MARCH 30 — Fear is the worst reason to stay on an unconscionable path.
PAS as a partner for change is such a path. Even if life-long reformists say they are necessary to unseat Barisan Nasional (BN).
Though, it has its merits.
The ethos, compromise somehow, somewhat, someway and even sometimes with PAS, to bring real long term reform is tempting, it always has been.
Which cues the concession.
Not having PAS inside a single opposition coalition now will guarantee no cohesive group or single party — other than BN — possesses close to half the two-hundred-twenty-two parliamentary seats on offer at the next general election.
In plain speak, BN will form the next government, as they have for the past 62 years, albeit, under different names.
Rule out defections as a curveball inspired win after the ninth inning.
The possible flight of BN’s Borneo partners post elections away, if in the event BN is dwarfed by an united opposition MP count — of the 165 seats or 74 per cent of Dewan Rakyat — in the Peninsula, is minute, as it was during 2008’s doomed putsch by then-opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
An opposition coalition has to trounce BN in West Malaysia, which won’t materialise, for such a scenario to prevail.
Also, if Pakatan dumped PAS when serious trouble brewed in 2014 there would have been lead time, now it’s difficult.
BN is set to win, more so because of PAS. The next choice is about the next election, the 15th General Election. To build from a strategic defeat rather to clamber further in the rice-field after a colossal mind-numbing defeat because no voter throughout the election was clear who PAS was with, or in the same token, against.
What is the prognosis for PAS going solo?
This election will underline whether voters in non-PAS zones have warmed up enough to the party during its eventful stay in all kinds of Pakatan (the volatile opposition coalitions since 2008). The signs are they are less welcome than they believe they are, and results will encamp them in Kelantan and Terengganu with possibly two seats combined in Perlis, Kedah, Perak and Pahang, and a whitewash in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Sarawak and Sabah.
They’d blame old partners, say thanks that at least with Umno nationally there is Malay hegemony and feel gratified they have not compromised their trip to heaven.
Celestial-comforts will have to do as it reverts to being the regional party it was before 1999.
PASs by the incorrigible
A strategy of holding out an olive branch to PAS — run by obdurate pro-cleric, anti-development and consistently inconsistent Islamists — indefinitely, as evidenced by Pribumi and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), is backward, feeds the ego of those most critical of a national opposition coalition and worse, stunts that coalition’s growth through its infancy.
It is Umno’s wet dream. BN’s true owners happily struggle to explain their good fortune. PAS comes out of the debacle largely unscathed in the eyes of their base.
The other opposition parties are flogged mercilessly.
For the nation is told daily, those who are presiding over the process to realise a national opposition coalition are at sea about what the process constitutes, hapless about the multilevel discords, incapable of drawing out a reconciliation strategy and rely on intentions rather than outcomes to defend their successes.
The nation is informed, those seeking to provide them leadership, can’t get their act together.
Voters tend to look for basic indicators. In a blunt and purely anecdotal manner, the kids know when foster-parents wannabes — the new likely mommy and daddy — can’t stand each other and are now relying on stone-age deceptions of a happy family, and using that as bait to drag the children away from their abusive parents who own a mansion and pay for groceries. The kids won’t buy it, they can’t countenance replacement parents even if it is tempting at an ideas level.
A national custody battle cannot be reduced to comparing two illusions.
Starting over long term
To cut clean from PAS is seemingly a political gambit too huge for our politicians, both Umno and PKR.
Yet to dismiss the reality PAS has sailed away from opposition parties is political escapism.
Which is why the time has arrived to endeavour a legitimate political initiative; built on principles, genuine shared agreements and clear purpose. It is the only way to remove BN from power. Because those sentiments are truly diametrically opposed to BN’s modus operandi, and will manifest as such.
Voters will know intuitively and explicitly that the choices are markedly different, irrespective of the alphabet soup of abbreviations from the parties.
Rather than invest in a soulless coalition of all, willing and not, why not begin from the nursery up with a coalition only of the willing?
The trade-off is letting go the slim chance of winning national power with a discordant PAS wreaking havoc throughout electioneering, and focussing instead on developing a coalition with a spine and shared values developing strength by relying on members rather than using them which will have a substantially higher chance of federal victory.
An electoral victory should be about the alternative, the government-in-waiting, being strong and appealing, and not dependent on people being sick and tired of the present government, so much so and incessantly so that they choose the other guys.
Without PAS, the fear recedes within the opposition ranks. Without fear, optimism can fill the space.
Ask yourself, when was the last time discussions about opposition politics been about their ideas and policies rather than whether the parties got along well or not?
It is absurd the aspirations of the people for change are tied to dating dynamics rather than policy engagements.
The path to Putrajaya must begin with the removal of PAS from the victory equation.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.