The Slim by-election has taken place. I congratulate both the winner and his competitors as well as the constituency’s voters for the successful exercise.
Nevertheless, the results were not what we, the combined Opposition of Malaysia, would have liked. The fault does not lie with the candidate which was run—he tried his best against difficult odds.
However, the Slim bye-election is cause for all Malaysian Opposition parties—especially KEADILAN and Pakatan Harapan (PH)—to seriously reflect and consolidate, especially in terms of strategy as well as approach.
But it cannot be denied that the Independent candidate that was backed by the Opposition was still defeated by a party whose leaders are facing criminal charges in court and who are part of a “backdoor” government that is increasingly fractious as well as unstable.
Indeed, the candidate selected by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s PEJUANG party was not only defeated in Slim, but with a majority 5-times higher than in 2018 (i.e. 10,945 votes compared to 2,183) in a seat that us almost 75% Malay. This was despite claims by some PH politicians and analysts that Tun Dr Mahathir’s presence was absolutely necessary to swing the Malay and other voters, that no one else could do it.
What’s more concerning for the Opposition is that the BN candidate polled 13,060 votes, i.e. more than the combined total of UMNO and PAS’ 2018 votes (12,430). Moreover, BN reportedly won all polling stations in Slim—including those which were predominantly non-Malay.
The PEJUANG candidate this round got 2,115 votes compared to BERSATU’s 6,144 in 2018 (when it was still with PH). This suggests that large swathes of Opposition-leaning supporters stayed away from the ballot boxes or went to BN, which is also worrying.
It is true that Slim was a BN/UMNO stronghold. Moreover, the late incumbent was popular and the candidate UMNO ran to replace him had worked closely with him in the past. Voters may have been swayed by other local factors.
But it is also a fact is that PEJUANG ran a campaign that was largely devoid of issues or a message beyond expecting voters to back them simply because of who they are and who their Chairman is. This is an entitled attitude and a recipe for disaster.
When GE15 comes, PH certainly cannot go to voters offering nothing but relitigating the feuds of the last decade, whether it is the 1MDB scandal, the issues that confronted the federal government we led from 2018—2020 or the “Sheraton Move.”
I am not saying that these points are irrelevant, but it cannot the only things that we run on. And PH certainly should not be aligning itself with other parties who cannot see or understand this.
“Kleptokrat”, “Kerajaan pintu belakang” and “pengkhianat” will not be slogans we will win the next General Elections on. Not on their own.
The fact is that PEJUANG did not offer a compelling economic message to the voters of Slim. The party could not persuade them that their lives and livelihoods would improve if they voted for their candidate. There was no vision, no hope or promise for the future.
And that is why the PEJUANG candidate lost. This is the mistake that PH must avoid in the next election.
Of course, we don’t have to shy away from exposing the abuses and lack of legitimacy of the current government. But this cannot be in the absence of a plan for bettering the economic prospects of Malaysians, especially in light of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.
The heavy defeat at Slim can be a turning point for KEADILAN and PH—but only if we learn the right lessons from it.
There are many paths for Pakatan Harapan to choose. However, I do think there are three mistakes that we need to avoid.
1. Harapan cannot wait for PN to implode
First, we cannot rely on Perikatan Nasional (PN) imploding.
Coalitions of expedience (which is what PN is) as opposed to coalitions based on principles (which it certainly is not) stay together only when their components believe that the alternatives are worse for them.
The individuals who brought about the downfall of the first Harapan federal government bolted because they would have been the “biggest losers” had the alliance succeeded and carried out the Buku Harapan manifesto.
Don’t get me wrong: the country and its people would have profited handsomely had Harapan gone the distance – but the cabal behind the “Sheraton Move” would have been left out in the cold and so that is why they went off to form PN.
The PN’s main proposition – the only reason why it was formed and why it is sticking together right now – is power. Even the so-called Malay-Islam agenda is secondary to power, as those who even actually believe in it convince themselves that to implement the agenda, one has to have power by any means necessary.
So, while concerns about its infighting and disunity are valid, PN will likely hold together until the 15the general election – if only to ensure that Harapan doesn’t get back into power.
There will be passive-aggressive statements or social media posts, even open arguments or disputes about seats. But they will stick together if it means holding on to the levers of incumbency.
Their components will be willing to accept any compromise, bear any indignity and even start acting like a proper coalition – all to stay in office. Make no mistake: they will do anything to stay in power.
