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.