Pakatan plans to form coalition by next election

(The Straits Times) KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — Plagued by internal bickering, the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance yesterday pledged to rise above divisive issues by working towards a formal coalition that will instil greater discipline in its MPs and assemblymen.

At a day-long workshop held by the alliance, the top leaders of its three parties announced it would register a coalition by the next general election, due in 2013.

PR had also set up a mechanism that would allow it to resolve problems without airing them publicly, the leaders said.

“We want to strengthen the alliance, the machinery at all stages and the secretariat, so as to formalise PR,” opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said at a press conference.

PR was formed after last year's general election, which saw its members win five states. The alliance consists of the PKR, DAP and PAS.

PR has since been dogged by continued bickering among its three members that has come close to splitting the alliance. Still, its leaders yesterday put up a united front, tasking a special secretariat — chaired by former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, now with PKR — with working out the details involved in registering PR.

In the most recent squabble, a DAP leader fought with a PAS stalwart over the sale of beer in Muslim-majority areas of Selangor.

Another spat occurred in Penang, after a DAP MP accused a PKR councillor of being an Islamic extremist.

Yesterday, Anwar declared all issues and misunderstandings had been resolved at the meeting. He said the alliance would stay united, and gain strength through the formation of the secretariat and a special unit that would provide guidance on policy matters.

Analysts said turning PR into a true coalition governed by rules and regulations would benefit Malaysia as the move would formalise the two-party system.

Such a coalition could more effectively challenge Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN), which has ruled Malaysia since independence, analysts noted.

Many are counting on PR not to turn into another BN, as it practises equal leadership, said political analyst James Chin.

“In PR, all parties are equal, unlike in BN, where Umno is dominant,” he told The Straits Times.

Still, analysts note that PR must first meet regulations set by the Registrar of Societies. To register as a political coalition, it needs to have at least seven parties in its fold — a target it may have a tough time achieving by 2013.

PR leaders have been trying to get parties from Sabah and Sarawak to join the alliance, but without any results.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political analyst Mohd Agus Yusoff said another way forward would be for PR to first form a shadow Cabinet, so as to prove its member parties can work together.

“If they really want to prove they are good enough, they should form a proper shadow Cabinet — not the shadow committee they have now,” he said.