Malaysia’s Opposition that Couldn’t Shoot Straight

May 21, 2016


Malaysia’s Opposition: The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot StraightAsia Sentinel | Asia Sentinel

by John Berthelsen

Malaysia’s opposition parties, disorganized, squabbling among themselves and fighting over power, have driven reformers to despair, with some who decline to be named saying they simply no longer want to bother working with them.

One top lawyer flatly called them a “bunch of idiots” and vowed to cease any relationship with them. “They just can’t help themselves,” said a businessman who asked to remain nameless. “They are all using each other to get where they want. Their egos are so big, they keep screwing each other up. The Sarawak episode [in which the opposition was drubbed in a state election] has made even the most optimistic guys pessimistic about the opposition’s chances in the next polls.”

The latest fiasco occurred this week when Rafizi Ramli, the Secretary-General of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, the party founded by now-imprisoned leader Anwar Ibrahim, apparently sent a WhatsApp message to a chat group alleging that members of the Selangor state government, which the opposition controls, had demanded sex and money during contract negotiations.

Azmin Ali doing Najib Razak a great favour

Azmin Ali, the Chief Minister of the Selangor government, for several months has been at odds with Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar’s wife and the current party leader. Azmin is regarded by Wan Azizah’s forces as unduly ambitious and attempting to take over the party, which leads the coalition.

Whether the allegations of corruption are true or not, they are an indication of the fractured nature of not only PKR but the entire opposition, cobbled together by Anwar prior to the 2009 general election despite drastically differing aims. They included Anwar’s PKR, made up largely of urban Malays and refugees from the United Malays National Organization; the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party; and the rural-based, fundamentalist Islamic Parti Islam se-Malaysia( PAS).

With no common goals – indeed conflicting ones — the three parties share only a wish for power.  That has been a recipe for political disaster.

Anwar, a gifted politician, managed to keep the three together until he was imprisoned last year for the second time on trumped-up charges of sexual misconduct with a male aide.  The coalition’s high water mark was the 2013 general election, when it won 50.87 percent of the vote to 47.38 for the government coalition. However, gerrymandering preserved the government’s majority in Parliament.  It has been downhill ever since.

Malaysia is currently embroiled in one of the world’s biggest scandals, with the possibility that US$11.4 billion has gone missing from the government-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd fund –whose economic advisory chairman is the Prime Minister, Najib Razak and who by statute had final say on investment decisions.

On top of that, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which leads the government, since Independence in 1957 has been little more than a vehicle to loot the state coffers for its leaders, many of whom have been bribed to keep Najib at the head of the party. His own family appears to be the target of a major investigation for money-laundering by the US Justice Department. At least five foreign governments are investigating money laundering charges surrounding 1MDB, Timothy Leissner, the former Southeast Asia chief for Goldman Sachs, has been named in newspapers as being investigated for complicity.

Thus if there were ever a time for the country’s long-suffering opposition to scent a chance to overthrow the old order, this ought to be it. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has played a role in bringing down three previous Prime Ministers, is leading the van in what he calls a Citizens’ Declaration to gather enough signatures to drive Najib from power. However, Anwar this week handwrote a letter from prison telling his followers not to trust Mahathir – the man who first orchestrated his imprisonment in 1998 on trumped-up charges of sexual misconduct.

Anwar himself stumbled in 2013 by driving out the previous Selangor Chief minister, Khalid Ibrahim, and forcing a by-election to make himself chief minister and give him a platform to attack the government.  Instead, he was charged with sexual misconduct and had to drop the plan. He then sought to use Wan Azizah as his surrogate, only to have that blocked by the Selangor Sultan, possibly at Azmin’s behest. Azmin followed by keeping PAS in the government despite the split over shariah after the party split in two. On top of that, the DAP has grimly fought PAS at every turn over the shariah and other issues.

The mess was never more starkly outlined than in recent state elections in the Borneo state of Sarawak, where the opposition was drubbed by state parties aligned with the government in Putrajaya. The Democratic Action Party and Parti Keadilan Rakyat contested each other in six state constituencies, splitting the vote and handing easy victories to an already-powerful Barisan headed by Adenan Satem, the Sarawak chief minister. The opposition came away with just 10 of 82 seats.

Tellingly, the Pakatan Rakyat coalition cobbled together by Anwar is now known as Pakatan Harapan (Hope Alliance) after PAS more than a year ago sundered into two parts, with conservatives driving out moderates over the issue of implementation of Sharia law in the eastern state of Kelantan.

Pakatan Harapan has a slight chance to redeem itself in two by-elections scheduled for next month to replace two lawmakers who were killed in a helicopter crash while campaigning in Sarawak. However, that appears to be another mess, with PAS, which is still flirting with the opposition, demanding to field the sole opposition candidate in one of the elections, in Selangor state, or it would leave the government. Azmin Ali, the chief minister who is the apparent target of Rafizi’s charges of sexual misconduct, has in turn threatened to boot both PAS and Pakatan Harapan out of the state government. If that happens, it would in turn open the way for the government to take the state back from the opposition.

