Analysts caution that Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) “big tent” approach to bolstering the opposition’s strength ahead of the 15th general election (GE15) will not be enough for an assault on Putrajaya without the support of Perikatan Nasional (PN) components despite the avowal of some PH leaders against such a pact.
Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said without Bersatu and PAS, PH’s fortunes would not change at the election.
Citing the recent state polls in Johor, he said it was clear that PH only had the support of the non-Malays.
“PH has lost its currency in Malay-majority seats,” he said. “PKR, especially, only won one seat in a Chinese-majority constituency.”
Earlier this week, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu said that any cooperation among political parties under the “big tent” approach should exclude those from Barisan Nasional (BN) or PN.
“It does not include alliances or cooperation with parties in the government, whether Umno, Bersatu or PAS,” he said, adding that there was “no way” that PH would work with “traitors” whom he said comprised those who had jumped ship to Bersatu and PN.
This differed from the stand taken by his deputy Salahuddin Ayub, who later urged PH leaders to “forgive and forget”.
BN was able to form the government in Johor with a two-thirds majority after winning 40 of the 56 seats in the legislative assembly.
PH won 12 seats, PN won three and youth-based party Muda won one.
Mujibu Abd Muis of Universiti Teknologi Mara said Mohamad’s comments were only representative of Amanah, adding that there was still space for the formation of a unity government.
“But time is running out, and if they want to do this, it must be done now,” he told MalaysiaNow.
He also said that PH’s “big tent” strategy would be the most effective if it involved all of the parties in the opposition.
“A straight fight with BN would be better than a fractured opposition front,” he said.
“Traitors, principles, personality clashes and differences in leadership – these are what complicate the formation of a ‘big tent’ approach.
“The question is, who wants to put aside their ego to make this happen?”
Mazlan meanwhile said there were too many “heads” in PH to allow an effective “big tent” approach.
Umno, on the other hand, did not appear to have weakened from its position at the 14th general election in 2018, he said.
“Umno has the edge because the opposition is split,” he said.
“If the opposition wishes to retake Putrajaya, it will need at least 20 to 25% of the Malay vote. And this will not happen without PN.”
Mujibu added that the “big tent” approach would not be enough on its own, saying the opposition would also need a strong and authoritative narrative to convince the people of its ability to form the government.
“PH was able to do this once but its performance as a whole was lacklustre,” he said.
“If there is a strong opposition pact at GE15, at least that will prevent split votes and give them a fighting chance against BN,” he added, recalling the results of the Melaka and Johor elections.
Support for BN was roughly similar at both elections, with the coalition winning 35 to 38% of the popular vote.
Mohamad had previously hit out at those who had decided ahead of time that PH would lose at GE15.
Although he did not mention names, he was believed to have been directing his comments at Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar who said PH would need 10 years to retake Putrajaya.
Mazlan said Nurul Izzah might have said this after seeing PH’s support from the Malay community.
In Johor, this stood at between seven and 10%. In other areas, Malay support for PH was below 7%.
“PH cannot go far on its own as it is relying on the non-Malay vote,” Mazlan said.