Wither is the Pakatan Rakyat bound?

The recent defeat of the alternative coalition at the Batu Sapi parliamentary by-election in Sarawak and the Galas state by-election in Kelantan, both on 4 November 2010, was also a writing on the wall that everything is not well in the Pakatan Rakyat, especially the PKR.

Thomas Lee, Sin Chew Daily

The Malaysian Insider has reported that a Universiti Malaya opinion poll last month found that 43% of residents in several purported PKR strongholds in the Klang Valley would not vote for the party at the next general election.

According to the survey conducted by the Universiti Malaya’s Democratic Research and Elections Centre, 35% of the respondents said they would continue to support the PKR while 22% are fence-sitters.

The poll, conducted during last month’s PKR nationwide party elections, sought the opinion of 1,124 respondents aged between 20 and 50 from the opposition strongholds of Cheras, Bandar Tun Razak, Titiwangsa, Ampang, Bukit Bintang, Subang Jaya, Wangsa Maju and Lembah Pantai.

The poll found that 52% of respondents said the PKR party crisis had affected their confidence in the party and in its leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, while 29% thought otherwise. The remaining 19% were unsure.

The survey also found that confidence in Anwar has eroded, with only 43% saying he is politically relevant, while 41% said otherwise. The remaining 16% were unsure.

Meanwhile, soon after the April 2010 Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election in which the then PKR strongman Datuk Zaid Ibrahim was sent packing off by a MIC greenhorn, an analysis report projected a gloomy electoral prospect for the alternative coalition, especially in Selangor. The report indicated that the Pakatan Rakyat may lose control of this richest state in the country, and may not even be able to deprive the Barisan Nasional of the magic two-thirds majority in Parliament.

The recent defeat of the alternative coalition at the Batu Sapi parliamentary by-election in Sarawak and the Galas state by-election in Kelantan, both on 4 November 2010, was also a writing on the wall that everything is not well in the Pakatan Rakyat, especially the PKR.

The impending 13th general election, anticipated to be held within the first half of next year, would not be an easy battle for the Pakatan Rakyat, given the current disarray in the PKR, some brewing problems in the DAP, and the resurgence of the Islamic state debate by some PAS leaders and supporters.

That the public support for the PKR has declined is not at all surprising, given the type of leaders currently helming the party, many of whom are merely Umno clones practising Umno culture, as seen in the recent party election campaigning, especially by those of the victorious Azmin Ali camp.

The election of Azmin as the PKR deputy president makes him, in effect, the successor of Anwar, and the possible prime minister in waiting if Anwar were to be convicted of the sodomy charge and jailed. Such a possibility elicits a nightmare scenario for many people, and even among the DAP leaders who generally do not have good vibes about him. Even the thought of Azmin being appointed the Selangor menteri besar is seen as horrifying among many Pakatan Rakyat supporters. Many have not forgotten about the days when Azmin was Anwar’s political secretary when he was the deputy prime minister and finance minister.

The street-fighter style of newly elected vice-president Tian Chua, who was convicted of bitting a policeman, has also put off many decent educated voters, who abhor unruly behaviour, and loathe such ruffled violent disposition. Tian Chua’s call for the boycott of the Sin Chew Daily in July 2010, over a report on Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s possible resignation as the Selangor menteri besar, is something unforgiveable, especially when he refused to humble himself and apologise for his arrogance, and unwarranted attack on the Sin Chew Daily. And there are many Tian Chuas in the PKR. And I, for one, would not waste my vote on such candidates.

The PKR also has the dubious distinction of having a record number of elected representatives in a party who defected to support its rival. Such a precarious position of the PKR elected representatives has given rise to serious doubts and reservation among the people about the party candidates in the next general election. The credibility and integrity of the party candidates must necessary be among the totality of the PKR policies, and what a better way than to have all the party candidates make public declaration of their personal, family and business assets. Otherwise, don’t expect the people to trust them, given the bad experiences with the betrayers.

Meanwhile, on the DAP front, the small storm in a tea cup that took place during the recent Selangor DAP elections could easily escalate into a political typhoon if the young upstarts who helicoptered into senior party positions are arrogant and impatient, and set out to remove the loyal veterans who had served the party faithfully and struggled to take the party to its current prominent position.

I am one who believe that the well-educated young leaders should be allowed to take charge, but they must be prepared to be guided by the matured and experienced veteran leaders, and not try to be smart alecs, or try to show off by flexing their little political muscles. Such was the case of one MP whom I scolded. He tried to show off by calling the IGP and Home Minister to demand action over his friend’s missing car. This is sheer arrogance and an abuse of his MP position. If every Tom, Dick or Harry were to call the IGP and Home Minister over such a small thing, the two gentlemen would not have time for anything else. This is what I mean when I said the young leaders need to be guided to maturity in the political development.