“The opposition coalition touted themselves as the Great Big Hope and many Malaysians wholeheartedly believed and supported them only to see them turn into the Great Big Disappointment,” said Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob, a political observer who lives in Selangor state.

So despite all attempts to unite, with civil groups backing their efforts, the contesting political forces continue to tear themselves apart. The next national elections – the chance to take on the Barisan and seriously contest for an electorate largely fed up with the coalition’s scandals – are in 2018. It seems almost impossible to think that the opposition could get untracked.

“It is not too wrong or fictitious to suggest that for as long as the opposition political parties collaborate out of convenience that is in reality fueled by that hope of riding on each other’s backs to gain power, voters will only keep dropping you like a hot potato,” said J D Loverencear, an opposition figure, in a letter to Asia Sentinel. “So, to DAP, Amanah, PAS, and PKR, the Barisan toasts a thank you for helping them. And at this rate Malaysians are far, far away from the post of a two party system like in the rest of the developed world democracies.”

18 thoughts on “Malaysia’s Opposition that Couldn’t Shoot Straight

  1. Former PKR officials tell me that Azmin Ali is an UMNO clone with all the bad habits associated with an UMNO politician. He has his own cronies. But then what is new? The Menteri Besar of Selangor is ambitious and working hard to eject Wan Azizah from her perch as PKR President. She is widely viewed as someone warming the seat for Anwar and Nurul Izzah. People like Rafizi who has his own political plan and others are working hard to prevent him for realising his ambition. –Din Merican

  2. The article is sad but true. Anwar was the glue — or maybe “honey” is a better word — who worked so hard to hold the opposition together. When Najib’s government maneuvered to put Anwar in jail, Anwar’s magic touch was gone.
    Welcome back, Ambassador Malott.

    Because of Anwar’s charisma and political savvy, UMNO strategists created Sodomy 2 to keep him in jail. There is no way that he can be released from Sungai Buloh any time soon. I may be wrong but I think a coalition of equal partners born out of political expediency cannot hold. UMNO-BN works because UMNO calls the shots. MCA, MIC and Gerakan and others in Barisan Nasional are junior partners.–Din Merican

  3. The opposition, et al, have lost their direction. I thought when they contested as an opposition coalition under the mame PAKATAN RAKYAT (PR) at GE13, they have arrived at the right formula. They did very well and almost controlled five states. Due to some sleek maneuvers, BN managed to prevent that from happening and only lost two. PR actually only needed to fine tune their strategy and contest at GE14 and give BN a stronger fight. Alas, this was not to be and I believe, BN is behind the collapse of PR. Good bye opposition.

  4. Sad days ahead for Malaysia ?

    1. The squabbling Kadets, Mensheviks, SRs etc can’t seem to unite to drive the
    Bolsheviks out of power

    2. Meanwhile, Trotsky remains in prison whilst an increasingly alarmed (and very elderly) Lenin continues trying to remove Stalin from power.

    But the seemingly plodding Stalin appears intent on keeping Trotsky in prison forever, and waits for Lenin to cross over to the other world. He tolerates the continuous stream of insults from Lenin as Lenin remains an iconic figure with the blindly loyal grassroots members of the Bolshevik Party. Stalin appears to have some success in co-opting the Orthodox Christianity religion-based political party (under its current unprincipled leader) because of the latter’s utopian view that passing punitive religion-based laws to regulate social behaviour will create paradise on earth.

    Lenin and the Bolsheviks who still retain some social conscience (including perhaps the flip flopping aristocratic Bukharin) have to rethink their strategy before Stalin consolidates his regime into a personalistic dictatorship and builds
    Cash is King “Socialism (for me, my family and my cronies) in One Country” (with an expanding Gulag for political prisoners and other critics of his regime?)

  5. Is a viable alternative a Gandhian one? That is, a mass citizens’ movement of civil
    disobedience, non-cooperation and non-violent resistance to an increasingly discredited and increasingly unpopular (and increasingly narrow) regime?

    Especially if a serious economic crisis hits the nation because of gross mismanagement of the economy and theft of public funds on a grand scale?
    (Like what is likely to occur in Maduro’s Venezuela very soon)

  6. It was so painful to watch the Malaysia vs Denmark game last night. A team that had all the backing, money, and support of the whole nation just could not get pass the Danes because they failed to master the basic skills. The first two games were lifting and perhaps made the team rest on its laurels. The three games to follow were just painful for me to watch. I went channel surfing going back to myMalaysia to see the finishing touches. Apart from Datuk, the rest just did not have the important net skills and court craft. And I hope that the couches have taken note , if you want to lift the shuttle do it only if you know that it will drop as close possible to the base line. Otherwise keep the shuttle just above the net. Lifting the shuttle knowing that it will drop mid- court is just sucide.

