KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the larger Opposition’s failure to get majority support for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to be the prime minister was seen as a setback for them and their supporters.
However, it showed that PH and other Opposition parties could at least unite and support one leader as their PM candidate, avoiding the infighting that prevented the coalition from regaining control of the government in 2020.
PH accepted Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s appointment as prime minister, and proposed openness for discussions and cooperation under the “big tent” concept based on its reform agenda and the people’s interests.
Several political analysts told Malay Mail that it is time for PH and the Opposition to move forward and formulate a long-term strategy in order to engage the majority of Malaysians as opposed to their traditional support in mostly urban areas.
Associate director at Vriens & Partners, Shazwan Mustafa Kamal said the “big tent” approach was not a novel idea but PH was right to plan for the future and groom leaders to replace their ageing chiefs.
“PH should focus on coming up with a consolidated shadow Cabinet comprising all Opposition reps.
“Anwar can be the PM choice, but PH should ideally be grooming a replacement leader already,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
Shazwan also added that although PH and the other Opposition parties could unite on an ad hoc basis, they need to formulate a clear narrative in terms of policies and leadership in order to reach the people.
“The proof will be the pudding if they can align in such a way that was seen during the lead-up to GE14.
“But the difference is that PH has to be clear in what they are offering, in terms of policies and leadership, and they have to be able to narrate this in a way that can be understood by all voters, not just those within the urban areas,” he said.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s geostrategist Prof Azmi Hassan said the 15th General Election (GE-15) was more important for the Opposition than the scramble for the PM’s post last week.
He said they need to build confidence for voters to choose the coalition.
“First, confidence needs to be built within the Opposition whether the big tent strategy led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is formidable enough or more importantly acceptable by the general public.
“The problem with that is that Datuk Seri Anwar as a prime minister-designate is not acceptable within the big tent strategy especially with Warisan and a few independent lawmakers and Pejuang too and Muda. So in this case they need to rethink their big tent policy. It is a good strategy but again who is their leader that will bring them facing the GE15.
“They need to concentrate on GE15, not on trying to increase the 105 to 114 or 111 in order to retake Putrajaya via a majority method,” he told Malay Mail.
Azmi said the Opposition also must instil the confidence in the general public that they are ready to tackle the nation’s problem and ready to retake Putrajaya.
More importantly, they also need to face GE15 under one umbrella and even ensure they have a leader that is acceptable by all of them.
“The problem with that is they gain 105 votes because of Datuk Seri Anwar, maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not but the best possible way for the Opposition to move forward is not Pakatan Harapan plus Pejuang or plus Muda.
“I don’t think they should go that way. They should go as Pakatan Harapan, period. All must be in the same boat,” he said.
On Thursday, PH made strides in this area when it announced that Sabah’s Upko has officially joined the coalition as a component party.
For senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun, however, PH’s latest failure to regain control of Putrajaya indicated that Anwar’s viability as the coalition’s candidate for prime minister was showing diminishing returns.
He said that the support by both Pejuang’s Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Warisan’s Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal was made “at the spur of the moment” and was by then “too late” akin to their failure to unite during the Sheraton Move in February 2020.
“More or less like the Sheraton Move at the last moment also Anwar was trying to make his own bid and then at the last moment, support Mahathir instead but again it’s too late so in both cases it was too late.
“That 105 supporting Anwar cannot be taken at face value. It’s not that they all like Anwar, it’s just a desperate move,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
Oh was also not convinced that PH and the Opposition were ready to be contenders in GE15, saying their performance in 2018 was just “lucky” as Umno and PAS contested in the same seats in Malay rural seats, which lead to split Malay votes there.
He added that in GE15, PAS would be backed up by Umno and their strategy would lead to even more of a challenge to PH which is something they need to think about more than focusing on Anwar.
“I think those days are over as Umno and PAS, even with their disagreements, are working together but now with Umno firmly in charge.
“PAS would come back to Umno and they will coordinate their seat allocations and so on and therefore it is very difficult for Pakatan to repeat what they did in 2018. I think that is more important than uniting around Anwar,” he said.