Its supporters wanted a fight to the final whistle, the Opposition stood down to allow Muhyiddin free passage

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz speaks during the winding-up debate on the Supply Bill 2021 in the Dewan Rakyat today, November 26, 2020. ― Bernama pic
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz speaks during the winding-up debate on the Supply Bill 2021 in the Dewan Rakyat today, November 26, 2020. ― Bernama pic

COMMENTARY, Nov 26 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition has left its supporters frustrated and disillusioned after bizarrely allowing Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's maiden Budget for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government to pass at policy stage today without clear opposition.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his colleagues may or may not have strategic reasons for doing what they did but after weeks of signalling the possibility of using the Budget vote to deal a blow to PN and to pave the way for a possible change of government, its supporters were left bewildered and puzzled.

If PH leaders want to understand the frustration and even anger at its decision, perhaps I could offer an analogy from the world of sport. Sports fans will certainly understand this.

While we always want our team or the individual we support to win a match, sometimes it is not just the result that matters.

Sports fans always want to see their teams try their best even when the odds are completely stacked against them. Fans want to see passion and belief in their idols.

What they certainly do not want to see is any cynical or strategic decision to give up. Yes, the odds may have been against the team, but fans want to see a fight to the final whistle.

In the world of football, the famous teams of Alex Ferguson's Manchester United always fought till the end and more often than not snatched victory from the claws of defeat. Grudgingly I will say today's Liverpool also offers the same fighting qualities.

Of course it would be naive to think that we can draw a perfect analogy between sports and politics.

But the explanations given by Opposition leaders for their decision to stand down has been less than satisfactory.

Anwar said after the vote today that he instructed his side's lawmakers to allow Budget 2021 through the policy stage because he did not want to be seen as blocking aid and concessions announced by the PN government.

But it is hard not to draw the conclusion that the more likely reason was that certain Umno leaders reneged from their promise to back the Opposition and block the Budget, and that any bloc vote would have been futile.

So the question is if it had become inevitable that PH would not win the vote, what did the Opposition have to lose by allowing the vote to go through?

Yes they would have lost but their supporters would not be angry with them for giving up without a fight.

And even if they had lost, they would still be doing what they say they will be doing now ― which is to scrutinise the Budget further at committee stage next week.

Opposition MPs should now look hard at themselves and scrutinise their own decisions.

It is ironic that in the lead up to today's vote there was a real fear of rebellion within Umno's ranks with clear divisions and cracks among its own leadership, but after today it is the Opposition that is under the spotlight and facing fallout.

Perhaps today's decision by the Opposition to sit down may well be eclipsed by better performances in the days and weeks to come.

But it was not a good look today.

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