Predicting Pakatan Harapan’s death is putting the cart before the horse, observers say


(Malay Mail Online) – Pakatan Harapan may still have a ways to go before it finally gets its act together but it would be too simplistic to immediately assume that the two-month old pact cannot survive past the next federal polls, observers said.

They acknowledged that PKR, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) are still working out the kinks in Pakatan Harapan’s structure and framework, but agreed that for a start, the pact appears more ideologically cohesive than the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Merdeka Centre director Ibrahim Suffian said it would be “premature” to predict that Pakatan Harapan would dissolve anytime soon and that the opposition would want to keep the peace for now in order to maintain their current positions.

“In my view, the bigger question is whether the opposition, including parties like PAS, can keep to what they currently have now,” he told Malay Mail Online.

“Without an electoral pact and an antagonistic attitude with its former allies and party members, three-corner contests will come about and the party (PAS) might just return to become a regional east coast party,” he said.

Ibrahim was responding to the forecast made earlier this week by PAS’s research centre that Pakatan Harapan would likely dissolve shortly after the 14th general election or possibly even sooner, as internal conflict will quickly tear the pact apart.

Pakatan Harapan was formed in September to replace PR, which was declared dead after seven years following a fallout between DAP and PAS over key ideological differences like the Islamist party’s hudud ambition.

PAS has since said it will go it alone, having snubbed an invitation to join the newly-formed pact, although some among its leaders have suggested the possibility of working together with Umno.

To Dr Faisal Hazis, associate professor at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, for any political pact to survive, sharing a common platform of policies and ideas is key.

He said PAS should not preach about commitment, principles or consistency, pointing out that it was the Islamist party that first broke ranks with its former allies back when PR still existed.

PAS, he recalled, had insisted on pushing ahead with its hudud agenda, a policy that was never agreed on in PR’s common policy framework.

“PAS can stand witness to what it takes to break up the opposition coalition. If you don’t have a common platform, you can’t have a solid coalition,” Faisal told Malay Mail Online.

When asked for their views, Pakatan Harapan allies were more dismissive of PAS’s prediction.

DAP’s Liew Chin Tong said he believes Pakatan Harapan will outlive its predecessor PR, especially without PAS in the picture.

“Pakatan Harapan aims to win federal power from Umno. It’s not going to be easy but I believe that the new coalition will be ideologically more cohesive compared to the last coalition, Pakatan rakyat,” the Kluang MP told Malay Mail Online.

“Zuhdi can continue to dream on but I am confident that we will be able to create a more lasting governing coalition,” he added, referring to PAS research centre director Dr Mohd Zuhdi Marzuki.

Amanah vice-president Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa echoed Liew’s remarks, pointing out that it was PAS who had severed ties with DAP earlier this year.

“We managed to give new life to PR by forming Pakatan Harapan through Amanah and the same party (PAS) has dismissed any chance for reconciliation (for opposition parties).

“So it is no surprise that this same party is so pessimistic for the future of Pakatan Harapan,” Mujahid told Malay Mail Online.

Amanah was formed among members of PAS’s former progressive faction who split from the party after its fallout with the DAP.

PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli said that steps were already being taken to ensure that Pakatan Harapan would function much more effectively than PR.

“Hence the finalisation of a binding Coalition Agreement which is in good progress. The expected signing of Coalition Agreement on January 9, 2016 will pave the way for specific mechanism to maintain a balance in Pakatan Harapan (so) that differences of opinions are allowed while striving for the common objectives of the coalition,” he told Malay Mail Online.