    I am still in denial as I write this comment. Not too long from now I will slip into a wake up call mode trying to bargain with my self that after all it isnot too bad. Just remember the man with one foot and you will not complain that you have no shoes. And as I watch either Denmark or Indonesia Lift the cup I will go into a depression wondering what could have been. Finally when the National Anthem of the victors is player with the flag of that nation I will still see the mirage of the moon, star and stripes. When I do wake up then Iwill learn to accept that myMalaysia was so close to becoming a Developed Nation in the Game just could not make it.

    Moral of the story never give up. Man lives on one vitamin only and that is vitamin-h. Hope.

  7. Anwar who worked untiringly to build the bridge for the opposition parties tto remain intact with so much of enthusiasm to sure win GE14 is now beginning to crumple just because of few power crazy culprits for their selfish ends.

    Selfish and self-centered leaders like Azmin and Hadi who talk more like UMNO stooges are the destroyers of the solid foundation and good groundwork that was set by Anwar for the coming General Elections.

    It is my contention and that of many who openly express their disliking that Azmin should go because he is not fit to lead the opposition pack. PH should decide now rather than waiting for the eleventh hour to kick out these Trojans.

    Do we have any hope with all sorts of squabbling within the opposition? News on money and women are surfacing within PKR. Wan Azizah must get to the bottom of this new episode to kick out the culprits now. I’m sick of this Azmin and Hadi.

  8. The opposition right from the beginning didn’t have a platform to work together cohesively and develop an election manifesto. All they agreed was to deprive BN of a 2/3 majority. The Opposition consists of strange partners from PAS whose very existence and ambition is to establish an IslamicState for Malaysia, to DAP and the free Anwar group calling themselves Keadilan which merged to form PKR.

    They were caught by surprise when they found out that they had a majority in 5 states and saw the start of squabbling on who should be the CM or MB and state exco. Suddenly they had to form the state government and they were confused on where, whom and how to form a government. Thus they lost Kedah and Perak and became the opposition. if they are not careful they will lose Selangor and Penang and they will be back to square one,

  9. Pakatan Harapan has to be more strategic in their planning and not get mired in petty squable on seats. By leaving PAS to their plan to contest Sg. Besar and putting in Amanah the chances are better as DAP will be helping Amanah to get the bulk of the Chinese votes, die hard PAS supporters will share the Malay votes with UMNO and Amanah will scrap in with just 20% of the Malay votes assuming some Chinese votes goes to UMNO. This way PKR doesn’t owe PAS any favour and has a loyal ally.

  10. Words are meaningless in this Oppo FUBAR.
    They don’t have the luxury of time or space, but what to do.., they are after all politicos with the brain of an ant and the ego of elephant poop.

    I decided, what cannot be put into words, be put into classical music – Flashmob style.

    This what the Oppo sounds like, now:

    What folks like me, had hoped for, but never heard:

    You see, i suffer from Synesthesia (go wiki okay?).
    Have a good weekend, folks.

  11. It’s true the opposition had themselves to blame but it’s still.important even just a matter of record, the right perspective. Truth is the blame is mostly, in fact ALMOST all, on MALAYS. If the outcome is undesirable, it largely lay with Malay Muslim and the rest has little to apologise for. (Just in case the perverse think so, the reverse, if success, may not, not likely even).

    It’s why, the entire mess, the biggest blame lies with Hadi and his PAS, next come Najib and the rest. Even Mahathir cannot be held worst than Hadi ‘s PAS. And why the Malays, all are to blame, how many makes Hadi’s PAS the number 1 target? Not even the most liberal Malay critics does it.

  12. All the hard work that Anwar did, although not completely ruin, was like building a house without roof. BN knew too well where to hit the target.
    BN know PKR, DAP n PAS won’t be able to kick them out of putrajaya without Anwar. Anwar can win the supporters of pas even if hadi going against it.
    Almost every one on the street know they fear Anwar than they fear PKR. BN has hit that target. U all have already seen it. PR without Anwar.

  13. “Truth is the blame is mostly, in fact ALMOST all, on MALAYS. If the outcome is undesirable, it largely lay with Malay Muslim and the rest has little to apologise for”

    Oh really ? Let’s take PAS. DAP apparatchiks seem to always blame PKR for everything connected with PAS but forget that it was the DAP’s Evangelical wing that was slithering around PAS even though they knew Tok Guru was old and Hadi was waiting in the wings. Indeed the whole Amanah deal is a direct result of the machinations of the DAP.

    Blaming Malays when electoral power also emanates from East Malaysia not to mention the complicated power sharing rituals that the Chinese community engages in …well maybe it is a Chinese thing to lay blame everywhere but at their doorstep.

    Is it any wonder that the Oppo can’t shoot straight.

  14. I think otherwise. DSAI in jail, Azmin Ali showing his foxtail, and 1MDB is the best gift for the nation’s political change. Brave New World! Lead! Don’t just write and talk about it! Oppo need you. The world needs you to make the change.

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