By now the Cabinet has been appointed and while there are fresh faces, no one I have spoken to expects any drastic changes from the norm especially as Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is bound to face pressure from Umno delegates at the forthcoming Umno general assembly.
We seem to be going from one election to another and delaying much needed change accordingly. And as everyone knows by now, Umno delegates don’t at all represent the common voice of the Malays but posture to make it appear as if they do.
Thus it was that when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi got a massive mandate from the people in the 2004 elections, obtaining over 90 percent of parliamentary seats, he refrained from taking measures he promised because his advisers told him there will be a backlash from Umno delegates.
Ah, well, history repeats itself, especially when you don’t learn from it, and one can expect the pressures from within Umno to stop any push towards major change which will benefit the country as a whole without descending into the morass of race, religion and language.
For Pakatan Rakyat, very much still in opposition, the fight continues in earnest. But if it wants to wrest Putrajaya from Barisan Nasional, there are a number of things it has to do and its de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim will have to bear these in mind.
Pakatan would have made much more headway in the elections just past if they had focused on even half of this. But no matter, there is always still time and it is necessary to build on the gains if Malaysians are to see the two-party system emerge.
To my mind, a two-party system emerges only when there has been at least one change of power. That has not happened yet and here is our list of 10 things that Anwar must do if he wants a fair chance of Pakatan forming the next government.
This follows upon our list of 10 things that Najib must do if he wants BN to win again which we highlighted last week.
1. Accept the election results or challenge it in court soon
The elections are over. We all know about election fraud. If there is any, pull out the evidence and take it to the courts. Or forever remain silent and move on to the future. Yes, by all means take steps to stop gerrymandering if you can but there is no point lamenting endlessly that some constituencies have many times the number of constituents than others. Take over government and change that.
2. Stop the 505 rallies
There is no point going around the country complaining about election fraud now. If it’s the intention to mobilise effort, it is much better to do so later when Pakatan has reorganised itself along the lines we have suggested. Then it will serve a purpose because you can tell the people what Pakatan is going to be doing in terms of the next elections and get their buy-in and support.
3. Focus on the next election
The question on most people’s lips post-election is: What now for Pakatan? How is it going to win the next election? That’s what the focus should be for Pakatan – the next election and how it plans to win it. Obviously it can’t win without support from Sabah or Sarawak and obviously it can’t win without more support from rural areas in peninsular Malaysia. That will be the two points Pakatan must address plus hold on to current seats.
4. Devise a strategy for Sabah and Sarawak
Clearly the Sabah and Sarawak strategy is not so great. Contesting under the banners of peninsular parties in the eastern states is a recipe for disaster outside of the handful of highly urbanised areas. There is a great need for grassroots organisation and for people who can work that. That can come only from local people and local parties. Pakatan needs to find such people and parties, not easy yes, but impossible to make inroads otherwise. They wasted five years earlier, better not waste another five.
Here’s something that can be promised Sabah and Sarawak if Pakatan comes to power – a deputy prime minister (say two and half years each) from the two states.
5. Think about reaching out more to the rural areas
Yes, BN won with less than the popular vote, yes Pakatan had the majority of votes but everyone knows about rural seats being smaller in terms of number of constituents. It’s been that way always with changes to the Federal constitution to make the difference worse. So what is Pakatan doing to get the rural vote? Bad government is out as Kedah has shown. PKR needs to work the ground much more, while DAP and PAS need to widen their appeal to different communities instead of steadfastly remaining in their own pockets of strength. If rural votes are over-represented it makes good strategic sense to go and put more efforts there.
6. Announce the candidates list for the next election now
Pakatan needs drastic change too. Why not make the bold and unprecedented move of announcing their entire slate of candidates – state and parliamentary seats – say six months from now and by as much as four and half years before the next election. That will give all their candidates a long enough time to work the constituency and for the aspiring wakil rakyat to shake hands with his constituents at least once before elections. Imagine the kind of competitive advantage that a move like that will give Pakatan and the kind of opportunity to work the ground, which will be the key determinant of the results of the next election.
7. Announce a full shadow Cabinet at federal and state level
Follow up number six above with an announcement of the full state and federal cabinet line-up, including for prime minister and deputy prime minister/s and chief ministers. That is a fantastic way to keep the current government in check by offering constructive criticism, suggestions and where necessary brickbats for measures that may be taken. That also signals to the general public that there is enough cohesiveness in the opposition coalition to form a viable, reasonable government. Do these two within six months.
8. Spell out in one clear voice how you will be different
Really, we can’t have PAS saying it wants an Islamic state and hudud and DAP talking of a Malaysian Malaysia. Focus on the common things that everyone wants and think about what it is the people themselves want. And think about what is right and wrong from a moral and ethical point of view. Evolve this common platform, everyone stick with it and move on and away from these contentious issues between the coalition partners.
The trick is to take a common stance on substantive issues and where there is little likelihood of a change in positions, simply compromise. PAS is not likely to get hudud and the official religion will be Islam nevertheless – just live with that. To go into an election with mixed messages is dangerous for everyone.
9. Make a clear stance on corruption and education
After the last election, Anwar promised to overthrow an elected government with a majority of 28 seats by getting frogs to jump parties. That’s clearly wrong. Take a firm stance against both criminal and moral corruption and stick with it come what may. The moral compass must always point in the right direction.
Similarly, education is not to be played around with for political purposes as has been done in the past. Indications are clear that most Malaysians want the quality of English to improve, for instance. Yet, Pakatan has not supported the teaching of Maths and Science in English in a clear concession to pressure groups. Good education must not be compromised for political expediency.
10. Work with the government where you can
There are times when the government does good things. There is much to support in the government and economic transformation programmes. Where it is good, there is no harm but every benefit in supporting it wholeheartedly. Pakatan should seek to work together with the government actively and cultivate good relations with the federal government for the benefit of the three states it controls. So long as it does not compromise on its own, hopefully high ideals and principles, that should be fine.
If Pakatan assiduously puts these suggestions into practice, then it has a better than even chance of winning the next time around, especially if Najib does nothing about his list of 10.