BN, Pakatan are in disarray, but who is weaker?


Ian McIntyre, The Ant Daily

There is a saying that fittingly describes the outcome of Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election that saw Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail ‘regaining’ the seat.

It goes like this: “It is not that one is strong; it is that one’s enemy is weaker.”

Truth is, PKR was not formidable as it entered the by-election two weeks ago but its rival – Barisan Nasional – was in the worse condition.

Essentially, BN handed over the seat it wanted desperately to regain on a silver platter to Wan Azizah because of its internal squabbles and policies that backfired.

There is a sense that BN leaders are disconnected from the plight faced by the middle and lower income voters, as they are oblivious to rising living costs.

And as in most nations, the middle and lower income groups represent the bulk of voters.

From its inability to explain how the Goods and Services Tax (GST) can benefit the average person to the mounting debts of the state investment agency – 1MDB, there were so many issues to tackle.

Unfortunately, BN could not produce a range of high calibre leaders to explain and convince voters.

And who can forget the criticism by the grandmaster of Malaysian politics – Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The 89-year-old was highly critical of the present administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak in the weeks before the election.

It was so unsettling that former PKR parliamentarian Yusmadi Yusoff pointed out that PKR, for the first time had erected more posters of Najib than BN itself.

Yusmadi now helps out the television networks as a political analyst.

“Najib’s face was plastered with GST and 1MDB throughout the constituency.”

And it was done by PKR while BN opted not to put up any portraits of Najib, Yusmadi said, adding that it was clear that Najib and BN had lost their way in governing the country.

PKR Youth deputy head Dr Afif Bahardin whispered that it was best that Najib continues to lead the country.

“It will make Pakatan Rakyat stronger,” he said in a discreet tone.

As for PKR, there is no denying that the alliance formed by outgoing Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was floundering.

Wan Azizah won based on the weaknesses of Barisan as it has always been the case, said Penang Malay Congress president Rahmad Isahak.

PKR alone is not that strong as it is fractured by factionalism while PAS is embroiled in an internal struggle over its future direction as an Islamist organisation.

The absence of PAS clerics, including its president Abdul Hadi Awang, stood out like a “sore thumb” in the election.

The one left intact is DAP, but it too is under-fire to some degree for some policies of the state government that it leads.

In Penang, Rahmad pointed out that DAP had conveniently neglected certain voices of the civil society by approving projects that could threaten the environment.

So both BN and Pakatan are somewhat in disarray.

It remains to be seen just who is the weaker of the two.

Both the Rompin and Permatang Pauh by-elections are seen as a “curtain raiser” to the looming Sarawak state election, which is speculated to be held by year’s end.

By then, it is hoped that Sarawak voters can decide who the strongest party is rather than who is the least weak.

Malaysian politics could do with instilling stronger leadership as the country navigates a globalised world riddled with terrorism, extremism, inequality, human trafficking and economic malaise.