To say that Pakatan Harapan (PH) supporters are cautiously optimistic over the chances of the coalition to rejuvenate itself given the development in the last few weeks might be an understatement.
Crippled by the string of defeats in the Sabah, Melaka, Sarawak and Johor state polls, the one-time federal government has been licking its wounds ever since its collapse at the federal level in early 2020.
Fresh from the hammering they got in the recently concluded Johor state polls this month, another familiar face returned to the fray.
This was in the form of former Pandan MP and vocal opposition member Rafizi Ramli, arguably one of the architects in orchestrating the downfall of the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government in the 14th general election (GE14).
A prominent figure in PH, Rafizi himself could not contest in GE14 after finding himself in trouble with the law.
This was because of some banking laws he had allegedly run afoul of in the course of his revelations in the National Feedlot saga years prior.
Rafizi, though, featured in many Pakatan ceramahs and was well received by the opposition supporters at the time. He had decided that he will return to politics and confirmed he would be contesting for the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president post in the coming party election. He had contested for the post in the end of 2018, aligning himself with party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Suffice to say that the party election was a bloodbath and while his opponent Datuk Seri Azmin Ali managed to retain the PKR deputy president post in the election, it had fractured the party.
Try as Anwar and Rafizi did, they could not dislodge Azmin – who proved to have solid grassroots support from his faction, including in Sarawak.
Azmin has since defected from PKR, a move which was partly responsible in triggering the collapse of PH from the federal government dubbed the Sheraton Move.
In Rafizi now, party supporters view him as saviour with his timely return, especially amid the criticism faced by Anwar.
Anwar’s decision for PKR to go solo, using its own logo in the past few state elections has proven futile. The party had won zero seats in Melaka and Sarawak – with them winning only one seat in the Johor election.
In this aftermath of the string of defeats by the coalition, other component party leaders have instead called for a big-tent approach.
This means that PH parties need to work with other opposition parties like PEJUANG, MUDA and WARISAN.
Others even suggested that they join forces with Perikatan Nasional (PN) – which makes up part of the federal government.
Their argument was that a united opposition would be effective in swinging the votes in their favour. Rafizi, instead, opined the opposite – that PH must disregard the big-tent approach and go solo. Whether this will be effective or otherwise, is anyone’s guess.
Similarly, for Democratic Action Party (DAP) supporters, it too had reason to be optimistic. The reign of the so-called Lim Dynasty – a tongue-in-cheek reference to Lim Guan Eng and his father, Lim Kit Siang – has apparently come to an end. In the recent DAP convention, Guan Eng had to vacate his secretary-general post after in power for 18 years.
He was replaced by Anthony Loke. Loke was among the few PH ministers who emerged from the short tenure in federal government with any credit. He was dubbed as the future of DAP – and alongside him are younger DAP leaders who are expected to inject fresh impetus in the opposition party. Whether the Lims – Guan Eng who was elected national president and Kit Siang, who retired from politics altogether – will not interfere in the running of the party, that too remains anyone’s guess.
My view is that PH’s problems run deep and could not be solved by the change of leadership alone by its backbone parties – PKR and DAP.
They now lost the Tun Dr Mahathir Muhamad factor after the former prime minister and PH chairman decided to form PEJUANG – his new party, away from the coalition. They are also fast losing the Anwar factor – the bout of unpopularity of the current PH chairman has marred the credibility of the coalition.
The anti-Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak sentiment has also waned. PH has to reinvent itself and the only way to do that is to do some soul-searching and possibly by the inclusion of newer leaders, it would enable them to do that.