2. PN cares nothing for the rakyat
But when it comes to governing justly and for the many? No – because that would be the antithesis of their existence.
If they really cared about the rakyat, the architects of PN (below) would have stayed in Harapan.
What does it tell you about their priorities that they have just started working on a Covid-19 related temporary relief measures bill – which will only be tabled in Parliament in July?
Singapore got theirs sorted by April 2020.
But when it comes to appointing PN-connected individuals to GLC posts? Well, look who has the bandwidth all of a sudden!
3. Harapan must offer a better future for Malaysians
That leads me to the next mistake Harapan could make: believing we can win without good policies.
Certainly, calling PN to account for the Sheraton Move and their failings in office – especially during the Movement Control Order (MCO) – will be a major issue during the next general election.
But that cannot be the only thing Harapan brings to Malaysian voters.
As I have argued before: we didn’t win the 2018 general election on the back of the 1MDB scandal alone. We were going up and down campaigning about fighting kleptocracy. I am sure many Malaysians don’t even care or understand the word. Buku Harapan was what Malaysians desperately needed at the time and it played a major role in our victory.
The world and our country are, of course, very different places right now. But I strongly believe there are two important sub-lessons here: one positive, the other negative.
The positive is that we can come up with substantive policy ideas while in the opposition. Harapan’s achievements in government, including reducing the voting age to 18, have and will change the country forever.
The negative is that it shows what happens when we abandon our principles and policy lodestar.
As history will show, certain senior Harapan leaders have rubbished the Buku Harapan. Some even made it their mission to do the exact opposite.
We must never repeat the same mistake: failing to live up to our manifesto and getting distracted by other things.
While Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim met KEADILAN leaders.
He revealed that prior to the crisis there was an offer for him to become Prime Minister with the condition that he abandon our political allies in Pakatan Harapan and accepting leaders from UMNO en bloc, including those facing corruption charges in court.
He naturally refused to betray the mandate of the people simply for the sake of obtaining the premiership.
The crisis was caused by a group of individuals who were power-hungry and betrayed the mandate given to us by the people during the 14th General Elections. History will condemn them as having damaged our democracy and as willing to do anything—including manipulating the truth—for the sake of power.
The crisis undoubtedly began with the PH Presidential Council meeting on 21 February 2020. At the meeting, the issue of the power transition between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar was closely discussed.
When the meeting took place, Azmin Ali allegedly hoped that PH would split. However, the issue was brought under control when Anwar acted to cool things down.
As will be remembered, Azmin was absent from the subsequent press conference. Anwar, reiterated his willingness to give Dr Mahathir the space to run the country. Tun Dr Mahathir also calmly noted that the transition would take place after the APEC Summit, albeit with no specific date or time.
On 23 February 2020, BERSATU held a meeting to decide on the direction of their party. At the meeting, Muhyiddin Yassin was said to have proposed cooperation with UMNO en bloc. As other media reports have stated, Muhyiddin was also said to have expressed willingness to work with controversial or contentious leaders like Najib Razak, Zahid Hamidi etc.
Dr Mahathir did not accept this, feeling that UMNO which was rejected by voters should not be accepted as a bloc, what more with the presence of individuals who had faced corruption allegations while in government.
Azmin’s team meanwhile alleged that all parties would agree with BERSATU’s move to work with UNNO and PAS. After going to the Palace in a hope to seal the deal, Azmin invited political leaders from UMNO, PAS and BERSATU to dinner at the Sheraton PJ Hotel. This “Sheraton Move” will go down in history as an attempt to steal the mandate of the people.
Given the increasingly critical situation, on the morning of 24 February the main leadership of PH sought to immediately meet with Dr Mahathir. Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mohamad Sabu and Lim Guan Eng tried to persuade him.
However, after this discussion, Tun Dr Mahathir decided to resign. That the same day, BERSATU announced they would leave PH. Tun Dr Mahathir was appointed interim Prime Minister until a new premier could be appointed.
That evening, the PH Presidential Council held an emergency meeting. Our leaders invited Tun Dr Mahahtir to chair it, but he declined. The meeting unanimously nominated him as Pakatan’s candidate for Prime Minister in accordance with the PH’s consensus and the mandate the people had given to us.
