The recently Johor election was the latest of the beatings that Pakatan Harapan has suffered, following its poor showing in the previous Malacca and Sarawak elections.
For concerned Malaysians, the electoral thrashing suggests a fading hope for wide-ranging social reform and a different Malaysia.
This is because when the PH pact won unprecedentedly in the 2018 general election and subsequently occupied Putrajaya, its triumph signalled a pregnant hope (harapan in Malay) to many folks that a “better Malaysia” was on the horizon.
But that hope was abruptly shaken after PH was unceremoniously ousted by the Sheraton Move plotters, thus ending its 22-month rule. A substantial portion of that hope was left unfulfilled.
In the aftermath of the Johor polls, which saw Barisan Nasional gain a ‘supermajority’ of 40 out of 56 state seats, PH leaders were seen licking their wounds.
In fact, PH leaders wondered aloud about what went wrong at the Johor hustings.
For one thing, a lack of unity within the opposition coalition was partly the reason for its electoral beating. It was as if its leaders turned a blind eye to the prospects that a field crowded with opposition parties – disunited, at that – could lead to the coveted prize being handed over to BN.
The perception of a disunited front did not instil confidence in voters that the PH pact was ready to form a stable government.
The coalition’s apparent lack of a common vision was detrimental to PH because constituents generally like to envision the long-term prospects for Malaysia. It is in this context that PH was expected to reveal its candidate for Johor menteri besar – which it did not.
While playing the crucial role of an effective opposition, PH leaders must also behave like a government-in-waiting, armed with the required confidence and vision of what it stands for.
If PH is indeed an alternative to the grand old BN that voters are to choose at the ballot boxes, then it is incumbent on PH to show how different, if at all, it is in terms of the policies and laws it would craft, and its approach towards the needy and marginalised in society.
In the wake of the epidemic that has adversely affected the livelihoods of people, increased poverty, raised debts, pushed up the costs of living, leading to a daily struggle for some to put food on the table, the bread-and-butter issues of the people obviously ought to be addressed adequately by PH politicians, especially if the coalition assumes federal power again.
This is apart from the pact being expected to attend to issues of human rights and civil liberties, some of which have been eroded by the existence of certain undemocratic laws.
In terms of policies, concerned Malaysians would want to know, for example, whether a PH government would be inclined to spend more money on the public healthcare system to cater to the public, especially the ageing population and the bottom 40% of households – and not be content with the surge of private hospitals that also have an eye on medical tourists to boost their revenue.
What about a policy on the environment? In light of climate change, would there be a conscious effort from PH leaders to protect rainforest and forest reserves, in particular, against the voracious appetite of developers and capitalists to exploit them for commercial purposes to the detriment of the environment? A distorted physical environment should not be the legacy to be handed over to our future generations.
Our education system, particularly public schools, is said to be in dire need of revamp to address issues such as the lack of meritocracy, questionable educational standards and ethnic segregation.
The proliferation of international schools does not mean we have a robust education system we can be proud of – nor is it fair to those who cannot afford them. A government worth its salt is expected to attend to this important matter as it concerns future generations.
Malaysians would expect a housing policy that puts emphasis on affordable housing particularly for the lower-income groups – not one that panders to the desire of private developers who seek big bucks out of mainly building and selling luxury houses.
A good public transport system would help facilitate the mobility of the majority, particularly in urban centres – and reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.
These are some of the policies and measures that would make a marked difference to the majority of Malaysians. This approach might also help to distinguish PH from the rest.
If indeed a general election is around the corner, then we would expect PH elected representatives to cease letting off steam in public, and instead redress their weaknesses, including infighting, so that they can face the polls with adequate preparation and much confidence.
Fresh faces with new ideas in the leadership may well be a bonus to the pact as it would help excite voters who are already politically fatigued.
If PH is supposed to be the beacon of hope, it must get its act together to achieve electoral success, which would enable it to contribute to the betterment of society, particularly the wellbeing of the lower-income groups of various backgrounds.
The political shenanigans and defeats notwithstanding, many Malaysians still cling to a hope of a just, compassionate, inclusive and progressive Malaysia. Will this hope be squandered again? – The Malaysian Insight