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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sinar buat Pakatan Rakyat???

Pakatan Rakyat’s glass is half full

MARCH 13 — The past two years have been a unique time in Malaysian history.

After the three opposition parties decided three weeks after their electoral successes on March 8, 2008 to cement their cooperation by forming the Pakatan Rakyat (PR), expectations ran high that Malaysian governance would now have to improve radically.

With five (now four) northern states under the PR, conditions seemed right for policy competition between two opposing coalitions to commence. This would hopefully reverse the hubris, the arrogance, the corruption and the racialism that decades of Barisan Nasional (BN) rule had fostered.

The wind was in the PR’s sails. But it soon became clear that such things were not going to change that easily.

For 13 months, former Premier Abdullah Badawi clung on to power. And despite the fact that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s threat to take federal power by Sept 16, 2008, proved empty, the BN showed little ability to turn the tide.

The United Malays National Organisation (Umno) attempted to put a wedge between PR members by holding clandestine talks with certain leaders of the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), but failed.

Indeed, the improbable PR held its newly-acquired positions because the BN remained confused.

Looking back, PR was at its peak after Anwar regained his seat in Parliament at the Permatang Pauh by-election on Aug 26, 2008. However, already looming in the background was the sodomy allegation made two months earlier by a former aide against him.

It was only after then-Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak took over the Umno leadership in Perak state last January that the BN regained the initiative, in dramatic though dubious fashion.

Through three defections from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP), it managed to grab power in the state from PR.

As if as an immediate reward for Mr Najib, Umno’s Supreme Council quickly cleared the way for him, and forced Mr Abdullah to resign by early last April.

As if they knew that the wind would soon shift against them, PR leaders petitioned the King to stop Mr Najib from being appointed Mr Abdullah’s successor. They failed.

The new Premier quickly took some highly-publicised moves to release some Internal Security Act detainees, and carried out some reforms to encourage foreign investors into Malaysia. He also adopted a soft line where inter-ethnic and inter-religious ties were concerned. His slogan of One Malaysia, though roundly ridiculed, won him some points, especially among fence sitters.

His party, however, exhibited hardline traits at the same time. This heightened inter-communal tension, which had been fed by a series of events such as the death of DAP aide Teoh Beng Hock and the continued ban on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, followed by attacks on churches.

Umno’s regaining of the initiative has thus been a mixed affair. It weakened the PR, but at what could be great cost to inter-ethnic peace.

While the three opposition parties, despite their troubles, are still working together, Umno’s allies have not developed any strategy to regain lost ground. At the moment, a major crisis consumes the Malaysian Chinese Association. Protracted internal strife has led to new party elections being called for March 30.

Despite BN members suffering electoral defeats because of their excessive diffidence towards Umno, they are as yet unable to formulate a strategy that can reverse their falling fortunes.

Big Brother Umno continues to pull the load, and BN reliance on it grows stronger by the day. This situation may yet be the ruling coalition’s Achilles’ Heel come next election, especially on the peninsula.

Just in time for the second anniversary of the March 8 success, PKR lost its morally important position as the largest opposition party when three of its MPs defected, and it jettisoned maverick Kulim MP Zulkifli Noordin from its ranks for being more trouble than he was worth.

And Anwar’s sodomy case continues to wear him down.

But despite all this, PR’s great achievement is that it is still around, and it is still governing four states. The thing that PKR and its allies have going for them is their joint attempt to transcend racialist policy-making. This is what will secure for them a strong and loyal voter base.

Mr Zulkifli’s sacking, the delay of which was hurting Anwar’s moral leadership, acts as a clear sign that the PKR is prepared to stick to its pluralistic agenda.

To mark the second anniversary of the March 8 “political tsunami”, the DAP, PAS and PKR released a report showcasing their performance.

Whether this report is accurate or not, the mere fact that they are still working together against headwinds tips the overall judgment in their favour.

The PR’s glass is half full, not half empty.

source - The Malaysian Insider