Malaysians can now hope again for political change in next general election after the roller-coaster ride of high hopes and virtual despair in the two years since the 13th GE in May 2013.
The 13GE in May 2013 was the highest water-mark of hopes of Malaysians for political change and the end of UMNO rule since Merdeka in 1957 and the beginning of a new Pakatan Rakyat Federal Government with a new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Although Pakatan Rakyat comprising DAP, PKR and PAS won the majority of 53% of the popular votes, Najib continued as the first minority Prime Minister when the UMNO/BN coalition won 60 per cent of the parliamentary seats with only 47% of the popular votes.
The two years after the nation-wide disappointment at missing the opportunity for political change in Putrajaya on 13GE Polling Day on 5th May 3013 because of gerrymandering and unfair, unjust and undemocratic redelineation of parliamentary constituencies can be likened to a roller-coaster ride by Malaysians of high hopes for political change and virtual despair that such political change is possible because of an increasingly divided Pakatan Rakyat.
After the 13 general election, Pakatan Rakyat existed only in name – as PAS decided to renege on its commitment to adhere to the Pakatan Rakyat Common Policy Framework as well as the Pakatan Rakyat operational principle of consensus.
In retrospect, if Pakatan Rakyat had captured the majority of the parliamentary seats and the mandate to form the Federal Government in Putrajaya in the 13th General Election, Pakatan Rakyat would have been confronted with it first crisis even before the Pakatan Rakyat Federal Government was formed, as the PAS President had refused to accept Anwar Ibrahim as the Prime Minister candidate.
With the history of the PAS President refusing not only to accept Anwar as the Prime Minister of Malaysia, but also the PKR President Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the Mentri Besar of Selangor, as well as his decision to renege from th PR Common Policy Framework particularly on the hudud and local government election issues, what is the basis to hope that there could be a revival of Pakatan Rakyat co-operation and unity?
There is no doubt that Malaysians who had rooted for political change in the 13GE went into the deepest and darkest despair at the demise of Pakatan Rakyat, for they see the hopes of political change being destroyed completely, at a time when the UMNO/BN government has proved to be such a national liability and disaster.
The formation of Parti Amanah Negara and establishment of Pakatan Harapan comprising DAP, PKR and AMANAH have however saved the political situation, filling the political vacuum and void caused by despair and seeming hopelessness for political change, with the country inundated by so many political, economic, good governance and nation-building scandals under the Najib premiership.
With the vigorous and vibrant advent of Parti Amanah Negara and Pakatan Harapan, Malaysians can dare to hope again that the goal of political change is still possible and achievable in thde 14th General Election.
This is the goal all parties in Pakatan Harapan must work on with a single-minded zeal and purpose.
It is most unfortunate that PAS has decided to condemn itself to being a regional party again.
Prior to the 2008 general elections, PAS’s electoral strength was mostly in the four northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.
Even at the height of its electoral performance in the 1999 general elections where it won 27 parliament seats, only two or 7% were won outside the northern states (both in Perak).
This changed in 2008 when PAS made a breakthrough by winning seven out of its 23 parliament seats (30%) outside the northern states including winning parliament seats for the first time in Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan. This percentage was increased to 33% (7 out of 21 parliament seats) in the 2013 general elections.
PAS’ performance in the state seats also shows a similar trend.
Prior to 2008, PAS’ best record in winning state seats outside the northern states was 14 (out of 98 or 14%) in the 1999 general elections. (The 20% of seats in the non-northern states in 1978 was because of the record low of 10 state seats won by PAS in that general election)
In 2008, the number and percentage of non-northern seats increased to 20 and 24% respectively. As a result of winning a record number of state seats in Perak (6) and Selangor (8), PAS was able to form the state governments in both of these states together with PKR and DAP.
What many people may not have realized is that PAS actually increased the number of state seats won from 83 in 2008 to 85 in 2013 and this increase was from the non-northern states.
In fact, PAS’s non-northern state seats increased from 20 out of 83 in 2008 (or 24%) to 29 out of 85 (or 34%). This was helped by PAS historic performance of winning 15 state seats in Selangor (from 8 in 2008) and also making a breakthrough by winning one seat in Melaka and by winning state seats in Johor (from two in 2008).
Unfortunately, PAS has most likely condemned itself to going back to being a northern- focused party after the next general election.
Even without the formation of AMANAH, PAS would have found it hard to retain the seven non-northern parliament seats it won. Out of these seven seats, PAS only managed to win the majority of Malay support in one seat (Parit Buntar). With the high likelihood of non-Malay voters abandoning PAS in large numbers in the next general election, these seats would most likely have been lost by PAS, even if it was a straight fight against UMNO.
This scenario would have been repeated in the state seats. Of the 29 non-northern state seats won by PAS in GE2013, 23 were won with less than 50% of the Malay support including 14 out of 15 state seats in Selangor. With the expected fall in PAS support among non-Malay voters, most of these 23 state seats would be lost by PAS even without the presence of AMANAH.
The position taken by PAS to sever ties with the DAP and re-emphasizing hudud as a policy to be implemented in the present time, including its new policy position of co-operating with UMNO, have wasted the many years of efforts put in by the progressive leaders who were formerly in PAS. The trust in PAS among non-Malay voters, which took many decades to build up, has effectively been wiped out by the current PAS leadership led by Hadi Awang.
Furthermore, the unwillingness by the top PAS leadership to vote against Najib’s budget and to give conflicting signals about its intentions to work with UMNO will further alienate its standing among non-Malay and even among some Malay voters.
It would not be surprising if voters in the four northern states, the majority of whom are Malay, voting against PAS in the next GE as a result of its flip-flop position vis-à-vis UMNO and PM Najib in a context when Najib and his administration are becoming more and more unpopular by the day, even among Malay voters and UMNO members.
The dilemma that PAS is facing today is best captured by the boast by the Kelantan UMNO Chairman Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed at the UMNO Convention 2015 today that Kelantan UMNO is confident that it will wrest the state from PAS in the 14th General Election.
Can PAS reach an understanding with UMNO to allow PAS to continue to rule in Kelantan?
These are the troubled political waters Pakatan Harapan must negotiate if the end of UMNO/BN rule to save Malaysia from rampant corruption and unchecked and widespread socio-economic injustices is to be achieved in the 14GE – which will greatly test the wisdom of DAP, PKR and AMANAH leaders.
(Speech at the Malaysian Indian Voice (MIC) anniversary gathering on “Bersatu Untuk Berjaya, Menuju ke Putrajaya” held at KL/Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on Sunday, 29th November 2011 at 11 am)