KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) goal of unifying the Opposition via its “big tent” approach was still distant, analysts said after Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) and Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) both snubbed the coalition’s historic agreement with Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration.
They said Warisan and Pejuang’s open rejection of the Memorandum of Understanding on Political Stability and Transformation suggested fundamental differences among Opposition parties that may not be bridged before the 15th general election (GE15).
“As PH signed on to support Ismail Sabri in confidence motions (if any), its albeit vociferous criticisms of the government in Parliament and beyond have automatically become moot and perfunctory.
“And it may thus be said that PH is nowadays derelict of its main political duty as the largest Opposition bloc,” said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.
“As such, it would also render it unlikely for the co-opted PH to coordinate with the other Opposition parties when it comes to seat allocation in the next general election.”
Should this persist, Oh said it was “almost inevitable” that clashes would occur when GE15 is called as the loosely aligned parties would revert to their respective political directions.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Azmi Hassan further noted that the Opposition needed to portray itself as ‘sturdy’ in order to convince the people of their intentions in retaking Putrajaya come GE15 after having their mandate “stolen” in 2020.
“Regarding the ‘big tent’ issue, I think there is still a problem with the Opposition in which they are so disenfranchised and cannot come together as they did in GE14 in this case.
“If this particular situation where the Opposition cannot come together coming into GE15, I think they are in deep trouble because they need to be whatever the term is called such as using one (contesting) symbol as one big coalition.
Last month, PH reiterated its plan to adopt a “big tent” approach when cooperating with the rest of the Opposition heading into the general election.
However, Azmi said the absence of both Warisan and Pejuang from the MoU indicated a fundamental difference that must be addressed in order for PH to bring them into the fold.
“Somehow or rather maybe the problem is because of the PM (candidate) having been decided, which maybe Warisan and Pejuang cannot come to an agreement with Anwar as the PM,” he said referring to PH chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“That is the issue that needs to be resolved before Warisan and Pejuang can be in one big tent with PH.”
Some argued that Pejuang and Warisan’s refusal to support the MoU should not be interpreted as a rejection of long-term cooperation with PH within its proposed “big tent”.
“Warisan and Pejuang are two relatively small parties whose absence from the MoU will not affect the stability of this government led by Ismail Sabri.
“I think we should differentiate their refusal to sign the MoU from a possible cooperation back in the Opposition big tent come GE15.
“Stability craved by Malaysians and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is achieved by the MoU, while smaller parties continue making sure the government remains on its toes until the expiry of the MoU in July 2022. Fair enough an arrangement,” Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said.
When asked to clarify, Ahmad Fauzi said the Opposition was never “unified” to begin with, noting that the existence of smaller parties is not unusual in a situation of fractious politics where it was common for coalitions to form prior to after an election.
On September 13, PH said it will do its best for the sake of the future of the people and the nation, after a historic memorandum of understanding to affirm its bipartisan cooperation with the federal government was inked.
PH chairman and PKR president Anwar posted a brief remark on Facebook after attending an official signing ceremony presided by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri in Parliament earlier that day.
Dubbed the “Memorandum of Understanding on Political Stability and Transformation”, the signing of the MoU will usher in a period of political stability, allowing both sides of the political divide to work on economic recovery efforts for the greater good.
The six-point MoU, which has been agreed to be non-confidential and made public, covers the areas of strengthening the plan to fight Covid-19, the transformation of the administration, Parliamentary reforms, ensuring judicial independence, the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and formation of a steering committee.