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In the wake of their disastrous performance in recent state elections, non-Barisan Nasional (BN) party leaders appear to be involved in frantic efforts to forge a broad-based coalition to stop BN. PPBM chief Muhyiddin Yassin reportedly went hat in hand to Tun Dr Mahathir to ask for support.[1] PAS president Hadi Awang indicated that he too would like to sit down with Mahathir.[2] In the meantime, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim admitted that he and Muhyiddin had had discussions as well.[3] And that’s only what’s been made public.

There are, of course, genuine concerns about UMNO regaining power. Many worry that all those UMNO leaders now facing trial on multiple charges of corruption, criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power might walk free. That would be disastrous for Malaysia. UMNO’s return would also mark the end of all hope for reform. 

But is a broad coalition of non-BN parties a good idea? Can it bring stability, good governance and the kind of reforms that the nation so badly needs? 

Look closely at some of those non-BN leaders involved – their histories and their motives – and it will become quickly obvious that they are nothing more than a bunch of ambitious, quarrelsome, vainglorious, self-centred and unprincipled men – losers all – contemplating a coalition of convenience simply to gain power. Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal, the PPBM youth chief gave the game away when he said, “We have all tasted power, and we miss it”.[4]

GE15 cannot be only about stopping BN. Stopping BN was precisely the rationale Mahathir used in GE14 to get everyone to fall into line. And we know how that turned out. If there’s one takeaway from recent history, it is that coalitions of convenience don’t last and cannot provide the kind of stability that the nation so desperately needs. It merely postpones the day of reckoning. 

Even when there’s a shared purpose – as in Pakatan Harapan – coalitions are notoriously difficult to manage; just look at all the infighting going on within PH. It will be next to impossible to manage when it involves the likes of PPBM, PAS and Pejuang. They cannot even agree amongst themselves; how will they get along with PH? It may be good for ambitious men but it offers nothing to the long-suffering citizens of Malaysia.

Truth be told, PPBM, PAS and Pejuang are all Ketuanan Melayu parties divided only by rancorous personalities.  None are committed to a genuinely multiracial and inclusive nation. None can legitimately claim to have stood firmly against corruption. None have much of a record when it comes to good governance. They are no different from UMNO.

They’ve had plenty of chances to act with honour, to govern with integrity, to lead with justice; they’ve failed miserably. Worse still, they have shown no remorse for their past misdeeds, no sign that they have learned from their mistakes, no indication that they have changed. They talk about stopping UMNO now but it was their ambition, double-dealing, and unprincipled behaviour that enabled UMNO to make a comeback. They have no right to appeal for help to stop UMNO now.

PKR leader and PH chief Anwar Ibrahim hasn’t said much about the proposal but judging by the comments of his close confidant, party secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution, he appears open to the idea. It would be a colossal mistake. 

Anwar should have no illusions that any pact – formal or informal – with all these Ketuanan Melayu parties will result in a revolt among PH supporters. It will do irreparable damage to what’s left of his political credibility and confirm suspicions that it’s all about his ambition to become prime minister no matter the cost to the nation. 

PH should remain committed to its reform agenda and its inclusive approach to nation-building even if it means going it alone. There’s still time for PH to get its act together. The return of Rafizi and Nurul Izzah is already beginning to re-energise PKR. If Rafizi becomes deputy president in next month’s polls, he can take up the slack and make up for Anwar’s shortcomings. It might not be enough to win the next general election, but it could deny BN the all-important two-thirds majority and position PH as a strong, united and credible opposition going forward. 

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 12th April 2022]

[1] ‘Backstabber’ Muhyiddin asked for my support to be PM again: Mahathir, Malaysiakini, 01 April 2022

[2] Now Hadi wants to meet Dr M to discuss PAS-Pejuang cooperation, FMT, 01 April 2022

[3] We met with Muhyiddin, but not to discuss him becoming PM, says Anwar, The Star, 02 April 2022

[4] Muhyiddin-led grand coalition could pave way out of political gridlock: Wan Fayhsal, The Vibes, 06 April 2022