Observers: PH’s old guard in denial, won’t move aside

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Veterans unlikely to make way for new blood.

Pejuang’s Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said he will not stand anymore in elections but the remaining opposition leaders are in denial and are showing no signs of passing on the mantle to younger leaders, political observers said.

Following the opposition’s humiliating defeat at the Johor polls, these veteran leaders should know their time is up and step aside for new blood to take over, they said.

But that, political observers said, is easier said than done.

Knowing these veterans, it is almost unlikely for them to step down and make way for new blood, they said.

Analysts told The Malaysian Insight that Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders would continue to deny any shortcomings in their failure last week and would continue to lead their respective parties into the 15th general election.

The best they could come up with after the latest defeat was to call all parties to self-reflect and unite to face Barisan Nasional (BN) in the general election.

In last week’s polls, BN claimed a supermajority in the Johor elections, winning 40 out of 56 state seats. PH, with only DAP and Amanah, won 11, while PKR, which used its own logo, won one.

Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) won three seats, with the former prime minister describing themselves as “underdogs”. Youth-based party Muda, an ally of PH, won one seat.

None of the other new parties, including Dr Mahathir’s Pejuang and PKR splinter Parti Bangsa Malaysia, won any seats. All their candidates lost their deposits.

Ilham Centre, a think tank that has carried out numerous studies and research on voter sentiments, said PH leaders are suffering from denial syndrome as they have failed to acknowledge the mistakes they committed in Malacca and Sarawak elections.

Its executive director, Hisommudin Bakar said that as much as he wanted the old faces to go, it would be pointless to make such a suggestion, considering how far off the leaders are from reality.

He pointed his fingers at PKR president and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng and Amanah’s Mohamad Sabu.

“PH leaders have to look back at all decisions they made in Johor. Clearly, they have failed to understand the voters’ needs,” Hisommudin said.

“What they did was recycle the old narrative when voters were already bored with the same old issues. PH did not address internal bickering and did not address current issues such as rising food prices. Even during their ceramah, no leader spoke on this issue.

“The second biggest mistake was using a different logo. It was a decision that was baseless in the first place. Anwar bowed to pressure from his party to use its logo. It was a selfish move and it backfired badly.

“If Anwar and his counterparts took anything from Malacca or Sarawak polls, they would not have done so poorly in Johor.

“So, they didn’t learn anything from the defeats suffered in Malacca and Sarawak. As much as I want them to go, these leaders may opt to stay and deny any weaknesses.”

Hisommudin said if these leaders were responsible, they would have resigned but there is no point in stressing this because they are in denial.

They will stick with what they believe is “right”, said Hisommudin.

While Anwar and company can stay on, they must allow different voices to speak up, he added.

In the 2018 general election, BN won only 19 seats in Johor and PH formed the state government for the first time.

However, since then BN has taken back Bekok, Serom, Bukit Naning, Yong Peng, Paloh, Pulai Sebatang and Pekan Nanas.

BN also reclaimed Pemanis, Tenang, Bukit Pasir, Gambir, Larkin and Bukit Permai from PN.

For Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Dr Mazlan Ali, Anwar and the likes of Kit Siang, Guan Eng, Mohamad and even Mukhriz Mahathir from Pejuang, must let new faces have a say in their respective parties.

He said this does not mean the veterans must step down but rather allow young blood to take over in the decision-making process.

Mazlan said that the opposition parties in PH did not communicate well during the Johor elections.

“There was no communication among opposition parties. In fact, within PH itself there was no coordination. They were focused on their own parties – PKR with PKR, DAP with DAP and Amanah with Amanah.

“Issues used were again the same, hence voters got bored. These leaders must change their roles. Not step down, but allow others such as Rafizi (Ramli), Nurul Izzah Anwar, Anthony Loke to name a few, to make the calls.

“Sometimes, we as voters want something new. Like when you eat, you don’t eat the same dish everyday. Before it is too late, PH needs to change. Let this be their last exercise before the 15th general election,” Mazlan said.

Change may be harder than it looks

James Chin of Tasmania University agreed on the need to have a transitional change of leaders but stopped short of explaining the move, saying it may be harder to implement.

He said that while PH has many young talented leaders, it will not be easy for fresh faces to move out from the shadows of their predecessors.

“It is interesting when it comes to who should step down.

“Key leaders like Anwar must go. Kit Siang, although not having any position is still influential, and Guan Eng is to be replaced by Loke and Mat Sabu is still there. What we need is a leadership transition.

“They have to make an announcement for newcomers to come in, in the next few months. But this is hard in the Malaysian context. Normally leaders would sabotage new leaders who are coming in and the number (of young leaders) is limited.

“For example, in DAP, there are many talented leaders but it is hard to get away from the Lim family. They are just too influential.”

Chin said PH needs to expand.

“They need a core Malay party to attract Malay voters in the rural areas. The big tent concept will not work. They need to create a new alliance and drop PH. The name (PH) is probably out of date,” he added. – TMI