Now that the elections in the six states are over, public attention has shifted to Umno which performed dismally, winning only 19 of the 108 seats the party stood in. Much of the debate is on how Umno can rise again and its role in the Anwar Ibrahim administration leading up to GE16.
But the laser-like focus on Umno should not distract us from a more pressing concern: reforms within the unity government, particularly Pakatan Harapan (PH), to regain lost ground.
The reality is that Perikatan Nasional (PN) has made much headway. In fact, based on the results of Saturday's elections, not only did the Anwar-led coalition fail to capture the imagination of the Malay electorate, there's widespread, if latent, discontent among Malaysians at large. The poor voter turnout rate corroborates this sense of disillusionment and disappointment, including among the Chinese.
In other words, beyond reflecting on a future with a hobbled Umno, the unity government needs to also be honest about its own shortcomings, including within PH.
Start with the voter disillusionment as engendered by the low turnout in the polls. The current government can't keep winning elections by playing the role of the "lesser of the two evils".
It needs to pick up the pace on the reforms it has promised. But for now, all voters see is more of the same. Whatever happened to "no political appointments at GLCs and statutory bodies"? What is the roadmap to move away from race-based policies? Where is the blueprint to overhaul the education system?
Also, how does the government justify the use of draconian laws such as the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publication Act to silence dissent? How can MCMC be turned into a political pawn to quell critics, including from little-known political activists such as Salim Iskandar? How can a minister threaten to send a police radio car to the homes of TikTok trolls? We expected this from Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders, not PH.
For non-Muslims, the one advantage that the unity government had over the PAS-dominated PN is that the former is more moderate. But events in the past few months have started to chip away at Anwar's moderate image, culminating in the government's recent decision to ban Swatch timepieces that carry the LGBTQ theme as it is "prejudicial to morality".
This is the kind of senseless rhetoric one can expect to hear from turban-clad PAS leaders, not leaders from a so-called more moderate political bloc. And Anwar empowering Jakim? At this rate, PH-BN will out-Islamise PAS before the next general election. Had the BN government done this in the past, DAP leaders would have taken to the streets and asked for the PM's political head.
But DAP is now reduced to being MCA 2.0 as the party becomes more pliant to the whims and fancies of the subtle and overt Islamisation that is being rolled out in the Madani administration. Anwar and DAP are now confident that the non-Malays will continue to support the unity government as they continue to paint PAS and PN leaders as Taliban wannabes.
But this is not sustainable in the long run. We need systemic changes in the country and Anwar must show the courage to institute reforms that will benefit the country in the long run.
We do not need hypocrites performing tricks using smoke and mirrors. We need real democrats and reformists if the Anwar administration wants to win a second term. Otherwise, it will not just be Umno which risks being wiped out: the entire unity government may be given the boot come GE16 – or even earlier.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.