Rebuild Pakatan, not go headless chicken

MAY 28 — The 15th General Election must happen before 2024. However, Pakatan Harapan (PH) expects to capsize Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) dysfunctional love-boat long before that, if possible, come July. 

While possible, as loyalties are flimsy on either side, a third government likely dies shortly after formation when lacking a stable majority. A pursuant election certainly fractures Malaysia further.

Is that ideal for those claiming to be patriots?

How about the parties? The following is discerned.

Pakatan is frenzied to dispose of Muhyiddin Yassin but remains without clarity about its own power hierarchy.

PN rode the “we are not Pakatan” wave to power and still has energy to spare still.

In the case of a snap election, Pakatan asks the rakyat for a mandate to govern led by the man who gave up the gig. Like storming out in a hissy fit and expecting everyone to not remember and embrace him and his ragtag bunch. Won’t fly too well with the rakyat.

Surely, Pakatan’s rapid deterioration from May 10, 2018 to a collapse inside two tumultuous years must give them pause to fix their own house before demanding the people’s trust. 

Regardless if the election’s in October or 2023. For Pakatan’s sake, long-term relevance no less, steadying itself is the medium-term priority.

Offer PN time to trip by itself rather than from scurrilous attacks from an impatient and imprudent Opposition. Probably sooner than 2023, but not quite by September, let them stutter on their own failings.

Pakatan should aim to fix inside, restore harmony and then promise outside to the Malaysian public. In that order.

Who’s the boss?

The parties must restructure internally first, and then negotiate objective and transparent terms the five parties accept. Because they’ve bled and look desperate presently.

The small Bersatu Pribumi pool loyal to Mahathir Mohamad await their sacking, meaning, either form a new party or be absorbed into another.

A ravaged PKR. Anwar Ibrahim lost more than 11 MPs. In the 2018 party election, Azmin Ali eviscerated Anwar’s people. When the leavers went, they took the spine with them. The secretary-general only has letterheaded stationery to sack the deserters as quickly as the office printer permits.

DAP, a near-expired organisation with expired leaders reliant on racial chauvinism to thrive, has highest MP count but can’t drive multicultural Malaysia. 

It opposes integration to retain votes. Just as Umno can’t doublespeak without social media exposing it, enough non-Chinese today can Google Translate DAP leaders — or thank their Chinese school education. No more secrets, Lim Kit Siang. Time of burning both ends of the candle hoping no one notices is over.

Amanah is a series of therapy sessions to recovery which no party can afford.

Warisan is not inside Pakatan, but the strategic relationship won’t last without direction built on stability. Shafie Apdal cares for Sabah first, and will not sacrifice his state's interests for Pakatan.

Either the parties reboot with firm ideas about their politics or choose to be together inside a grand party or go home.

Since 2018, Pakatan has been legal — it wasn’t during GE14 — and the option for direct membership can cut the need to reform all the parties, and Mahathir has no platform now. 

Rather than four shambolic offices in each division, they can regroup to one substantial office in each 222 divisions across the country. The menace of seat trading among Semenanjung parties ends. And even Amanah gets a pass to respectability through assimilation.  

By forming a single Pakatan party.

But all that would be too sensible for those leaders from PKR, DAP and Mahathir’s prayer group.

Remaining a multi-party coalition, whether four or fewer parties, they still have to form objective and transparent means to determine how power is shared. Not with soundbites and deflection but with a plan.

And stick to it.

If it means nominee from the party with most seats — the spectre of an ethnic Chinese PM — or designated leader for whole mandate, it must be communicated and adhered to. Perpetual negotiations don’t inspire confidence.

It can’t be Mahathir on Mondays, and Anwar on Fridays.

Are you Malay enough?

Umno drew a deep wedge into Pakatan and split it by accusing it of a gross failure to protect Malays, whether in leadership or ownership.

DAP in its present form can’t defend itself when attacked even if it tries, its choice for PM Mahathir made sure of that during his first lengthy term in office between 1981 and 2003.

The answer is not to negate the false conclusion but to question the premises.

Form a message based on Pakatan’s ideological beliefs rather than Umno’s incredulities.

But above all, all of the separate parties or leaders in a single party must hold the same line. Not a version of it, but rather exactly that, come hell or high water.

Umno wedged successfully because Pakatan believes in a naïve best of all worlds solutions to all problems.

How can Pakatan be ready today if it gullibly takes Umno’s bait? Umno sounds ridiculous, but that’s not foolishness, it’s very clever manipulation of the base feelings of the most vulnerable. Facts in the medium term won’t overcome feelings. But other feelings can.

But if DAP wants a good place to begin, fighting SMEs — heavily controlled by Malaysian Chinese — to protect rights, opportunities and wages for Malays employed in them, would be splendid.

A manifesto of purpose, not of populism

In the past, a manifesto was associated with solely what the winner will give directly to the people, and never about what the government intends to work on, to produce a durable outcome.

Nowhere close to the Google ethos of accomplished [X] as measured by [Y], by doing [Z].

Instead, it’s almost a pledge of handouts.

Pakatan can either be a better copy of Barisan Nasional, which is a race to the bottom, or offer fresh leadership.

That’s the aspirational portion, and harder to box into a column.

There’s the easier bit, which is to get the leaders to agree to it before they sell it to the people.

If the parties or the super-party can’t get buy-in from party leaders, top to bottom, then it’s not the party’s manifesto, it’s only the elite leaders’ manifesto. And that’s how it becomes irrelevant in record time. 

When it transmits poorly to mamak shop conversations. The job to pass the information from party/coalition to all voters is a job for the whole party, from president to ordinary member. That’s why it has to be sold internally before it is ready for mass consumption.

At times it appears, the parties are for all things good and against all things bad. Check the brains on Brad, is what I wish to tell these guys most times.

Just the surface

From party or coalition identity and leadership to a manifesto of purpose, there are huge holes in Pakatan’s value proposition.

Umno’s previous or PN’s first manifesto for the next election most certainly won’t be great. They don’t intend to be. They don’t want to raise the bar on ideas or progress, they just claim to support all that’s good.

Can most people tell the difference? No, which is why people try to dumb things down to benefit the side with no original thoughts.

Pakatan should head in the opposite direction.

It is the harder path, to tell how we can do things differently and be a better people.

It requires more telling and retelling. And before doing so to clear it up inside your large tent, so the outside world does not think you are confused. Progressive ideas are always two wrong steps from being incomprehensible.

And in order to bring your people in your tent to learn how to build consensus, they need to feel the leadership inside the tent. To win support from party members and then their participation, not demand it.

There’s a mountain to scale, and there’s always more to do. But to do it, is to aspire for better, not to just win.

That’s why Pakatan must rebuild, and PN can afford just to do enough without caring about the long-term implications to the weakest among us. It’s easier to manage the optics when you don’t care.

Pakatan must do this very soon, sooner than we might think, or enter terminal decline. Where voters won’t be able to tell either side apart. Both display the colour of wanting power. People are merely incidentals who bleed red.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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