Hornbill Unleashed

May 5, 2017

Three essentials Harapan needs to win GE14

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:01 AM

The war bells have been rung. The machinery greased with money and the media choked by fear. Race and religion will once again be used as the silver bullets to take out Pakatan Harapan. Umno-BN’s forces are ready for battle. With PAS out of the fold, the critical question then becomes, is Pakatan Harapan ready to win in a three-cornered fight with Umno-BN and PAS?

I believe there are three essential ‘must dos’ to make Pakatan Harapan a possible government in waiting.

Before I start with the list, I’d like to give a short briefing on what the battlefield will look like. As we speak, the opposition is outnumbered by Umno’s machinery, outgunned by Umno’s money and exposed to a three-way fight which relatively benefits the ruling coalition. As expected, DAP will be made the boogeyman and anyone who allies themselves with the party will be seen as a complicit to the alleged weakening of bumiputra-Muslim rule.

The fact that Harapan is already labelled as ‘Pakatan DAP’ or ‘Pakatan Kit Siang’ is living proof of this.

Despite being outnumber and outgunned, the general sentiment is against Umno. Recent polls show that Umno’s popularity has dipped to record low of 40-45 percent (Merdeka Centre and Invoke). Issues like the increase in cost of living, systemic corruption and a huge influx of foreign labor are the electorally determinative issues according to multiple different polls.

If handled well, these advantages could easily be translated into ‘silver bullets’ to end BN’s grip on Putrajaya. Money and machinery can be defeated by creating a wave which is driven by issues. Notice how the Barack Obama campaign outpowered the cash-rich Mitt Romney campaign. Notice how Bernie Sanders who was outgunned by Hillary Clinton by a factor of 10-1 almost won despite being cash-strapped.

In Malaysia, we witnessed the first wave in 2008 where Umno-BN lost control of five states due to the rakyat’s anger against the ruling regime.

Harapan could win GE14 if they got their act together and minimise unnecessary self-inflicted disastrous blows which take away the negative limelight from Umno-BN. The room for error is exceptionally small when you are up against the well-funded BN machinery.

What are the three essentials?

1) A strong, popular, and conscientious Malay prime minister.

Let’s be clear. I am not in any way suggesting that we should make the ‘Malay as PM’ condition as a prerequisite in the constitution as suggested by PAS, instead I am making the utilitarian claim that this is absolutely necessary to win the election. Besides, DAP has openly declared that they’re not vying for the PM or DPM posts.

Some might argue that we shouldn’t name the PM as it may cause some loss of support from loyal opposition voter banks. Firstly, not naming one already makes the opposition look weak and indecisive. It also strengthens the belief that the opposition is fractured and could not be trusted to act as the government in waiting.

Simply put, “if Harapan can’t name a prime minister pre-election, what makes you think that they can agree to one post-election and not just self-destruct due disagreements then?”

Secondly, not naming one now also gives room to Umno to paint a false narrative that the PM-DPM will be from DAP. Even if it’s not from DAP, it will be a ‘weak Malay’ who’s the puppet of DAP. The uncertainty doesn’t help.

Thirdly and finally, naming a strong, popular and conscientious Prime Minister could potentially sway the masses to Harapan’s side. We saw how the naming of Mukhriz Mahathir as the MB in waiting during GE13 played a critical role in wrestling back Kedah from Pakatan Rakyat. We also witnessed how Anwar Ibrahim’s popularity in 2008 and 2013 played a huge role in the opposition’s gain in parliament.

However, I would like to make this clear. The prime minister must be selected by his/her popularity and potential. Do not just select someone because she is the wife of a jailed leader, or the former deputy prime minister. This decision should be driven by big data. It should be driven by ‘winnability’.

We need someone who can capture the aspiration of voters. Someone who has a track record of good governance. Someone who can stand on his/her own feet without the support of money, machinery and media.

I believe if this formula can be used, I am sure that we will get the prime minister in waiting we truly deserve.

2) A multi-racial shadow cabinet which is selected by skills and talent, not seniority.

The last thing we want to see is a group of old farts dominating the shadow cabinet which resembles Umno’s archaic power structure. The shadow cabinet should put national interest first over specific party interest. Just because someone is the vice-president of a party does not make him/her a good minister.

This shadow cabinet must provide a balance of new energetic faces with experienced members. Again, I suggest that a national poll be conducted and married with the condition of ‘expertise’ and ‘future investment’.

This shadow cabinet must provide the ‘oomph’ factor to the voters. This creates a unique buy-in which Umno-BN could never do. It’s a low hanging fruit. Use it!

3) A common manifesto, endorsed by technocrats and is solution-driven.

We’ve seen how Donald Trump’s policy platform was successful in moving millions to vote for him. Despite lacking actual concrete policies, he was able to articulate the concerns of the average American well and consequently providing easily understood solutions for the problems which he outlined. Immigrants? Build a wall. Islamophobia? Ban Muslims from travelling in.

Obviously we should not carbon copy his campaign. Take the good and remove the unrealistic elements. This just shows that being on the right platform can inspire millions while being on the wrong platform can dissuade even more. Donald Trump was trailing Hillary Clinton at more than 20-points at first, yet he still ended up winning the long political marathon with the right ‘manifesto’.

The last thing the opposition wants to do is to fall into the trap of running either a 100 percent unviable, practically impossible populist manifesto or an uninspiring plain manifesto.

The manifesto must focus on addressing the needs of the middle class Malaysians and draw the battle line at policy-issues, instead of religion and race. The manifesto must also provide concrete solutions and capitalise on the low hanging fruits. For example, freeing up the media, giving up more room to university students and civil society to speak up, not chaining down the civil service through fear and patronage, etc.

The manifesto must also release a clear roadmap on helping the bumiputra community, especially the Felda settlers and underprivileged Malays and Orang Asli. Let’s be realistic. Sweeping this issue under the carpet will just do more harm than good.

As we speak, Umno is claiming that DAP will abolish Mara, Felda and all Malay-dominant institutions. We need a reform-package to help those who need it. The fact that 42 percent of the Malay population determines 65 percent of the seats is indicative of the need to cater to this community.

I truly believe that Pakatan Harapan can make the impossible, possible. Put each other’s ego aside and focus on winning the election. ‘Winnability’ over ‘experience’ or ‘family patronage’. We can do this.


SYED SADDIQ SYED ABDUL RAHMAN is a part-time lecturer at Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) Malaysia and is Asia’s best debater, winning the United Asia Debate Championship in May 2015.
Source : @ Malaysiakini


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1 Comment »

  1. Najib is ignoring the ‘Elephant In the Room” with regards to the coming GE14 at national level where Sabah & the dissidents within Umno is going to push their way forward and break the Umno’s hold onto power!! He has instead going after Selangor day dreaming that It will be another ‘Perak’ to take!! Although Selangor has always been in a difficult situation, it is unlikely to see any changes in the status quo position in the near future..

    Comment by Hattan — May 5, 2017 @ 3:21 PM | Reply


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