Why Malaysia’s opposition lacks political lustre
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Why Malaysia’s opposition lacks political lustre

Malaysia’s Pakatan Rakyat has lost its lustre and doesn’t deserve to take over the federal government writes Murray Hunter for Asia Sentinel.

The last general election is almost six months behind us, in which the narratives of Malaysian politics have been defined. The Pakatan Rakyat may have won the popular vote, leading some to believe that the opposition coalition is owed a moral mandate. However under a “first past the post” electoral system, the game is about winning seats, not aggregate votes.

Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), one of the three legs of the opposition stool, has ruled Kelantan well for many years within the social and cultural contexts of the state and has shown it understands the aspirations of the Kelantanese. Selangor has been prudently run as a corporation by Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s Abdul Khalid Ibrahim despite the current controversy over salaries, and Penang’s finances have been restructured with great fiscal skill, where industrial investment has been revived through relentless promotion by the Democratic Action Party’s Lim Guan Eng.

However, even with these achievements, the PR doesn’t have the pedigree needed to form a federal government, given the existing inconsistencies and weaknesses. As a multi-dimensional party, PAS doesn’t speak with a unified voice, given its divisions between the fundamentalists and the so-called Erdogans.

The DAP has shown its failure to provide ideologically sound and loyal candidates for political office, causing the downfall of one state government. The coming DAP party election in Penang shows the mad scramble for positions of influence among party stalwarts. To date, PKR has shown itself to be opportunistic, with very little in the way of its own thought-out ideological based policies. In fact some of its views like the one on salary hikes for politicians are even contradictory.

The culmination of these problems, the failure to take tactical initiatives, and electoral blunders have cost the Pakatan Rakyat the grand prize of Malaysian politics, the federal government.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has been grossly unappreciated for his job of holding the line for UMNO in the recent election. He was written off before the election by some who expected great losses. Many felt there was a real possibility that Terengganu and Negeri Sembilan would fall to Pakatan and that it would win back Perak. However Najib held all these states and took back Kedah as well. We will never be sure whether it was Najib’s strategic brilliance or Anwar’s strategic blundering that made the final result what it was.

Continue reading at Asia Sentinel.