Analysts and observers are a bit too quick to dismiss the Pakatan Harapan government as lame, untrustworthy or not fulfilling their promises.
They are, on most counts, the same analysts who got it all wrong in May 2018. Most of them, if not all of them, got a slap in the face when they had to accept the PH victory.
It took them a long time to digest the shock defeat of the Barisan Nasional and it is, in effect, still not accepted by many of these analysts, commentators and opinion shakers. They are crossing fingers with the hope the PH collapses like a sand castle that will allow the BN to reconstruct its government with frogs from the PKR, in particular.
Though this could be a pipe dream for Najib Razak and consorts, in the end, what matters is for the PH to deliver.
The PH is finding it difficult to rule as a government. For many of them – the likes of the DAP and the ex-PAS as well as for those who left Umno or the BN decades ago, it is an accumulation of between 20 and 60 years of opposition to the BN that has hardened their skin. They are still behaving like opponents to the regime, even when they are now in power, or walking the corridors of power.
Some came up with ideas that tore the country apart with the ICERD, threatening to quit the PH coalition if the ‘reformasi’ agenda is not carried out to the letter.
But for some in the PH – indeed for those in the Bersatu of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Warisan of Shafee Apdal, it is the adaptation to the reformist agenda that is tough. It is a return to the Umno-era that is expected, that is. non-transparent tenders, government handouts to political factions and cozy roles in government linked companies.
Meanwhile, the country is facing a crisis of confidence and this is now exploited both by local and foreign observers who are saying there is a fall in popularity of the ruling coalition which is posing a risk to the country’s unity.
Fitch Solutions – which became a dubious assessor of Malaysia at the height of the 1MDB scandal during Najib’s reign – is now vouching for a drop in popularity of the PH in the coming months.
“Not just because its honeymoon period with voters is almost over, but also due to its policies and public displays of disunity,” said Fitch.
A defeat at the hands of the BN at the Cameron Highlands has jilted the PH and its supporters. They are expecting better results at the Semeniyh by-elections in March. A mighty battle on, with the electoral commission battling against a court hearing on its legitimacy and the police sending a total of 1,115 police officers and personnel to maintain the peace in the sleepy hollow.
Beefed-up with its Cameron Highlands victory, the Umno-BN will be looking to see if its alliance with the Islamist PAS is a sustainable enterprise.
The state seat was won in the 14th general election by the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), but it will be tougher this time for Bersatu with the Umno-BN-PAS coalition assured of a larger share of the votes with their combined efforts to hit the PH in the flanks.
But Fitch said there is a strained unity among the PH coalition that could be further tested, with rising risks of a ‘dissolution of the coalition’ on the cards.
“The already strained unity of the coalition could be further tested and while a dissolution of the coalition is not our core view, the risks are rising.
Fitch’s view is that the PH coalition runs the risk of a drop in its popularity over the coming months due to three reasons, and that, in turn, poses a further threat to the fragile unity that holds four parties with divergent visions for Malaysia together.
But the PH is addressing the living cost issue which Fitch says is a major risk over which the government will lose support.
But the PH will have to deal strongly with its display of public disunity. This is another major issue for the PH where there are too many bosses issuing public statements to the media.
The PH government is also at risk with the electorate’s disillusionment with the idea that the PH government will usher in a ‘New Malaysia’ with a greater degree of racial equality, says Fitch.
That is not all. Fitch also said the PH is going about the wrong way. It said attempts by the PH to right the fiscal ship might prove politically costly in the end.
That is mostly because the government cannot keep harping at Najib’s errors and blunders to save themselves in the eyes of the public.
The PH government came to power promising to improve the economic status of Malaysians for whom high costs of living were a key issue in the run up to the 14th general elections held on May 9, 2018, says Fitch.
It cites the rising oil prices as a challenge for the PH. The coalition promised it will cut down the price of fuel once it is in power. Beyond the arguments that it is all about a loose-manifesto, the PH has the moral responsibility to give back to the people on this promise.
There is no way out for the PH on this matter, and it is perhaps up to ‘Invoke’ to propose a ready-made solution that will bring down fuel prices in Malaysia. After all, Malaysia is an oil producing country and this oil belongs to the people, not to the government.
But what about the tollgates? If the PH cannot remove all the tolls in the country, it can at least reduce the tollgate fees. Is that so difficult?