May 15, 2016
DAP’s Dominance, Pakatan’s Downfall?
Opposition parties must form a real coalition, not an electoral alliance, and moderate their positions.
By William Leong Jee Keen
AP needs to be sensitive that expansion by them, their ascendancy and assertiveness is seen as dominance in Pakatan. It validates UMNO’s rhetoric that Pakatan Malay leaders are DAP puppets who have sold out to the Chinese. PKR and PAS leaders’ credibility before Malay eyes are severely and irreparably damaged. DAP’s victories sow the seeds of Pakatan’s defeat.–William Leong
The opposition has failed to offer Sarawakians a viable alternative government for voters to choose. The essential requirements for a coalition government – wisdom, humility, patience, willingness to compromise, cooperation and teamwork – were clearly lacking in the opposition leadership and their rank and file.
Pakatan Rakyat in 2008
Pakatan Harapan –2016
Although DAP, PKR and Amanah profess to be multiracial, each party’s concept and strategy are different. As the Malay proverb says “tidur sebantal tetapi mimpi lain-lain.” If Pakatan Harapan is to become a viable alternative government, the parties must reach consensus on the approach to end racial politics. Failure is not an option. If they cannot do this, it is better for each to go their separate ways for the 14th General Election.
UMNO put him in jail and ended hope of an Alternative Government
Opposition parties have tried and failed to form a coalition many times before. Pakatan Harapan is destined to join the list of failures unless the parties are able to agree upon, implement and assure voters it has a model, strategy and road map for ending racial politics.
It must be a model that can integrate and accommodate the different ethnic groups and religions. It must allay their collective fears for change in the future brought upon by living through the history of the past. Pakatan Rakyat before this and Pakatan Harapan until now have failed to do this.
The opposition must recognise that they will need to bring their policies towards the centre avoiding extreme positions that appeal to their own supporters but offending others. They must accept a model for bringing the voters to support the cause, moderate their policies and tamper their rhetoric. They must have the humility to accept that their party might not be the dominant partner or its leader the supreme commander or prime minister-designate. They need to cooperate: there is no room for prima donnas.
Negotiating as an electoral alliance
Seat allocations for elections must be negotiated as an electoral alliance not as a political coalition. An electoral alliance ensures a straight fight between the opposition and the ruling party. There is no need to agree on policies and government positions: if the electoral alliance wins, they may or may not form a government between themselves. It is possible that one or more of them may instead put their lot with the ruling party to form the government. This is what PAS said they will do in the 14GE.
The party the most seats gets to rule: each opposition party thus jockeys for winnable seats, seeking dominance in political appointments, and the main cause of the lack of cooperation among Pakatan parties. This negotiation system is a model for self-destruction.
It is better for Pakatan to negotiate seat allocations, ministerial positions and resolve policy differences now, rather than wait until elections are called.
Agree on a political coalition before elections, not only on seats but also the policies and administration of the government if it wins, with a prior agreement on the post of the prime minister, the cabinet, the chief minister and executive council members, allocation of government positions and including GLC directorships.
If the coalition wins and one of the parties fail to win its allocation of seats or even one single seat, the power-sharing agreement is nevertheless put into effect. This ensures unity, mutual assistance and support for each party by the others in the coalition.
Governing a plural society
Pakatan must adopt a suitable model for the government of a plural society. UMNO, as an ethnic party supported by the majority ethnic group, can dominate minority groups seemingly in perpetuity. In Malaysia, access to resources lies in the heart of the inter-ethnic tensions. The ethnic group that controls political power gain access to these goods and resources. In a multi-ethnic society such as ours the struggle to control state policy produces the competing ethnic interest.
It is therefore imperative that Pakatan Harapan is able to present its vision for interethnic political conciliation.It is a simplistic and wrong to believe that racial politics will be ended by a Pakatan grand coalition replacing the BN grand coalition, PKR and PAS replacing UMNO and DAP replacing MCA, Gerakan, MIC and the others.
The model of the BN grand coalition has failed Malaysia. UMNO enjoys dominance and control of BN. The other parties have no influence.
PKR believes that the best way to mitigate the destructive patterns of a divided society is not to encourage the formation of ethnic political parties or to replicate existing ethnic divisions but to depoliticise ethnicity by requiring politicians and their supporters to accommodate each ethnic group, to seek support from across the ethnic divide and making voters based their choice on issues other than ethnicity.
Politicians from multi-ethnic parties make cross-ethnic appeals and demonstrate their capacity to represent groups besides their own. PKR leaders and representatives have proven their ability to reach out and attract votes from all ethnic groups besides their own, to moderate their political rhetoric on potentially divisive issues and have learned to broaden their policy positions to make cross-ethnic appeals.
