Despite the obvious rift among Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, a lack of credible replacements means that now is not the time for the old guard to step aside, say analysts. They believe that standing firm would give PH its best chance at forming the government again post-GE15.
The cracks in the coalition have begun to widen following the passing of the federal budget at the policy stage last month with Anwar Ibrahim instructing opposition MPs not to push for bloc voting only to reveal later that opposition stalwarts Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu had disagreed. The cracks first appeared after the resignation of then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which led to a tussle for the vacant post.
More recently, Warisan MPs openly expressed their dissatisfaction with Anwar by sitting out a budget vote on Monday, citing frustrations over his last-minute instructions, thus exposing the infighting within the opposition.
However, former Universiti Teknologi Malaysia lecturer Azmi Hassan told FMT that despite the disharmony, the “old guard” is what makes the opposition formidable and said they must iron out any differences they have to present a united front if they hope to secure a win in the next general election.
“The opposition need to agree on who is their best choice for Prime Minister since this is the factor that is critical for people to have confidence that they can oust the government.”
He said players like Lim, Mat Sabu and Anwar have become synonymous with the opposition bloc so it was not wise to abandon them now, but emphasised that it was important to promote future leaders.
“What they need is new blood, but this doesn’t have to mean young politicians. Voters will typically have more confidence in familiar faces at the forefront of political parties, especially in the opposition.”
He said that with the opposition appearing “rudderless” the government had been speaking more openly about GE15 of late. He warned the opposition to act quickly in finding a leader who can both appeal to the people and reach across the aisle, identifying Anwar and Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the only candidates.
Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, agreed that there was an urgent need for opposition unity, and said the perseverance of long-standing leaders would likely be key to winning what he expects to be a fragmented election.
“Neither side of the grand political divide is likely to muster an outright majority in the next general election to form a stable government.
“As such, it is imperative for the ‘old guard’ to hold on to their conventional support bases, which would hopefully yield them a number of MPs and earn them a seat at the table of political negotiations to form possible coalition governments.”
While conventional wisdom would suggest the passing of the torch to a new generation of leaders, Oh doesn’t expect this to happen any time soon as he doesn’t see anyone with “both the charisma and the political skills” to unify the opposition and take up the mantle. – FMT