Hopefully, PH leaders will have learned their lesson and will return more composed, wiser and less ravenous for positions. Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan writes.
Pakatan Harapan will win big, perhaps beyond a two-thirds majority in the next general election if it takes a step back now, recomposes, gathers all its strength and reorganises itself.
Surveys already show that the people’s support for PH remains at an all-time high, and it is the preferred coalition to be the government.
Forget for now about forming a federal government. Think big, think long term. Even if Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s no-confidence motion in Parliament succeeds, a PH-led government would still be fragile, living in constant fear, never knowing when another unscrupulous frog would sell his soul.
What’s working in PH’s favour
PH could better serve our country by being an offensive opposition than a defensive government without a comfortable majority.
PH has already gained the advantage of three most important political developments that will, at the next general election, provide more stable government.
First, PH now already has a collection of leaders who have learned the trade and gained experience, insights and the acumen of running a federal government. Providing checks and balances on the ruling government is key to the functioning of any democracy. So any departure from the principles of good governance and sound judgement by the so-called “backdoor” ministers will become quickly apparent to them.
Second, ethnicity may unite the coalition members of Perikatan Nasional, but by convictions, principles and political tenets, their incompatibility is so glaring. Witness them ravenously scrambling for lucrative positions of power right from village development and security committees and local councils to government-linked companies. Why, the prime minister even has to create positions such as “special envoys with ministerial rank”.
Third, Bersatu, Umno and Pas will soon start jostling with each other for the same voter base over which for decades they have been hurling accusations and condemnations and each other. Nobody can continue to bluff and always get away with it. Not this time. This infighting alone will cut PN down. Umno will be uprooted, Pas will be crushed, and Bersatu will evaporate. This will force them to reinvent themselves and hopefully, they will later come back to serve as an alternative coalition.
PN has already begun dishing out a generous supply of projectiles, some as comical as “Doraemon”, “weight in kilometres”, “air suam” (warm water), “500 countries” and “Tiktokology”.
The failure to revive the economy, the plundering of national resources, high unemployment and the effects of abuse of power and misappropriation will soon start kicking in. The Barisan Nasional government under Najib Rajak had almost emptied our coffers. PN now will have to scrape the bottom hollow. Old habits die hard.
With Umno back in power and the kleptocrats heading ministries and government-linked companies, it is just a matter of time when reports of misappropriation will mushroom. The snowball has begun with the RM30m case involving the Ministry of Health. Only God knows what else is brewing below the table. The relief basket worth RM35 for RM100 spent is yet another fiasco.
Long before this Parliament goes ‘sine die’, PH will already have multiple repositories overflowing with enough reasons to uproot PN for good. Without parliamentary scrutiny, no one will know how the RM250bn Covid-19 stimulus package was actually spent and how much got dissipated, if at all. It is a time bomb waiting to explode. With the economy taking a big hit, the masses may not be in a mood to forgive.
The political divide between PH and PN is split almost evenly. Hence Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has to “reward” as many frogs as he can to fortify his position and that of PN. But the government will remain fragile and vulnerable.
Why PH fell
Those who followed my Facebook and my talks during the general election campaigns in 2013 and 2018 may recall that I had forecast that even if PH came to power, it might not last over three years. I repeat the reasons I gave below. But I still advocated that PH had to go for it. It was a process it had to go through before politics in Malaysia could finally mature.
- PH leaders would be inexperienced in federal governance
- They would need time to dismantle the deeply ingrained corrupt systems in place
- Some members of coalition would be new, so they would have to learn to work as a team
- They would need gigantic efforts to ‘peel’ the civil service away from BN
- They would need to quickly implement the meaningful reforms they had promised in their bid for power
Parallels with India
I drew a parallel from the history of India in the 1970s. I was with Delhi University and somewhat involved with the student union. It was the time when Indira Gandhi’s Congress lost power for the first time since independence. People were restless, in oblivion, asking what would happen to the country./ Nobody could lead the country except Congress, the people reckoned.
The courts found Indira Gandhi guilty of election malpractice and corruption when she was challenged for her Rae Barely seat. She quickly imposed rule by emergency and jailed all key opposition leaders. The country protested.
Riding that public anger, two years later, Morarji Desai, a former Congress leader himself, led a new coalition named Janata Party (later to become Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP) to take power and became the Prime Minister. He lasted only 28 months.
My prediction turned out true. The 2018 general election was played out exactly as I had envisaged. The situation when PH took power was almost similar. The people had never known government without BN. I relived that part of India’s history, under the same circumstances. They were repeated here. The resemblance was striking.
The Janata Party brought down the Congress government, which had ruled since independence. PH too brought down BN, which had ruled since independence.
The Janata Party was a coalition of several fronts, two of which were breakaway parties from the mother party, Congress. PH too was a coalition including two breakaway parties from its mother party, BN.
The Janata Party quickly went for reforms and an anti-corruption agenda. PH too did the same
The Janata Party remained weak due to continual infighting and ideological differences. PH too.
The Janata Party fell in 28 months; PH lost power in 22 months.
A recomposed return
But what happens next is the point I am trying to make with this piece.
When it came back later, recomposed from the experience they had gained in the brief spell of government, the Janata Party (later BJP) became far smarter and wiser.
From then on, there was no looking back. Two major coalitions were formed, and they fought subsequent national general elections between them. Powers rotated between them and both contributed immensely to India’s development, making it today a rising economic giant on the world stage.
Hopefully, PH leaders have learned their lesson and have become more composed, smarter and wiser and less ravenous for positions.
Hopefully, when PH returns to power, perhaps in the next general election, they will appreciate genuine talent more than just rewarding party supporters with positions and power. PH will then rule well for a long time, leaving PN components to deal with their karma.
The thieves, religious bigots and kleptocrats will be washed away in the annals of history. Hopefully, every citizen will then be treated equally, and the race and religion factor will forever be buried deep. This time around, the separation of powers must work.
Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan, a long-time Aliran member, served previously in Bersih 2.0 and the National Water Services Commission. By profession, he is a cargo handling specialist