In only a short span of about 17 months, the newly elected Pakatan Harapan government in Malaysia is reeling like a punch-drunk boxer after a series of missteps and self-inflicted wounds from the friendly fire between coalition component parties.
The latest brouhaha stems from a stinging comment by DAP central committee member Ronnie Liu that has earned the wrath of prominent members of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Bersatu party.
A one-week ultimatum given by Bersatu’s youth wing head Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman calls for action to be taken against Liu, who is also Sungai Pelek assemblyperson. The call itself is an indication that the partnership in Pakatan Harapan is less than an equal one.
Liu, in his vitriol, accused the Malaysian Prime Minister of having a “penchant of ploughing through with his policies, even if they were at odds with Pakatan Harapan’s stand”, which he dubbed as ‘Mahathirism’.
The comment received an immediate response from Bersatu members, accusing Liu of going against the spirit of collective responsibility.
But, to be fair, certain actions and statements by the octogenarian have cast doubt on whether he is serious about righting past wrongs and getting Malaysia into a more even playing field.
According to Liu, Dr Mahathir is moving away from the coalition manifesto promises to make Malaysia a more multiracial in outlook. For example, he cited Dr Mahathir’s call on all members of other Malay parties to join Bersatu. Liu points out that Harapan component parties were moving towards more inclusive governance.
Mahathir, he said, was tearing away at the delicate social fabric that was painfully stitched together before the stunning May 2018 General Elections.
Liu, who has been called to appear before the DAP’s disciplinary body for his critical outburst, insists that he was targeting the prime minister’s actions and not any party in particular.
Accusing Mahathir of going back to “his old tricks again” Liu said the prime minister’s current actions reminded him of the time when “he declared Malaysia an Islamic state in order to try to out-Islam PAS.”
Meanwhile, several political analysts and academics have also warned that the Pakatan Harapan government risks the chance of being a one-term hit coalition, with the possibility of losing the next GE a very real prospect.
One academic, Professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid of Penang’s Universiti Sains Malaysia pointed to the recent Malay Dignity Congress where leaders from Berstau, Amanah and PKR joined hands with Umno and Pas bigwigs, while the DAP’s Liu hard-hitting comments, reflected conflicting and disparate notions about where Malaysia is to move.
Mahathir, while no stranger to criticism or controversy, seems to have the knack for stepping on toes of both friend and foe.
At the recent address at the United Nations General Assembly, Dr Mahathir accused India of invading Kashmir, provoking a possible trade war between the two erstwhile friendly nations.
Importers in India have urged their government to boycott Malaysian palm oil in retaliation for what they say is Dr Mahathir’s ignorance of Indo-Pakistan geopolitics.
And if the deed is done, Pakatan Harapan faces the wrath of local Malay smallholders in the Felda schemes as there will be a glut of the commodity, depressing prices and incomes further.
Meanwhile, Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs alluded to a power struggle that has been brewing since the coalition came to power between Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim, the Prime Minister in waiting.
Oh says, in a report, that supporters from both sides have been ratcheting up support for Mahathir to stay on for a full term and while Anwar’s supporters demand that he takes over as soon as possible.
Moreover, the political percussions from the two men have been so audible that the ordinary man is wondering if a transition is ever going to take place.
What all this simply means is that the shine of the once heroic and triumphant Pakatan Harapan, is coming off and coming off fast.
While Liu may have been a lone voice who had the gumption to speak his mind, indications from social media point that his frustrations at the inept way Pakatan is going about its affairs, is being shared by many within the coalition as well as the general electorate.
If this trend continues, barring another miracle, Pakatan Harapan can forget about retaining power at the Federal level as well as face losing the states captured in GE14.