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After Malacca and Sarawak, will the opposition wither?

The major opposition parties have embraced political elitism and now there is a disconnect with ordinary people’s aspirations

Pakatan Harapan parties fared poorly in recent state elections - DR NGU IK TIEN/ALIRAN

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First, it was the drubbing in Malacca and now, the devastating defeat in Sarawak.

Given the dismal opposition performance, it is frightening to even imagine, God forbid, the possible whitewash of the opposition in the coming general election.

The opposition made remarkable inroads in the 2008 general election, riding on the euphoria created by the Hindraf movement.

The momentum continued thanks to the role of civil society groups spearheaded by Bersih in the 2013 and 2018 general elections.

And the people rose to throw out the Barisan Nasional government in the 2018 general election, thanks to the people’s trust in the opposition.

While Anwar Ibrahim was languishing in jail, the victorious opposition pact found it fit to nominate the ‘old fox’, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to the office of Prime Minister.

Under the impression that Anwar would be installed as the next prime minister, the Pakatan Harapan coalition was blinded by the fact that Mahathir probably never harboured such an intention.

That much ought to be deciphered, at least in retrospect, from Mahathir’s latest book, in which he wrote he had reservations about Anwar’s ability to helm the government.

As events unfolded, we saw the Sheraton Move, leading to Mahathir’s resignation, which brought down the PH government.

Unless a hidden game plan had already been set in motion, by then, there was no compulsion for Mahathir to resign. Even if the PH government was under siege, the PH leaders ought to have had the courage to confront the unscrupulous attempts at dislodging the democratically elected PH government.

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By abdicating on their moral obligation to do so, they lost the trust and confidence of the people. Such a trust deficit is now manifesting itself in the voters’ show of contempt with PKR and the DAP.

The government is now likely to call for an early general election to capitalise on the prevailing voter sentiment.

Under such circumstances, is there still hope for the opposition or will it meet its Waterloo?

As a lay person, I believe there is hope:

  • Hope that the opposition begins to re-sync itself
  • Hope that it will pay attention to public sentiment
  • Hope that it reaches out to young voters with well-defined policies on fundamental issues like youth unemployment and empowerment
  • Hope that marginalised and vulnerable segments of society – the fisherfolk, farmers and those in the informal sector – can be uplifted
  • Hope that the impact of climate change can be reduced
  • Hope that food security can be strengthened
  • Hope that more people will protect and preserve the environment
  • Hope that low and middle-income wage earners can be emancipated
  • Hope that more affordable housing will be made available
  • Hope that the cost of living will become more manageable, that the prices of essential goods and services will be more affordable
  • Hope that toxic, obnoxious and archaic laws that have infringed upon the fundamental rights of civil society and the public and overshadowed basic issues will be repealed
  • Hope that the opposition goes back to basics: engagement with the grassroots

The DAP and PKR have lost touch with the person on the street. They have embraced political elitism and now there is a disconnect with the simplistic hopes and dreams of ordinary people.

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These two parties ought to rejuvenate themselves by reaching out to the people. Unless they regain the trust and confidence of the voting masses, they could be doomed in the next general election.

K Veeriah is a veteran trade unionist based in Bukit Mertajam, Penang

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Paul Lim
Paul Lim
26 Dec 2021 2.36am

When PH was in power, it should have taken steps towards proportional representation and like the parties in the UK neither the parties in opposition or in government want to give up the idea of winners take all in a zéro sum game. We could be back in UMNO-BN type after the next général élection of the présent Opposiion cannot re-generate itself with a new leadership with new ideas.

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