Aftermath of the twin by-elections: Crossroads for Malaysia

In the aftermath of the twin by-elections in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar yesterday, it is undeniable that the Opposition is at its lowest ebbs since the 2008 general election. Both the Opposition and the nation are at a crossroad.

We will either soon be defeated by the Old Order or we will rise from the bottom to create a genuinely new Malaysia with new political and economic ideas.

It would have taken a miracle for Amanah to defeat the UMNO candidates in yesterday’s by-elections. The hope was for the by-elections to help realign the political forces in a clearer manner. But the split in UMNO and the split in PAS did not translate into sufficient votes for the Amanah candidates.

Hence the political scene is still murky and messy.

The mainstream media and Barisan Nasional leaders want Malaysians to accept the “reality” that “no change for the better could happen in Malaysia and UMNO/BN is the only ruling government.”

They said, among other things, that regardless of how corrupted Datuk Seri Najib Razak is, he is not going to step down;

There is no way for Pakatan Harapan to win support from among Malay voters in the semi-urban and rural areas; their only choices are UMNO and PAS;
That Malaysian politics is defined by race and religion, therefore non-Malay voters should all support BN component parties like MCA, Gerakan or MIC.

It is certainly the most difficult time for Pakatan Harapan. With the mainstream media and UMNO/Barisan Nasional leaders playing the race and religion cards, some in Pakatan Harapan may feel that they are compelled to join the game.

It is important for Pakatan Harapan to define its progressive ideas for Malaysia in a clearer way so as not to fall into the downward spiral of divisive race/religion game.

Being in the Opposition in Malaysia has never been easy. It is not a fair and free democracy and there is no level playing field.

But we either choose to succumb to “realities” defined by the Old Order or we have to present a clear alternative to overcome two major challenges:

First, semi-urban and rural constituencies

We will have to convince semi-urban and rural voters that a change of government is the right thing to do for Malaysia.

Many have forgotten that prior to the 2013 general election, the majority of ethnic Chinese voters in rural and semi-urban areas supported BN. UMNO and its associates survived on rural and semi-urban voters.

The challenge is to keep the non-Malay swing of 2013 while convincing Malay voters in these areas at the same time.

Second, overcoming racial and religious divisiveness

Since the 2008 election, UMNO has worked overtime in demonizing the DAP to prevent any possible support from among Malay voters for DAP and its coalition partners.

The challenge for Pakatan Harapan is to articulate a new agenda that brings ordinary Malaysians of all ethnic background together with common purpose and a shared destiny. There is no easy way out.

We in Pakatan Harapan have to convince all Malaysians that a change of government is good for the majority of Malaysians.

The choice for us is between accepting the idea that no change is possible or to work towards rebuilding the Opposition, its ideals and ideas, strengths and influence, to create new impetus for a new Malaysia.

Those who hope that Pakatan Harapan would fall and disappear after the debacles in Sarawak and aftermath of the twin by-elections, my reply is that the current scenario is either a 1995 or 2007 scenario.

In the 1995 general election, the Opposition was decimated and it took years to come back. In April 2007 after losing the Machap and Ijok by-elections, no one would have thought that less than a year later, the political tsunami would happen on 8th March 2008.

In difficult moments like this, we must not give up but rise to provide leadership for a new and better Malaysia.

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