An opposition that failed to behave like the opposition

(FMT) – Pakatan Harapan’s main problem is that it has failed to present itself as a better alternative, says a political scientist in the wake of the coalition’s latest failure to get back into power.

Wong Chin Huat said the coalition often gets caught up with the claims by Anwar Ibrahim or Shafie Apdal of “having the numbers” even though neither Umno nor Gabungan Parti Sarawak would support either of them to be prime minister.

He said many opposition supporters tend to fall for the “fairy tales” spun by opposition leaders because they feared that PH cannot win the next general election and must recapture the government to enjoy the advantages of incumbency and increase their chances.

“It is tragic that many opposition leaders are still in collective hung up over restoring the mandate they received in GE14 when we are actually now closer to GE15.”

He said PH had wasted the past 17 months, when Muhyiddin Yassin’s government was in power, by failing to present itself as a government-in-waiting despite having many policy-minded MPs, including former ministers and deputy ministers.

He added the PH-controlled states could have shown how they could manage the pandemic better, particularly in Selangor, which has the resources to do so despite constraints of the over-centralised structure.

“When Covid-19 patients were left sleeping on chairs or the floor in government hospitals in Selangor, it was not just the failure of the federal government, but also a lack of imagination and ambition on the part of the state government to present itself as an alternative.

“Did Selangor have no money to build some modular hospitals and recruit extra doctors and nurses to absorb the overflowing patients?”

Calls for shadow Cabinet ignored

He also said legitimate demands by civil society and critics for PH to form a shadow Cabinet were dismissed with various excuses.

Wong said leadership of the opposition coalition should not be seen to be the “exclusive prerogative” of Anwar or Shafie.

But for now, the leadership challenge would be best settled by both Anwar and Shafie working to organise their respective shadow Cabinet lineups, and have all their MPs vote for the best team.

“As both lineups would likely include most senior MPs from all participating parties, the presence of an overlapping centre ground will hold the opposition camp together after the vote.”

Council of Professors fellow Jeniri Amir said PH will struggle to get Malay-Bumiputera support so long as DAP is in the coalition because the party is seen as being too dominant.

“I don’t think PH can afford a change of leadership now with GE15 not far off. Having fresh faces will definitely help the coalition.

“But I think it is important for DAP to have greater diversity in its top leadership, otherwise, it will be difficult for PH to win votes from the Malays and Bumiputeras.”