An idea for a unity or non-party government was floated. PH was against this because we felt that it went against the principles of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The existence of political parties is crucial for checks-and-balances. Their absence would cast serious doubts about the two pillars of our nation-Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy.
On 28 February, when the other parties switched their support to Muhyiddin, Anwar and PH agreed for Dr Mahathir to be our prime ministerial candidate once more.
The crisis was a severe test for Anwar’s leadership and patience, but he decided to forsake the position for the sake of the nation.
The entire affair has been most upsetting, especially as many of our politicians came across as seemingly not having firm stands or appreciating the mandate given to them by the people.
One fears that the youth will become disillusioned and disgusted with the political games they have witnessed. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our own behaviour as leaders is often the reason why the youth refuse to get involved in politics.
There are many lessons to be drawn from this sad, sordid affair. At the very least, it has shown us who our real friends are.
Moreover, the people will now be able to judge who has truly upheld or betrayed their trust.
In this excerpt from the 27 February episode of #ConsiderThis on Astro AWANI hosted by Melisa Idris and Sharaad Kuttan, I debate with Ambiga Sreenevasan on whether a unity government or minority government is the best way to solve Malaysia’s current political crisis.
First time Sharaad interviewed me was in 2001 when I was a 19 year old kid who just got hooked onto Reformasi.
Credit: Astro Awani.
Full video: https://www.facebook.com/astroawani/videos/1126734654385391/
Unity or Minority Government? Nik Nazmi debates Ambiga
In this excerpt from the 27 February episode of #ConsiderThis on Astro AWANI hosted by Melisa Idris and Sharaad Kuttan, I debate with Ambiga Sreenevasan on whether a unity government or minority government is the best way to solve Malaysia's current political crisis.First time Sharaad interviewed me was in 2001 when I was a 19 year old kid who just got hooked onto Reformasi.Credit: Astro Awani. Full video: https://www.facebook.com/astroawani/videos/1126734654385391/
Posted by Nik Nazmi on Thursday, 27 February 2020
Not long after the broadcast by PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday, the Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council came out with its own press conference at the KEADILAN Headquarters.
It was officially revealed that Pakatan Harapan – KEADILAN, DAP and AMANAH MPs nominated Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for PM.
Malaysia doesn’t need this the proposed ‘Non-Party Government’ even with the best possible intentions.
This proposed form of government is only ever really necessary during a time of great national crisis, such as how the UK had all-party coalitions or “National Governments” during The World War 1 the Great Depression and World War 2.
One could argue that Malaysia is facing a “crisis” right now, what with the global Covid-19 outbreak and weakening economy. However, no other country in the world has chosen to meet these challenges by suspending their political processes or expecting their parties to surrender their autonomy to one leader.
The choice conveyed to His Majesty Yang Dipertuan Agong among three blocs of MPs are clear: Anwar as PM, Dr Mahathir as PM or dissolution of Parliament. There is no consensus on the matter and I believe the option with the biggest bloc of support – Anwar – is worthy of consideration.
Dr Mahathir likes to use the example of Japan, but post World War 2 Japan never had to resort to all-party governments or setting up unaccountable leaders with no checks-and-balances.
Indeed, the only real “crisis” Malaysia is facing currently is the one manufactured by the “Langkah Sheraton” plotters. They are the ones who rejected Pakatan Harapan’s consensus and manifesto. So the urgency for a “unity government” is simply not there. Also, the utility of such an arrangement is questionable.
We must allow our nation’s constitutional processes to take their course. Setting aside “politics” is not going to help improve our economy or ease the distrust between our different communities.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR SETIAWANGSA
I was one of the panelist for the ‘Should Malaysia Wait Until November For Transition?’ forum moderated by Jenny Hiew, with other panelists including YB Chang Lih Kang, YB William Leong, Prof Dr Tajuddin Rasdi and YB Wong Chen.
NIK NAZMI – REALITY AND COMPROMISES OF MALAYSIAN RACE-BASED POLITICS
'Malaysia made history when we had the peaceful transition the first time we changed governments in May 2018. Let's make history again to heal the two decade rift by a transition from Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Anwar Ibrahim in May 2020.' Full video of my speech at Should Malaysia wait until November for Transition. Video credit to TalkedaboutTV Youtube channel.
Posted by Nik Nazmi on Tuesday, 14 January 2020
Live Forum:Should Malaysia wait until November for Transition?
Posted by William Leong 梁自坚 on Monday, 13 January 2020