Hence, the major problem in the DAP currently, as I see it, is simply a generation transition one, just like a birth pang, nothing very earth-shaking but requiring wisdom, understanding, patience, compromise and co-operation to resolve.

The DAP has a very good set of intelligent well-educated, articulate and idealistic young leaders, people like Teresa Kok, Lim Lip Eng, Gobind Singh, Hannah Yeoh, Tony Pua, Jenice Lee, Teo Ching Nee, and the future bore well for the party.

The youthful party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, meanwhile, is one politician par excellence, who is where he is, not because his father appointed him, but because he personally went through the baptism of fire, being detained under the ISA and also jailed as a common criminal for standing up for justice, and elected by the popular votes of the
people. He has been the chief minister of Penang since March 2008, and the state has grew and flourished by leaps and bound since then. If Guan Eng and the DAP continue to rule Penang with competence, accountability, and transparency, it is almost impossible for the Barisan Nasional to recapture the state at the next general election.

PAS, meanwhile, needs to make up its mind about how it should go about its Islamic agenda. The confusing statements coming from different leaders at various times are not contributing to give confidence to the Pakatan Rakyat supporters. The party should also concentrate on building up the rural support base for the coalition, as it is in the rural areas that significant battles will be fought at the next general election. The Galas defeat should serve as a warning to PAS not to take the rural people for granted.

So, can the Pakatan Rakyat win the Battle of Putrajaya, and retain control of the states it is currently in power?

I would say that as far as Penang and Kelantan are concerned, the Pakatan Rakyat can be quite certain in retaining power in the two states, so long as the DAP and PAS continue to provide honest and caring services to the people of the two states. Kedah is a 50:50 case.

Perak may return to the Pakatan Rakyat rule as the people there are generally angry with the unilateral unfair way in which it was ousted from power, and may use the ballot boxes to punish those who betrayed them and cross over to the Barisan Nasional. If Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin of PAS leads the charge in Perak at the 13th general election, half the battle has been won. He is one person who can draw massive support from both the urban and rural areas, and is held in high regard by both the Malays and non-Malays. The DAP state leadership crisis may be the problem in Perak, and the party leaders must get their act together now.

What about Selangor?

According to DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang, many people believe that the Pakatan Rakyat could not lose control and power in Selangor in the next general election. But the party stalwart warned, when opening the Selangor DAP convention last month, that the Pakatan Rakyat can lose the state in the next general election if the coalition is not united.

The defeat of the PKR in the Hulu Selangor state by-election shows that the Pakatan Rakyat is losing its popularity momentum in the state, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas while Umno, representing the Barisan Nasional, seems to be regaining its winning touch.

According to one projection, the Pakatan Rakyat may be able to win only 18 of 56 state seats in Selangor at the next general election, hence, losing control of the state. The DAP is expected to retain the 14 seats it won in 2008, while the PKR will lose 14 of the seats it currently has, winning only 4 seats. PAS is expected to be wiped out, losing all the 6 seats it now has.

If Selangor is at such a risk, then the Battle for Putrajaya is surely at greater jeopardy. The possibility of the Barisan Nasional regaining the two-thirds majority in Parliament is very real. Currently, the Pakatan Rakyat via the PKR seems to be making no headway in Sabah and Sarawak, which form the Barisan Nasional bulwark against the onslaught of the alternative coalition. If the Pakatan Rakyat could not penetrate the fortification bastion of the Barisan Nasional in the two east Malaysian states, then any hope of taking control of Putrajaya is merely an illusion.

With the popularity tide of the Pakatan Rakyat, especially the PKR, receding, even in the urban areas, it is possible that several parliamentary seats won by the alternative coalition in 2008 may be reclaimed by the Barisan Nasional, especially if its chief Datuk Seri Najib Razak has his way and field more intelligent, well-educated and credible candidates instead of those deadwood leaders in the MCA and Gerakan.

Such may be the scenario at the 13th general election if the Palatan Rakyat does not buck up now. Kit Siang has said that the alternative coalition needs to seriously address all outstanding misunderstandings within it to convince the Malaysian public that the Pakatan Rakyat is not simply a one-term wonder, but is here to stay.

According to Kit Siang, the Pakatan Rakyat needs to go back to the basics like the purpose of the coalition in the first place, which is to build a common platform of principles where voters can put their trust in.

“Unless we are able to manage this, public confidence will continue to be a problem for us,” he said.

It certainly is not too late for the Pakatan Rakyat to get its act together now, and review, reevaluate, reform, and recharge for the great Battle for Putrjaya.

One possible redemptive scenario, albeit rather cruel, is that Anwar is convicted and jailed. Then there will be massive support from the people, even from Sabah and Sarawak. But, it is too high a price to pay, and surely very unfair and unjust for Anwar to be the sacrificial lamb. Let us pray that Sdr Anwar will have a fair and just trial, and be freed to lead the nation into a new golden age of a New Malaysia.