COMMENTARY, Jan 28 — The Cameron Highlands by-election has laid bare the fact that neither Pakatan Harapan nor Barisan Nasional has fully come to grips with their switched places in the Malaysian political landscape.

While it was clear that BN has and still struggles with its role as the federal Opposition, the campaign leading up to PH’s defeat as well as the aftermath also show that the pact’s leaders have yet to adapt to being in the ruling coalition.

The first to point this out was former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who dubbed DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang MenHEN (short for Minister of Najib Affairs in Malay) for the latter’s copious writings about him.

He is not wrong as Lim issues near daily statements variously condemning, vilifying or just plainly insulting the former PM.

But what had worked then no longer works now. Among others, PH and Lim must quickly realise that while punching up is a good look, punching down just comes across as browbeating.

The pact’s Cameron Highlands campaign did not stray far from this negative playbook, which increasingly — and worryingly — appears to be the only one that PH knows.

PH also cannot complain that Malaysians are holding it to higher standards because it was the one that told us that we must expect better things than what BN had foisted upon the country before.

Most of Malaysia already bought into the “1MDB is bad” spiel and even went so far as to accept the hyperbolic warnings about the need to “save” the country: they voted PH in the 14th general election and made it the government of the day.

That chapter is closed. PH need not keep warning Malaysians about BN’s rule, 1MDB and their effects on the country. We know it is dire and we know that it will take years for us to recover.

However, it is well beyond time to move on. Now is when you show us what you plan to do about it, this year and for the next three after that before another general election must be held.

What’s more, PH needs to understand that the 14th general election left schisms that may become permanent and deepen if it does not move quickly to bridge the divide, and this is not something that they can achieve with just mudslinging.

Vitriol is the Opposition’s job, not that of the ruling power.