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Rantau loss more than just a warning

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Pakatan Harapan leaders have to be humble, receptive and seek out solutions that critics, opinion leaders and civil society may offer, writes JD Lovrenciear.

Pakatan Harapan’s defeat in the Rantau by election is not just a loss. It is a siren call that PH can only dismiss or downplay at its own peril.

As opposition MP Khairy Jamaluddin said, despite deploying its arsenal of machinery on the Rantau voters, who are not naive, PH lost the battle.

If PH leaders dismiss the outcome as the voters’ lack of direction, then they are wrong.

Why are people disregarding all the corruption charges against noted Barisan Nasional leaders and instead throwing their majority support behind BN?

This is the most fundamental missing piece in PH’s montage to lead the country. It cannot be that the voters are dismissing PH so soon, barely a year since they voted for PH to defeat the colossal BN giant.

PH leaders need not lock themselves in the war room to find clues. Talk to the people and listen to them. Accept what they have been telling you and do not give explanations why you cannot do what they expect you to do.

Engage with civil society and critics. Bring them on board.

Listen to opinion leaders. Create viable platforms for them to work with you.

Pay attention to the flood of sentiments pouring out on all social media platforms. Call on all those who take time out of concern to write letters to the editor.

Next, plug the “deep state” operatives immediately. Otherwise PH would lose the advantage even before it realises.

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Counting on Sabah and Sarawak may look good on the drawing board. But the harsh reality is the perceptions gaining momentum from the Rantau loss will outdo anything PH thinks it can pull through.

PH leaders’ counter arguments that time is needed to make good its election manifesto promises may be a fact. But in shaping public opinion, facts often do not matter. Experiences or what we call the Sitz im Leben (setting in life or context) are the deciding factors.

PH may be caught in a Catch-22 situation. On the one hand, people are worried about what happens to PH’s leadership succession, considering the advancing age of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. But on the other hand, we have heard talk about the power struggle brewing within PH corridors. Add the two together, and we have further uncertainty about the future of PH.

The Rantau outcome also tells us that when push comes to shove, people could dump PH and go for BN.

Why? What is important for most people is putting food on the table, paying bills without nightmares, making businesses progress with hopes of success and being spoilt for choice when it comes to employment opportunities.

When difficulties are encountered in these areas and these concerns have bothered the rakyat over the past year, PH has to be humble, receptive and seek out solutions that critics, opinion leaders and civil society may offer.

PH does not have two or three years to win the race. Perceptions are building up fast and these are being capitalised on by BN. They will be even harder to dissolve and reshape with each advancing month.

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Common sense must prevail. And do not dismiss the simplistic voices of the person in the street.

And one final hint for PH is when the going gets tough, it needs to invest more in its communications machinery.

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