Anwar Ibrahim has called out for the party and Pakatan to persevere with the centripetalist model. He knows it works. In 2008, Anwar Ibrahim was able to take Lim Guan Eng into the kampongs and Malay majority constituencies to hold him out as a chief minister who can take care of Malay interest as well as Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Dayak and all Malaysians.
To end racial politics Pakatan must adopt centripetalism and reject the grand coalition of ethnic parties. DAP is in substance a Chinese-based party expanding into mixed non-Malay seats. By taking away the non-Malay seats from PKR and Amanah, their essential nature of being multi-racial parties is eroded.
DAP’s demand, in effect, is for these parties to cede their non-Malayseats, consequently their non-Malay leadership, electedrepresentatives, members and support base to DAP.
DAP is pushing PKR and Amanah into becoming Malay political parties. By doing so, DAP is pushing Pakatan into adopting the failed BN model. All seats across the board should be allocated to each of the three parties equally, subject to the peculiar demographics of the states and constituencies. This means PKR and Amanah must also be allocated Chinese-majority seats and DAP Malay-majority seats, each party allocated both urban and rural seats.
In this way the component parties must move their policies from the extreme to the centre and their leadership and grass roots shift their rhetoric from intemperance to moderation.
Leadership and dominance
Without being disrespectful to the leadership and capabilities of Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng and all DAP leaders and members, the sad but undeniable truth is that the road to end racial politics, no matter how one tries to twist and turn, must pass through the gates of the 60 percent Malay-Muslim majority holding the key to 114 parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia.
Gerrymandering and malapportionment will always be there. We have to take this in our stride in the fight against racial politics and an authoritarian regime. Only a Malay-Muslim majority political party which espouses moderation, equality and multi-ethnicity can take us there.
UMNO is well aware of this and have placed great emphasis to remind Malays on the need for Malay unity to protect their race, religion and culture. To maintain their hold on Malay support, Malay leaders who dare to join multi-ethnic political parties are cut-off from the community, turned into outcasts, persecuted, imprisoned and discredited.
UMNO did this to Dato Onn Jaffar, have done this to Anwar Ibrahim and will do this to the young Malay leaders, activists, academicians and student leaders. The price extracted on Malays who choose multi-ethnicity and equity is a high one.
Anwar Ibrahim has broken this psychological chain used to tie the Malays to Umno by paying the heavy price of being persecuted, loss of personal liberty and physical well-being. This precious prize so dearly won must be fully capitalised upon by Pakatan.
UMNO has tarred and feathered DAP as the bogeyman for Malays. Unfortunately, ill-advised or instinctive responses to Umno provocation, occasional slips of the tongue by DAP leaders and insensitive statements by overzealous grassroot leaders serve to validate Umno’s claims.
Although DAP seeks to address this stigma by appointing Malay leaders and having elected representatives, it is an uphill task. There is no chance of winning Malay hearts and minds if one cannot even get past the door.
DAP needs to be sensitive that expansion by them, their ascendancy and assertiveness is seen as dominance in Pakatan. It validates UMNO’s rhetoric that Pakatan Malay leaders are DAP puppets who have sold out to the Chinese. PKR and PAS leaders’ credibility before Malay eyes are severely and irreparably damaged. DAP’s victories sow the seeds of Pakatan’s defeat.
This is attested by the 13th General Elections. DAP won all the Chinese-majority seats. UMNO won 83.5 percent of rural seats, containing 73.76 percent of rural Malay votes. PKR and PAS bore the brunt of UMNO’s resurgence.
Malays saw the ascendancy of DAP as a challenge to Malay supremacy. Malays fearful of DAP’s agenda as told by Umno returned to UMNO’s fold. Voting for the other Malay based parties, PAS and PKR was not an option, because they are part of Pakatan and a vote for Pakatan is a vote for DAP.
UMNO’s racial rhetoric struck the right chord with the Malays.Irrational as it may sound the fear of Chinese domination and the Malay race disappearing from the face of the earth saw Malays voting to maintain Ketuanan Melayu despite UMNO’s record of financial scandals, poor governance and corruption. Fear after all, is never rational.
For the 14 GE, Hadi Awang, recognising this, steered PAS out of Pakatan to work with UMNO. PKR and Amanah have kept the faith. They are however, painfully aware that unless fundamental changes are made in Pakatan to attract Malay votes, DAP’s ascendancy hangs like an albatross over their heads to win Malay support.
DAP can win all the non-Malay majority seats but these are not enough to form the government. By achieving dominance in Pakatan Harapan, the DAP is winning the battle but Pakatan will lose the war. The racial tensions and ugly reality of our ethnic divisions must be dealt with in a practical manner, otherwise the cracks in Pakatan may lead to permanent fissure.
Failure to learn from victories will lead to defeat, failure to learn from defeat will lead to destruction.