If Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) president Muyiddin Yassin had signed the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-PPBM Cooperation Agreement at the PH Convention on Nov 12, 2016, as agreed earlier by both sides, today, we would already have an opposition coalition comprising four major opposition parties – PKR, DAP and Amanah (of PH) and PPBM.
The next step would have been for the coalition to negotiate with the other opposition parties.
Muhyiddin attended and spoke at the convention. According to him, he needed more time to look at the agreement and to further understand the three PH component parties.
The PH-PPBM Agreement comprises basic fundamentals that are already stated in the PH Agreement (signed on Jan 9, 2016), that is, supremacy of the Federal Constitution, Islam, Malays/Bumiputeras, Malay Rulers, Malay language, and Sabah and Sarawak.
Secondly, upholding the Reform Agenda. And thirdly, continue negotiating with other opposition parties to ensure one-on-one contests by the opposition coalition against Barisan Nasional (BN) in GE14 so that the opposition wins the election and forms a new government in Putrajaya.
PPBM chairman and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who delivered a forceful address at the convention, was more focused and firm. He said that PPBM is willing to join PH and reiterated his proposal for all opposition parties (who form the opposition coalition) to contest in GE14 using one logo.
According to Mahathir, if PAS does not join the opposition coalition, the party might sabotage the coalition.
What is definite is that the four parties – PH parties and PPBM – are committed to win GE14. Watching Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Lim Guan Eng, Mohamad Sabu and Muhyiddin seated in a row at the PH Convention, was like reflecting on the new Cabinet after GE14.
The convention was very loud in nominating Anwar Ibrahim as prime mnister of the new government. Because this was a PH convention, one would think that this was to be expected.
But, to put things in perspective, the convention participants nominated him not based on sentiments or emotions. There is ample evidence to support Anwar being a towering personality that deserves the nomination.
For example, in Johan Saravanamuttu’s book, Power Sharing in a Divided Nation, it is clearly documented that it is the “Anwar factor (aspirations and ideals) that sparked the Reformasi Movement, the birth of PKR and Pakatan Rakyat (replaced by PH), which have attracted many Malays and non-Malays, Islamists and democrats, social activists and NGOs, to enjoin the fray by openly espousing reformasi ideals, that cracked the edifice of Malay hegemony (especially Umno), which led to the participation of many new forces of civil society in political developments and electoral politics”, quite unlike what had occurred in the past. And the Anwar factor remains relevant until today.
But because Anwar will most likely not be able to contest GE14, hence, some are thinking of the possibility of naming a credible person as interim prime minister, that is, until such time when Anwar is able to hold the position.
This is something that, once officially formed, the opposition coalition should seriously deliberate.
The negotiation with other opposition parties must be guided by some principles, for example, idealism and timeline.
All parties must agree to a common aim, that is, to build a better Malaysia – a Great Nation – that is advanced, prosperous and happy, and to uphold the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and implement the Reform Agenda.
The opposition coalition must be committed to practise New Politics, including replacing the BN raced-based political configuration (“consociationalism”, “Bumiputera-dominant” and “Bumiputera/Muslim-dominant”) with a new configuration – “centripetalism” (multi-racial/cultural, centrist, inclusive, moderate and progressive).
The coalition must agree to a common policy framework that is based on shared-values, and that is comprehensive and concrete, including a Malay narrative that is better than what has been offered by Umno.
The framework must be premised on the needs and voices of the people. Since the people are subjected to suffer the effects of poor financial and economic policies, the coalition MPs should have voted against the BN’s Budget 2017.
The coalition must not repeat the policy frictions of Pakatan Rakyat’s time. At that time, PAS and DAP were not able to resolve their differences on, among others, hudud and local government elections.
This time, the opposition coalition must agree that they are not going to implement hudud and must bring back and hold local government elections.
Secondly, the negotiation must observe a timeline. I am appreciative of the fact that such negotiation is not easy. It cannot be carried out in haste.
However, it must not take too long a time because time is not on the opposition’s side. So, a specific timeline must be drawn – for example, to be completed by end of the year.
For both factors, there must be clarity of thought and decisiveness. There can be compromise, but not too much. Whatever is the final form of the opposition coalition, the reform agenda is premium, is not negotiable and must prevail, because it is the PH’s DNA.
At the grassroots level, the people and some PH activists are awaiting the completion of the negotiation with a lot of anticipation and some, with a bit of reservation.
When attending the Perak PH Convention on Nov 6, 2016, I heard many participants calling a particular opposition party, who is known for changing its position on major issues, including giving mixed signals as to whether it is an opposition or a pro-BN party – “Flip-flop Party”.
My worry is that, if PH is not decisive, there will come a day when the people will call PH – “Flip flop opposition alliance”.
Saifuddin Abdullah is chief secretary of Pakatan Harapan.