2010 – Another politically-charged year but Pakatan confident of advancing

“2010 will be a crucial year for Pakatan. Overall, optimism is high that we can advance further against the BN especially if all three DAP, PKR and PAS remember to be realistic in their individual expectations.”

Wong Choon Mei, Harakah Daily

If 2008 was a year of euphoria and celebration for Pakatan Rakyat after sweeping to power in five states, 2009 was when its partners PAS, PKR and DAP tumbled down to earth again.

A harsh awakening it might have been, but it was also a good and timely reminder that along with leadership and good governance, there must be sacrifice and above all, teamwork.

Because you see, in 2010, the going for the Pakatan can only get tougher. When this year ends, Prime Minister Najib Razak will have less than 26 months to call for the next general election. His Umno-BN coalition can therefore be counted on to unleash another flurry of ruthless maneuvers to keep the Pakatan at bay.

Last year, Umno staged a coup d’etat in Perak and was only stopped from forcing through another power grab in Selangor by the tragic death of DAP aide Teoh Beng Hock, whose body was found in suspicious circumstances after interrogation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency. Najib’s Umno party also antagonized the rakyat by openly plying racial politics and exhorting the Malays to rise against the non-Malays through newspapers that they control.

Different tactics seen in 2010

This year, however, the tactics deployed may be different.  

Instead of gangster-like intimidation, Pakatan leaders expect Najib to rely more on gloss and enormous public relations to woo back a weary citizenry.  Indeed, after nine months in office, few Malaysians have much faith that Najib can achieve meaningful reforms. Most expect him to finish his term on a spending binge and still expounding his grand-sounding but vague 1Malaysia plan.  

“2010 will be a year of intense comparison,” PKR director of strategy Tian Chua told HarakahDaily.  

“We expect the PM to try and swing back confidence by borrowing from the Pakatan’s reform agenda after losing credibility in the Perak crisis and Teoh’s controversial death.”

“2009 was filled with test cases for both Pakatan and Umno-BN. But it ended with Pakatan responding to the rakyat’s wished by coming out with a Common Policy Framework and applying to register as a formal coalition.”

“On the other hand, has Umno responded to calls for reform, non-racial politics, a clean government and a two-coalition system? Nothing! So far, Najib has gone the other way. Instead of heeding the warning given in the 2008 elections, he has allowed Umno to play the racial card even more. As for corruption, Malaysia is worse than before falling nine spots in Transparency International index. How can there be reform if the judiciary continues to be used to make decisions favouring Umno-BN and the MACC does not function as a graft-buster but as a tool to persecute and frame Pakatan politicians?”

Playing the ‘good guy’

Indeed, Tian and his colleagues may be right in believing that Najib and Umno will try to play ‘good guy’ this year after stoking infamy in the past 12 months.

The last day of 2009 ended with a surprise High Court decision allowing a Christian newsletter to use the word Allah. Political watchers see the ruling as a signal that the Najib administration was now trying to hop onto a more liberal and multi-racial platform. However, 2010 has just begun and a rocky road still lies ahead for the PM and his party. Surely, they have to do much more if they are to prove their sincerity to the people.  
At the same time, Pakatan must step up its service and fulfill its promises to the people. It has to show it can make a difference that is for the better.

“Apart from macro issues, the political outlook for Pakatan will also depend on how we perform in the state governments that we control especially in Selangor. At the moment, we are doing reasonably well but there is room for improvement,” PAS political bureau member Khalid Samad told HarakahDaily.

“All three partners in Pakatan are interdependent. 2009 was a year when PAS, DAP and PKR got to know each other by working and functioning together. It didn’t start so well especially with the BN press harping on some of our bickering. There was also a lot unnecessary gamesmanship, not just between DAP and PAS but also DAP and PKR and PKR and PAS.”

“Perhaps, it was a phase of adjustment we had to go through but it was tough because we had to do it on the job and in the full glare of an unfriendly mainstream media. But 2009 still finished well for us. We’ve taken a major commitment together by agreeing to the Common Policy Framework and we are now looking forward to the formal registration of our coalition.”

“2010 will be a crucial year for Pakatan. Overall, optimism is high that we can advance further against the BN especially if all three DAP, PKR and PAS remember to be realistic in their individual expectations.”

“We cannot be selfish and focus only on our own party’s goals and aspirations. There will definitely be areas where there will be differences in opinions and views, for example in the issue of local council elections that DAP is promoting and PAS’s own Islamist agenda. The BN press will keep harping on these issues and play them up. But as long as we ourselves remember that we cannot do everything at one time or please everybody at one go, that’s fine.”

“As long as each party is not prevented from pursuing its long-term aspirations, there’s no point in raising a hue and cry against each other. This only benefits the Umno-BN. They will distort the actual situation and paint Pakatan as uncoordinated and quarrelsome. We must not allow our frustrations in the immediate and short term to blur our target and destroy the bigger picture.”

(Wong Choon Mei is a columnist and contributing editor for HarakahDaily)