Pakatan Harapan rallies support with roadshows

It has been only two weeks since the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition lost its majority in Malaysia’s Parliament, but it appears to be already rallying voters for the next election, judging from its roadshow in Klang, Selangor, last night.

Hundreds gathered at an open field set up with tents and chairs in the residential area of Taman Sri Andalas to listen to PH leaders explain how its 21-month-old government was replaced by Perikatan Nasional (PN), an alliance formed by new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin with parties that were not part of the victorious PH pact at the last general election in May 2018.

The spirited speeches were peppered with rousing cries of betrayal and corruption, and tales of how PH “traitors” abused the mandate given to them by voters at the last election by deserting the pact and teaming up with rival parties to form a backdoor government.

Some among the multi-ethnic crowd were there to lend support, others to seek an explanation for the country’s week-long political crisis.

“Even though I am still angry with PH, I will try to listen and understand where they are coming from,” said IT executive Ramasammy Raj, 29, who said he largely voted for PH because of its leader and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The political crisis began on Feb 24 when Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and 10 lawmakers from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) left the PH coalition, causing it to lose its majority in Parliament and setting off a week-long search for a new prime minister who could form a government.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin, who was among those who left on Feb 24, was sworn in as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister the following week. He is backed by lawmakers from his Bersatu, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN), Parti Islam SeMalaysia and Gabungan Parti Sarawak. BN was defeated for the first time in the country’s history by PH at the 2018 polls.

“I feel cheated because I didn’t vote for Umno, MIC and MCA. Why are they part of the government now? We worked so hard to kick out corrupt leaders. Why are we being forced to be okay with them joining the new government?” asked Mr Ramasammy, referring to BN parties Malaysian Indian Congress and Malaysian Chinese Association.

The crowd was upbeat despite the rain, applauding, cheering and booing as PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution talked about Umno leaders who were facing graft charges in court.

“Muhyiddin’s biggest challenge is to find balance in his Cabinet. If he picks from Umno, he has Najib, Zahid and Ku Nan who have corruption cases against them. Ku Nan said RM2 million (S$661,000) was like pocket money, he has assets of RM1 billion,” he said, referring to Najib Razak, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

Still there were those who said they were jaded with the political squabbles that took place before PH’s ouster.

“I voted for them in the last election and have always supported PH, but I feel that they deserved this as they were too busy politicking and fighting instead of really trying to change things around for the rakyat (people),” said Mr Mohd Sani Ibrahim, a 54-year-old civil servant.

PH has insisted that it, and its leader, Tun Dr Mahathir, have the support of the majority of MPs, not Mr Muhyiddin or PN. It has said it will table a motion of no-confidence against Mr Muhyiddin when Parliament reconvenes in May.

In the meantime, however, PH is going to the grassroots to explain the debacle and corral support. Last night’s was its third roadshow so far.

Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute, University of Tasmania, said roadshows are a useful medium to engage with the masses as they form a two-way communication channel that allows the host to present its views directly to voters as well as get feedback.

When asked if PH could rally the people to its cause, he said: “In this case, it’s about a backdoor government and not about an individual, so it will work,” he said.

While most of the speeches focused on questioning PN’s legitimacy, Democratic Action Party leader and former transport minister Anthony Loke seemed to have one eye on the next general election when he listed the former government’s achievements.

“For the past 21 months, most of us were working on government policy to make life better for Malaysians.

“For example… Dr Dzul (former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad) was busy handling the Covid-19 outbreak… I was busy trying to cut the corruption especially in the road transport department… But some people said PH ministers were not performing. They’re right, because some of us were busy forming a backdoor government,” he said.


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