. Work with the government where you can

There are times when the government does good things. There is much to support in the government and economic transformation programmes. Where it is good, there is no harm but every benefit in supporting it wholeheartedly.

Pakatan should seek to work together with the government actively and cultivate good relations with the federal government for the benefit of the three states it controls. So long as it does not compromise on its own, hopefully high ideals and principles, that should be fine.

If Pakatan assiduously puts these suggestions into practice, then it has a better than even chance of winning the next time around, especially if Najib does nothing about his list of 10.


P GUNASEGARAM is founding editor of KiniBiz. He says the hope for change must always spring eternal in the human breast, with apologies to Alexander Pope.

  1. #1 by Just DAP on Monday, 20 May 2013 - 8:02 am

    Point 1 and 2 require immediate attention. The rest are homeworks for GE14. Use Selangor state to showcase to Rakyat how well PR will be able to manage at the Federal level once given the mandate in next General Election.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Monday, 20 May 2013 - 9:48 am

    Much of these (shadow cabinet, advance candidates list & work with govt) is academic discourse in political science. Please give 10 ways on how to solve the following: – (a) how to change neo feudal mindset tethered to race and religion amongst rural voters in Semenanjung which UMNO has the market with its Ketuanan hutang budi (gratefulness to govt for affirmative hand-outs) themes? (b) how to change the equally neo feudal mindset tethered to “Lu tolong gua; gua tolong lu” amongst rural voters in East Malaysia who will give their votes in exchange for money to their headmen, boats, rice cooker, fishing nets? (c) whether without Anwar the chasm/gap between DAP’s ideology and PAS’s theocracy can be bridged? (d) even with Anwar uniting all in PR, whether the powers-that-be will allow him to be where he is in the next 5 years and how to block his removal by legal means or otherwise; and (e) how mindsets in (a) & (b) above – a generational thing- can ever be changed in a span of 5 years.

  3. #3 by DAP man on Monday, 20 May 2013 - 9:52 am

    It is for the people to decide is we should accept the results and not a decision by Anwar alone. It was the people’s victory that was stolen and it is right to hold those 505 rallies to gauge his supports feelings.
    A leaders who allows his supports to be cheated and accept the results is not fit to be a leader.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Monday, 20 May 2013 - 9:53 am

    Yes hope for change must always spring eternal in the human breast but rationality must always rein in the human mind and pray explain rationally how do you propose the Opposition to overcome the built in advantages (a) to (e) that UMNO has within the next 5 years.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Monday, 20 May 2013 - 10:07 am

    ///…it is right to hold those 505 rallies to gauge his support feelings…///
    We can assume -rallies or no rallies- that the support feelings are always there (at this moment) since the popular votes are with PR. The real question is what’s next after these rallies and gauging/verifying of support feelings ? Take the allegations of electoral fraud to the Courts? Will they vindicate the aggrieved Opposition leader? Or should he after the huge rallies take them to the streets shouting “Reformasi”? First of all, are all PR supporters inclined to do so? Are Malaysians like those in nearby countries? Secondly what do rallies in the streets hope to achieve? Confrontation with authorities? Who controls armed security forces? Thirdly, wouldn’t that (rallies in streets) be against the law providing the powers-that-be just the very the justification to incarcerate the organizers and Opposition leaders? Can writer P Gunasegaram elucidate on some of these points?

  6. #6 by Winston on Monday, 20 May 2013 - 11:25 am

    One question for the author.
    Any suggestions for stopping the corruption during GE, gerrymandering as well as using strong tactics against the opposition?
    Don’t the author know that even in an urban area like Pantai Lembah, they are still up to their dirty tricks?
    In fact, the whole article is an inane and vacuous one!!!
    Not even the electronic space devoted to it!!!!!! reading!!!!!!

  7. #7 by Winston on Monday, 20 May 2013 - 11:26 am

    Winston :
    One question for the author.
    Any suggestions for stopping the corruption during GE, gerrymandering as well as using strong arm tactics against the opposition?
    Don’t the author know that even in an urban area like Pantai Lembah, they are still up to their dirty tricks?
    In fact, the whole article is an inane and vacuous one!!!
    Not even worth
    the electronic space devoted to it!!!!!! reading!!!!!!

  8. #8 by DAP man on Monday, 20 May 2013 - 11:39 am

    I totally agree with Winston.
    No mention by the writer on media bias and the open and blatant use of government machinery and cash handouts.

  9. #9 by Boon Liang on Monday, 20 May 2013 - 10:16 pm

    The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people! ~ Napoleon

    We, anak Malaysian, should not accept the fraud. We cannot just keep silent over the fraud happened in our country.

    Furthermore, Allah dan Nabi tidak pernah mengajar umatnya untuk menipu.

  10. #10 by Noble House on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 - 4:42 am

    The above suggestions can only work if you play by the rules. But remember this is not a level playing field all along. Apart from the advantage of incumbency you are fighting a system where every rule of laws can be broken. Tell us how you propose we go about this instead.

You must be logged in to post a comment.