It looks like the spectre of a “big tent” still haunts the component parties of Pakatan Harapan to the extent that the coalition appears disunited in the face of an impending general election.
“Big tent” – an idea floating around among certain opposition politicians – refers to an attempt at building a broad alliance among them in an electoral contest against the ruling Umno-Barisan Nasional juggernaut.
The size of the proposed big tent tends to differ from one component party to another, and over time.
This seeming political wavering over time does not instil confidence in the electorate, particularly their supporters and fence-sitters, who presumably would prefer an opposition bloc that is united in purpose and ideology.
Equally important, an opposition bloc should stand for and offer to the electorate something glaringly distinct from the governing coalition in terms of policies.
The discerning electorate should be able to differentiate the many products made available to them at the polling station.
The recent controversy surrounding the big tent came about when DAP secretary general Anthony Loke was prompted to clear the air about his party’s stand on electoral alliances, particularly in direct response to Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub’s contention that PH should be open to the idea of including Bersatu and Pas from the Perikatan Nasional pact.
Loke drew the line – and rightly so – saying parties in the current federal government must be denied any alliances with PH, as some of their leaders had betrayed the trust of the PH leadership and its supporters through the Sheraton Move.
Besides, he added, Salahuddin’s suggestion was never agreed upon by the PH presidential council.
Yet to say that it was Salahuddin’s “personal opinion”, as Loke did, does not necessarily help to reduce voters’ confusion nor placate their displeasure.
An opinion from a high-ranking official of a component party counts for something.
Moreover, Salahuddin was not expected to voice his dissenting view publicly on something as basic as the guiding principles of choosing political allies.
Any ambiguity about Pas’ stand on the big tent has been firmly squashed: party president Hadi Awang turned down the idea of joining PH for the upcoming general election.
In a move that might also give bad optics, PH and PKR secretary general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail reportedly insisted that PH was ready to negotiate with all parties if it was felt the coalition did not have the strength to defeat the ruling coalition otherwise.
PKR deputy presidential candidate Rafizi Ramli, on the other hand, rejected the big tent suggestion and instead called for systematic consolidation of the PH coalition to win the hearts and minds of Malaysians.
His approach clearly necessitates hard work on the ground in terms of organising public talks and campaigns as opposed to the relatively quicker way of selecting certain opposition parties of various hues to form a somewhat united front for the sake of seizing power.
PH’s strength must derive from a united voice, confidence and responsiveness to the needs of the common people, particularly in the wake of the menacing Covid and the consequent economic downturn.
The next general election is around the corner. Inter-party bickering should be addressed and the seeming identity crisis should cease from possibly becoming an obstacle to the primary reason PH was formed. – The Malaysian Insight