By K Veeriah
While we are left speculating when the general election will be held, what should concern us is whether the opposition camp is capable of mounting a cohesive effort to regain the people’s trust enough to be voted back to office.
If its string of defeats in recent state elections is an indicator, the opposition pact – or what remains of it – has the colossal task of reigniting the people’s spirit for change.
Obviously, the opposition leadership faces a challenge in coming up with the collective will to reduce the public trust deficit.
Even ‘lightweight’ ruling parties like the MCA and the MIC have made inroads in the recent state elections.
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The opposition urgently needs to re-evaluate its strategy to gain traction with the people, many of whom have shifted their allegiance so quickly.
Though that ought to be the priority, the opposition seems to have lost further ground after the Sheraton move in 2020, when a string of MPs betrayed the constitutionally elected Pakatan Harapan government.
Today, the PH parties – the DAP, PKR and Amanah – are the only ones presenting themselves as an alternative to the Barisan Nasional government.
The obvious challenge is for PH to seek a political partnership with like-minded political entities to deny the BN government a victory in the next general election.
Sadly, the diverse political inclinations of the opposition parties and their lack of cohesion seem to be stumbling blocks in achieving ‘big tent’ political collaboration to challenge the entrenched political ecosystem.
Unless all like-minded political parties cobble together an accord to challenge the status quo, we could see the return of the nefarious Umno-led bedfellows.
As it is, Warisan has indicated it may go on its own. Even within the PKR leadership, some say PKR will be doomed if it decides to stand alone. And perhaps the same could be true for the DAP and Amanah.
To complicate the already fragile opposition, non-partisan groups have declared their intention to join in the fray to provide another option for voters.
Though the ideal of an alternative political force is commendable, the reality is our political ecosystem is infested with toxic race-based jostling for political dominance as opposed to a people-oriented system of governance.
Faced with this reality, we need to ponder over the options that are available to the opposition.
Let’s reflect on the Reformasi grassroots momentum that was sustained by youth. Also relevant were the Hindraf and Bersih mass movements, which collectively aided the transformation of the entrenched political order.
Sadly, the opposition seems to have neglected sustained engagement with civil society and, importantly, with the emerging youths, who have numerical strength.
Instead, the opposition leadership has apparently embraced political elitism after 22 months in power.
For a holistic transformation of the present socioeconomic inequalities, the opposition leadership needs to reach out to ordinary people on the street and restore their confidence ahead of the election.
Without the luxury of time, the opposition leadership truly has a mountain to climb!
K Veeriah is a veteran trade unionist based in Bukit Mertajam, Penang