Moving forward – a simple formula for Pakatan

By Stephen Ng
Mar 13, 2015

COMMENT With the current stalemate within the Pakatan Rakyat coalition as a result of having to deal with PAS president Hadi Awang and the ulama faction of PAS, there is only one way forward for Pakatan.

The solution may be found in a simple formula, which can work only when it is agreed upon by all Pakatan supporters.

After all, faced with the possibility of a split in the near future, Pakatan Rakyat may not have too many options to choose from if it seeks to offer a united front to go for the final push in the next general election.

History teaches us that the moment the three component parties parted ways in Barisan Alternatif, there is no way for the opposition to offer a strong challenge against Umno/Barisan Nasional in the elections.

BN strategists have been working doubly hard at splitting the Pakatan votes. By now, Pakatan leaders should have realised that whenever there is a three-cornered fight, Umno’s odds to win the seat become 2:1.

Given that scenario, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim would have gone to jail in vain, and for a nation in birthpangs, all hopes for a better Malaysia that Pakatan sought to offer would be dashed against the rocks.

Every Malaysian’s dream to have a two-party system would be dissipated by the next general election. Before that happens, Pakatan leaders would do well to discuss their strategies and forge ahead amidst the current challenges.

Lessons learnt

A good lesson that should have been learnt by now comes out of the 13th general election (GE13). Kota Damansara, which saw a three-cornered fight between PKR, PAS and Umno, was a major mistake by Pakatan leaders. The results were in fact predictable, given that in 2008, PSM’s Nasir Hashim polled 11,846 against Umno’s Zein Isma Ismail (10,771 votes).

For a constituency with 56 percent Malays, 30 percent Chinese and 14 percent Indians, the narrow majority of 1,075 votes was the result of stiff competition from Umno. If not for all the opposition parties working together under one banner, Kota Damansara would never have been won by Nasir.

However, in 2013, Pakatan saw a split of votes between PKR and PAS when both parties fielded their candidates for Kota Damansara. The result: Umno’s Halimaton Saadiah Bohan won with 16,387 votes.

It did not matter if Nasir (right) was campaigning using a different banner, but Pakatan would have easily won Kota Damansara with a bigger majorit, if the votes had not been split between Nasir (14,860 votes) and PAS candidate Ridzuan Ismail (7,312 votes).

Whatever transpired, it did not matter, but when there is a split of votes between Pakatan component parties, there is no way a divided force can take on the Goliath of Malaysian politics.

PAS’ directions uncertain

Since the demise of one of the country’s most well-respected statesman, Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat, it is hard to determine in what direction the Islamist party will be heading.

Whether it will remain with Pakatan is still a big question for most people, especially when there is talk about forming a unity government with Umno.

A wiser man like the late Nik Aziz would have objected against it, knowing that the big brother would have no reason to allocate more seats for PAS. After all, if PAS were to break away from BN, it would leave behind a bigger hole in the ruling coalition. Umno would want to protect its seats before conceding them to PAS.

In the past 12 months, we have seen how the ailing Hadi has become a stumbling block to the close cooperation between PAS and the other Pakatan component parties.

PAS Youth chief Suhaizan Kaiat (left) is right with his assessment that this has indeed caused a shift in the non-Malay votes, without which state constituencies like Paya Jeras, a traditional Umno seat, could be won by PAS.

A new spiritual leader replacing the late Nik Aziz is also said to be showing little interest in cooperating with other Pakatan component parties.

We also know that the people who are aligned to the Pakatan cause within PAS are unlikely to form a breakaway party. Unless they are strong enough to take the helm of the party from the ulama camp, or willing to form a breakaway party, Pakatan will be faced with an unwilling component party.

The decision on whether to keep or drop PAS from Pakatan before the next GE has to be made; otherwise, the collaboration between the three major component parties will remain unhealthy, and more issues will crop up.

At best, Pakatan still has PAS supporters who are aligned with PasMa, which has also been distanced by the ulama camp within the party.

The internal conflict between the Hadi camp and Mat Sabu camp will intensify as PAS gets ready for the coming general assembly in June, but the question remains to be seen whether there is anyone willing to challenge the PAS president.

The bigger picture

In the bigger picture, we know that the country is groaning to see a two-party system in Malaysia. This is where Pakatan can ill-afford to break up the way Barisan Alternatif did, immediately after Anwar went into prison in 1998.

Bitter lessons have to be learnt from the GE in 2004, and Pakatan has to now strategise its next frontier, if it seeks to become an alternative front to the ruling coalition.

Malaysians generally agree that the BN coalition which has been in power for more than half a century, and its president, have become ‘out-of-touch’ with the people. At best, the coalition and its component parties have overstayed the hospitality of Malaysians.

If PAS, under its current leadership, continues to pose a challenge to a united front, the way forward is for the Pakatan leadership to drop PAS.

The key in winning the next GE is in ensuring that only pro-Pakatan PAS leaders are given the support, and in return, pro-Pakatan supporters from within the Islamist party are to support the Pakatan candidate from whichever party.

This is the formula that party leaders will have to agree upon and start cascading down to their supporters before the next general election due in 2018.

Else, there is no way that Pakatan would be able to give Umno/BN a run for their money!

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.

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