Harapan should get its act together: Stop your public squabbles!

By P Ramakrishnan

Do the leaders of PH ever learn from their mistakes? Can’t they sort out their problems in private. Must they squabble openly? Can’t they see the damage they cause when they have public spats?

The public is feeling rather let down by the disappointing and disturbing behavior of certain Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders. While we pray for their success, we expect our sentiments to be taken seriously.

The recent public squabbles and contradicting statements by some PH leaders are baffling. This really undermines the voter confidence, voters who have put their hope and trust on PH for a better future for Malaysia.

Whether to hold state and federal elections simultaneously or separately is something that should have never descended into a public dispute. It is not a question of ideals and values; it is only a matter of political strategy, a political preference. It shouldn’t lead to a public political spat.

Aren’t you guys on talking terms? Couldn’t you have talked it over privately behind closed doors and come to a mutually agreed decision on this issue?

It makes sense to go for a simultaneous election simply because the resources of the Barisan Nasional (BN) will be spread thin which will be an advantage for PH. As a matter of fact, the BN cannot afford and will not be pouring all their machinery and money during the election period in the states holding concurrent elections. Neither can all their heavyweights keep landing in these states. They have so many states either to defend or take care of in a simultaneous election besides campaigning in all the parliamentary constituencies all over the country. They will be stretched and strained and will find this tough going.

This spreading-the-resources-thin argument is equally applicable for PH. But in a simultaneous election, PH, for example, need not spend too much time in a state where it is strong. It will be a formidable task for BN to dislodge PH in Penang. But if Penang holds a separate election next year, it will be hard pressed to defend Penang from the onslaught of the entire BN machinery which is never short of cash to bribe or buy voters. Defending Penang under such circumstances may not be all that easy. The outcome can be tricky. The impossible can possibly happen to PH as well. Don’t forget, heavyweights like Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang were also defeated in Penang in 1999.

Taking for granted that outstation voters will bother to make a second trip to cast their votes in a state election is not being realistic; it is a simplistic assumption. It is too costly for the voters to make the trip. The airlines tend to exploit the situation by hiking up their fares which discourages voters from coming back a second time to vote. This will result in a lower voter turn up which will be to the advantage of the BN.

Is this what PH wants? Why take the risk? Why damage or diminish your advantage?

Another dangerous thing is likely to happen. If voters are fed up with PH, they have a third choice to spite PH for not thinking of their convenience. They may refrain from voting altogether. They may just sit tight and let PH suffer. This may not mean that the voters have swung over to the BN – they simply want to teach PH a lesson as well as they did to BN in 2018.

Opposition-prone voters also don’t want any collaboration with Mahathir and Muyhiddin. Some PH leaders may want to reach out to them in a desperate manner in wanting to form the next federal government. Honestly, it is better to remain honourably as Opposition rather than form a tainted government with the help of those responsible for toppling the legitimately elected PH government.

For the sake of power, there may be a necessary tendency to compromise. But as far as the voters who diligently worked and solidly backed the PH to achieve the impossible dream of defeating the mighty BN in 2018, it was a terrible betrayal that can never be forgiven or forgotten. They disrespected our mandate and dashed our hopes – traitors to our democracy who have forever forfeited our respect. Their time is up and over. We should facilitate this and show them their way out for good.

We hope – and pray – that PH will sort out their internal problems in private. We hope – and pray – that PH will remain united, cohesive and strong to go into battle and come out victorious to form the next federal government and serve its full five-year term without let or hindrance.

It is our hope that all the promised reforms will be implemented for the good of the country. We hope our legitimate aspirations will be protected and the rights of all Malaysians will be upheld for the wellbeing of the nation.

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

First published in Aliran on 15 October 2022

P Ramakrishnan is the long-serving former president of Aliran who served three and a half decades on its executive committee, and has been with Aliran since its inception in 1977. Now an ordinary Aliran member, he continues to highlight issues of public interest to a larger audience.

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