Malaysians really want a credible opposition

Murray Hunter

Where is the shadow cabinet? Where is the desperation to perform as a real opposition? Where is the alternative government?

Murray Hunter, Free Malaysia Today

Remember when Pakatan Harapan secured their surprise election victory back in 2018? Many expressed their joy as if it were Merdeka Day relived. There was so much hope about a Malaysia Baru being born.

Now, remember the state elections in Johor. Melaka and Sarawak before that. The rekindled Barisan Nasional seems to have wiped away the blip of history where PH was the government, as if it never happened.

It’s almost four years since that general election in 2018, and there is a completely changed political landscape. We have to ask the question why?

One thing those observing Malaysia at the time would clearly remember was the growing loss of hope and later disillusionment with the PH government over its short 20 months in power.

In the beginning, everyone, even Umno supporters, had held hopes of seeing real reforms, only to have their hopes shattered by the coalition’s complete failure to deliver.

Then there were the nasty party splits, symbolised with the treacherous defection of the Azmin Ali group from PKR during the Sheraton Putsch, which created what many have described as a ‘backdoor’ government.

This enraged many. However, Anwar Ibrahim as the ‘then prime minister in waiting’ failed to take the opportunity to rally PH supporters to the moral cause of winning back the government. With the advent of the pandemic, the rakyat lost their rage as their lives turned towards the need to just survive.

It’s an understatement to say that PH has performed poorly since losing power. Metaphorically going to one corner and crying was never going to bring back anything.

When knocked down, PH had to jump straight back up and act like an alternative government. Malaysia certainly needed one to fight for the interests of the people over the pandemic and crisis of survival over the last two years.

The people needed a hero to fight the harshness of government, which the opposition hasn’t provided.

The PH coalition should have become mean and hungry once again, bringing back the spirit and desperation they had during Reformasi days. However, the people have perceived the opposition over the last two years as a one-man crusade for power.

The one-time “prime minister in waiting” now very much appears to be the prime minister who would never be.

Perhaps the greatest betrayal to the rakyat was the signing of the MoU with the Ismail Sabri Yaakob government, pledging to support the government in exchange for a handful of reforms that nobody is sure will really come about.

Supporting a budget that was clearly against opposition policy, and drastically failing to address the growing hardship in the community, probably turned off much of PH’s strongly fought-for support base.

The PH-Ismail Sabri MoU formally turned the PH into a pro-government grouping, something Westminster oppositions might only do in war, in exchange for cabinet representation. What a great deal it was for Ismail, not so much for PH, as we are seeing electorally.

Where is the shadow cabinet? Where is the desperation to perform as a real opposition? Where is the alternative government?

There is a real need for a complete refocus on the PH sense of mission. Internal party elections are also sending the same message to their respective leaderships.

There also needs to be a drastic realisation that the electorate at this time is not interested in reform, but craves someone to come up and solve the reasons behind their current hardships. Neither the government nor the opposition are sharing any empathy with those suffering across the nation.

This is what the rakyat wants, this is what the rakyat needs today.

People are concerned about feeding themselves. They are plagued with rising prices, food shortages, and loss of income.

Anti-hopping bills will not help families put food on the table. The rakyat want to hear solutions to their daily problems. This is where the opposition is failing badly.

A debate about Sapura between Anwar Ibrahim and Najib Razak, if it comes off, will only become an amusement park sideshow.

There are no more excuses that the media is government-controlled; there is an alternative media and abundant opportunities on social media to get the message across to the rakyat.

The position of the opposition leader is so crucial in politics today. Not only must the opposition leader be an alternative prime minister, but he or she must be a winner. He or she needs to be the person with solutions.

It doesn’t matter whether you love or hate Anwar. He needs to put up, or stand aside for someone who can be a fearless leader and inspire the rakyat. If he wants to be that person, be that person immediately. If he can’t or won’t, don’t hold the position, only to damm the opposition to another decade outside government.

This is the decision that opposition parties must make. Make the wrong one and after the next general election the opposition will look very different, fragmented into a thousand pieces.

People are waiting to see a changing of the guard, or watch someone who can take the argument to the government.

The last budget did not tackle the suffering of the rakyat. We are now at the point where a supplementary budget is required to deal with the rapidly changing economic situation.

Where is the opposition on this matter?

The opposition needs to inspire, take the lead. Every day is a day on the hustings, where the opposition should be showing what magic it has.

The rakyat needs to be stirred up and motivated to come out at the next general election if the opposition is to have any chance of retaking Putrajaya.

They are failing dismally here. If the opposition can’t be a credible opposition, how can it become a credible government?

The next general election, which will most likely be held very soon, will not be about reform. The next general election will be about who can relieve the rakyat’s economic hardships.

The opposition needs to refocus its policies on the crises at hand and deliver this message immediately. The rakyat doesn’t want to see opposition groups bickering and divided among themselves, playing directly into the hands of the government.

Malaysians need a credible opposition, even more than ever.