Tuesday, September 29, 2020

DAP's preference for Atuk-ism has led to the end of Pakatan Harapan


The end of Pakatan Harapan

by James Chai

Guan Eng's declared (pro Mahathir) preference for Shafie has been a betrayal of Anwar

This is something everyone knows but no one wants to talk about: Pakatan Harapan is long dead. The coalition we know as Harapan today exists in name only; there are no substantive or strategic reasons to continue. After losing multiple by-elections by huge margins, and now, a state-wide election in Sabah, Harapan’s morale and support levels are at an all-time low.

Harapan’s mainstay is that they are victims of a treacherous act by a backdoor government. At the federal level and four state levels (Kedah, Melaka, Johor, Perak), the loose and informal Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition has taken power from Harapan, mainly through a series of defections.

While the moral claim and justice hymns were certainly valid from Harapan, they were not appealing to voters. The by-elections and the Sabah state election seem to indicate this. Voters seem to express a sense of regret and loss for having chosen Harapan in the past; that is why they are returning to the stable coalition of PN (a variation of the former BN coalition).

If Harapan was a car, its exterior, interior, and the road ahead seems broken. There is not much to hope for and it is running on its final few miles before it is taken to the scrapyard.

A broken exterior: The formula no longer works

This is usually what happens after Harapan suffers an electoral loss. Lose, post-mortem, business-as-usual, lose. Repeat. Even when they were in power, by-electoral losses were common but that did not create a real sense of urgency for the coalition beyond lip service.

The governance approach and campaign tactics stayed the same. They relied on this vague belief that people will somehow come to their senses and realise that Harapan was the best choice they had all along.

But this was not how voters saw it.

Harapan was built on a unifying factor of a common enemy. The good thing about not tasting power is that people have nothing to measure Harapan against. There was a freshness to its leadership lineup and many young reformists capitalised well on the contrast to Najib’s poor administration.

Harapan was so good at campaigning that in GE14 they walked away with an unprecedented victory. Many voters took the leap of faith and entrusted Harapan to run their lives. When the economy was bad, the cost of living was high, and good jobs were scarce, voters were willing to pass the baton for the first time to absolute newcomers.

But this leap of faith had a condition. Change must be made within a short timeframe. It could not be delayed or postponed; change must be seen and felt instantly.

Voters may be able to put up with 100 days, six months, or even a year. But 22 months is too long. And it is not wise to continue assuming that voters were impatient or ignorant of the upside of a new Harapan administration. No one has ever failed by overestimating the wisdom of the masses.

What used to be a conglomerate of the right talents and good timing, with similar origin stories of victimhood, quickly evolved into a marriage of convenience.

In Sabah, Harapan's opponents could be fragmented internally, fight in public, and sabotage one another – and still come up on top. This is indication enough that the Harapan formula simply does not work.

If the long-rumored snap general election is to be held by the end of this year or even in the first half of the next, most people would know that Harapan's opponents would win. The question is not whether they would win – but by how much.

Once we can accept that the current formula does not work, we would know that it is imperative for us to end Harapan and find a different formula. It is time to pivot.

A broken interior: No longer see eye to eye

Harapan's biggest fracture has always been the question of its prime minister candidate. At its inception in 2017, the issue of a Mahathir-Anwar transitional prime ministership dragged the coalition’s feet for several months.

Once they obtained power in May 2018, the internal conflict worsened. Every Harapan interview by the press would include similar questions of prime ministership. It did not help matters that the two men who were supposed to cooperate – Mahathir and Anwar – had a sour past from being archnemeses, and Mahathir changed his position on the prime ministership question regularly.

Even after Mahathir left the coalition in early 2020, Harapan has not resolved the question of prime ministership. Longtime friends PKR, DAP, and Amanah put their friendship on the line and chose other partners like Mahathir or Shafie Apdal to assume the position of prime ministership instead of Anwar.

This division gave rise to the first real fracture within Harapan. DAP adopted Warisan’s logo in the Sabah state election whereas PKR used its own. DAP had also stated their openness for Shafie to take the leading role in government, and this drove a wedge that is considered fatal to the working relationship of DAP, Amanah, and PKR.

Trust and camaraderie would forever be affected, especially between the personalities of Anwar, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, and Amanah president Mat Sabu who were once regarded as close friends in their common struggle.

A broken future: A fail-sure strategy

The only reason why Harapan partners still cling on to each other is the numbers they hold. With 42 seats from DAP, 38 seats from PKR, and 11 seats from Amanah, the collective of 91 seats is too close to power – they could not do without each other. Or so they presume.

The number of parliamentary seats is based on historical numbers – the events that happened on May 9, 2018. But things have changed substantially since then. And strategies ought to be built on forward-looking predictions rather than backward-looking former glories.

If we consider this, then it becomes even more obvious that Harapan could not be sustainable beyond this time.

A coalition that does not have winnable qualities or a believable track record does not make a good coalition. There is no point in maintaining Harapan if it does not have a good chance of winning the upcoming snap general election.

A broken formula, broken cooperation, and a broken future.

In life, most things stay the same. We are uncomfortable with changes because they uproot a lot of what we are used to and they take significant courage to admit something is much different than before. It takes a leader with an iron fist and a heart of steel to pivot.

But we don’t have leaders like that. That is why I said from the first sentence that this is something everyone knows but no one wants to talk about: The end of Pakatan Harapan.

JAMES CHAI is a legal consultant and researcher working for Invoke, among others. He also blogs at jameschai.com.my. You may reach him at jameschai.mpuk@gmail.com


  1. would dap support of anwar lead to a diff outcome?

    1. a very BIG 'Yes' - shows their values and not as cock-sucking Atuk acolytes - furthermore, showing themselves as morons for still believing in a treacherous evil man who eff-ed them kaukau

    2. what values? dap strength n grow is due to a split in umno, dari dulu sampai sekarang. most malay party know dap is just a lalang n pose no serious threat, so the fighting will continue. good or bad i dun know.

    3. U know ASAP?

      Or just her farts!

      Ask yr dangdut pals why r they so jumpy about things DAP, in & out of their monetary chase.

    4. like how ccp jumpy abt things taiwan, zombie need stimulus from time to time.

    5. Liken to u keep farting here & there about China just so yr crumby graving train ride can continue!

  2. DAP still has a chance, but Chye-Chye must go, really go, not hang on as DeFacto controller after he leaves the Sec-Gen post.

  3. KT's blog is now the unofficial DAP-bashing blog.....5-in-a-row.......ha ha ha....

    1. The Lims and their "inner cohorts" have brought it upon themselves for their loss of demo-socialist identity

  4. for all its warts and blemishes, dap is still the best party to keep the scoundrels in check, their imaginative fear is so intense their only wish is to obliterate its very existence wakakaka such numb nuts and of course they have people like kt to do just that

  5. Lessons learnt from Sabah election outcome.

    a) Most voters don't give a "F*k" about political infighting.
    GRS couldn't agree on a CM candidate from before to even after the election.
    GRS couldn't even agree on how the seats were to be apportioned .
    Multiple seats had multiple GRS candidates, one of the GRS candidates won the seats anyway.

    b) Most voters don't give a "F*k" about corruption.
    As long as the Abangs and Aunties get their BR1M crumbs that fall of the table, they will happily vote in the Kleptocrats. They even sing their praises to those as "caring leaders".
    Never mind those politicians helps themselves by using those elected position to steal billions