The Pakatan Convention aftermath

JANUARY 11 — Dr M is now 112 parliamentary seats away from the highest office of the land. His deputy in this scenario will be the wife of the man he sent to prison 20 years ago. 

The Pakatan Harapan Convention is done and dusted, and once the hangover dissipates, these preoccupations will take over our interests, at least till election day.

This column has repeatedly warned of New Economic Policy children (those born between 1957 and 1980) falsely judging the larger electorate through their lens, meaning the strength of the Mahathir-Anwar dual attraction; personality driven campaigning (stacking up with the Pakatan roster with everyone ever in power regardless of their reformist agenda or past); and the overemphasis of Anwar Ibrahim’s release as the opposition parties’ key struggle.

It was handsomely rejected, or rather, ignored.

Therefore, instead, let’s examine Pakatan’s fate over the months to come, on the terms of how they made their bed.

‘It’s a drag, isn’t it?’

In 1980, Paul McCartney infamously blundered when asked about his reaction to the murder of John Lennon.

The most successful song-writing duo in pop music — simply referred to as Lennon-McCartney — had been at war since the Beatles broke up 10 years prior after both band leaders had an acrimonious bust-up.

McCartney has ever since re-explained his crassness was due to the situation and his personal grief, a bit like how Mahathir Mohamad explains how it really was in the 1990s when he sacked Anwar Ibrahim. Till then, they were Malaysia’s best talent in terms of churning out together hits to the Malaysian masses.

McCartney says today the world misunderstood the love they had for each other. They were just two Scouser lads from England’s northwest — incidentally, our northwest is Kedah.

I guess, Mahathir is saying that too, without the singing voice.

Together again, the Mahathir-Anwar clans are facing off with the party they rebuilt in the 1990s.

It is not straightforward, not at all. Not a Skywalker and Kylo Ren — good versus bad — battle.

On the day — January 8, 2018 — Pakatan announced the temporary Mahathir-Wan Azizah leadership if they win at the polls, the prison department confirmed Anwar will be released on June 8.

It is not that the director-general announced it, it is that he announced it on a Sunday, a holiday. Very curious.

It’s clear the next phase of politicking will be to undermine the Pakatan value proposition as misleading, because both Mahathir and Wan Azizah are caretakers until Anwar is released, pardoned, successfully contests a parliamentary seat after Hari Raya, and receives the mandate of Pakatan MPs in Dewan Rakyat.

It’s a series of buts and ifs and Barisan Nasional (BN) will campaign on Pakatan’s perceived non-leadership ticket.

And by the same token, argues Mahathir will bide his time to usher his son, ex-Kedah mentri besar Mukhriz Mahathir, to the top.

The consummate strategist, Mahathir has gone on the charm offensive to reduce schism charges by both praising Anwar and family, and yesterday, attempt to visit his former deputy at a hospital without success.

These won’t faze the BN media machine.

They’ll stack up points — contradictory at times — to blow up the unitary theme Pakatan is unstable. That whatever gains they make in GE14 will be disrupted by Anwar, and it is not Mahathir the people are voting for, but Anwar. All the permutations of accusations are intended to heighten the uncertain nature of Pakatan.

Grossly unfair, but that’s what is well underway.

The coalition will have their backs to the wall till election day over this.

Selangor, in-ish

Without apology, Selangor, the home state of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and led by party Deputy President Azmin Ali, rejected the federal power arrangement of Pakatan Harapan.

They’ll work under protest.

It’s stated above as Selangor and not PKR Selangor, because there is a bond among the Pakatan parties at the state level behind Azmin. This even extends to PAS, within the merah-kuning state.

While in most of the Pakatan universe there are question marks of who is actually in control, there is no such problem in Selangor — for that matter, Penang.

Selangor PKR has officially signalled its independence within the party and coalition.

It suggests several things.

From Pakatan Harapan Selangor’s estimation, it does not need Pribumi and Mahathir’s tacit support to retain the state. It may even see Mahathir’s leadership as a negative factor in its electioneering.

Azmin is hedging his bets and displaying ambition.

If Selangor led by PKR streaks home in the elections and contributes a high percentage to the Pakatan majority in parliament, he may float his CV again to lead by the basis of a stronger ownership of the win versus Mahathir, Wan Azizah, Muhyiddin Yassin (as per show of force in Johor) and Mat Sabu (Amanah wins across the Semenanjung). He’d stake a claim belatedly to be prime minister.

Or if Pakatan loses out at federal but Selangor Pakatan under Azmin holds on to the state, he can claim leadership of Pakatan and chart the path to the 15th General Election. Selangor will be the base of Pakatan under PKR once the Anwar clan steps aside and Mahathir retires in disgrace. Muyiddin’s Johor collapse and Amanah leaders proven to be non-entities without the protection of the moon, meaning their demise, would be the icing on the cake as Azmin marches on as the unquestioned leader of the opposition in the country, with DAP’s acquiescence and Borneo opposition parties’ passive indifference to Semenanjung’s peculiarities.

And even the impetus to negotiate with a post-Hadi Awang PAS.

Off to the races

The die is cast then, at least for Pakatan this election.

The stratagem?

Nationally, the cult of Anwar will keep the votes Pakatan have, and the sister cult behind Mahathir will bear new votes to the coalition.

Don’t worry about traditional Umno voters who can’t wrap their heads around a Pribumi backing Anwar, or traditional Pakatan voters — with yellowed Mahafiraun Star Wars posters on their walls — refusing to turn their votes over to a coalition backing Mahathir. 

Shout away the agnosticism of many below 30 voters who can’t be arsed about Mahathir or Anwar. Or the testosterone fuelled narrative which turns off women.

This is the game. At federal level.

In Selangor, Azmin and gang have determined a state thinking, not a federal one will secure victory. This may include an unstated co-operation with PAS. It’s not ruled out by the show of defiance, if anything, augmented by it.

The nuanced position might be better appreciated by residents after 10 years of Pakatan in the nation’s economic powerhouse.

On balance, by dint of strategy, reality or dumb luck or a combination of all three, Pakatan Selangor appears to be on steadier ground than Pakatan national.

A Pakatan win only in Selangor — and Penang — might as well suggest, the time has come to abandon the past and embrace the future.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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