Parti Sosialis Malaysia's (PSM) and Pakatan Rakyat's relationship dilemma is a classic case of a non-reciprocal one-sided relationship. Both parties have got an overarching common objective of ousting the current Umno regime. Other than that, it's a "dog-eat-dog" or "big fish eats small fish" world out there.
The current first past the post voting system favours big political parties. Small non-aligned political parties like PSM, Star, Kita or independent candidates have to kowtow (bow down) to the big guns for a safe passage to stand a chance of winning in the election. The bigger parties will always call the shots and they are the one who decide who they prefer as their candidates at the gazetted constituencies.
This is the political reality that the current voting system has created.
Pakatan’s true colours were revealed during the pre-GE13 seat allocations kerfuffle between them and PSM in Semenyih, Jelapang, Sungai Siput and Kota Damansara when they did not fully accept PSM as part of their party unless it suited them.
D Jeyakumar and Nasir Hashim were forced to back down on using the PSM logo and run under the PKR ticket during the seat negotiations prior to the GE13. S Arutchelvan and P Saraswathy's candidacies were outright rejected in favour of Pakatan's own candidates. This proves that if they are to join Pakatan, it will be done conditionally.
PAS president Hadi Awang acted unilaterally as he fielded his own party's candidate, thus forcing a three-way fight at Kota Damansara which cost a Pakatan seat.
The electoral system that we are adopting at the moment is the main cause of this type of problem. In my article, "Candidates work for folk, not the other way around" I have briefly explained the preferential voting system in a letter to the editor pre-GE13.
Pakatan’s utter disregard for PSM's dedicated and hard grassroots work in the disputed constituencies in the last GE13 makes it clear that there is not much of a relationship in the first place. The unfortunate part of democracy is that you need to get a sizeable following and are able to win some seats to get an impact and their respect.
I suggest PSM should adopt the "save qi" (save your breath) formula in its dealings with Pakatan. After all, there are only limited things that a person can do in one's own capacity as a political activist. The relationship problem will persist as long as we are adopting the current first past the post voting system.
Wasting energy in arguing over who did the right thing; asking more questions on why PSM was rejected; or even if PSM was accepted as part of the Pakatan pact - the same problem of in-fighting over whose party candidate is winnable for a particular constituency will still be there in any given election.
The one question that PSM needs to ask: What is the political reality at this point in time?
If this question is asked frequently in all future dealings with Pakatan, then we can all work efficiently to deal with enemy number one: Umno. If we continuously argue over what we have gone through and who is right or wrong, we only harbour ill will against each other and in the long run we will fail dismally in the task of unseating Umno from Putrajaya.
Mind you the arguments put forth are generally the same. The difference is there will be different players at different general elections that cause the rift when it comes to seat allocations.
Post GE 13 has shown to us that the "political reality at this point in time" is a united front to unseat the Umno regime. Many independents including Saraswathy lost their deposits. Arutchelvan managed to garner a sizeable amount of votes away from the PKR candidate and directly contributed to BN's win at the Semenyih seat.
It is great that Arutchelvan managed to effectively thumb his nose on PKR’s Azmin Ali, who called the shots in fielding his henchman in the Semenyih seat. The seat loss taught Azmin a lesson for not respecting Arulchelvan's years of hard work in that constituency. That lesson was the only good thing that emerged from the three-cornered fight.
Insisting to field a PSM candidate that forces a three-cornered fight just to prove a point that you are relevant is akin to political suicide. There are more important areas to focus on, like expanding PSM’s membership.
If PSM believes that expanding the membership is best done through participating in an election to sell the PSM brand and logo, then running as ADUNs in Selangor and Penang is the only viable option as both states seem to be Pakatan’s strongholds.
Seat losses suffered by Pakatan may not necessarily have an overall impact on them at the state level. Running in Perak can tip the balance on who wins the state government and can have a disastrous effect on Pakatan's chances to rule the state.
It is best for PSM to save energy and give way if there is a three-cornered fight at the national level because the political reality at this point in time is to oust BN from Putrajaya.
In a future event of a changed government, the political reality at that point in time will be different. The next best campaign for PSM is to form a united front with all the smaller political parties, civil liberty groups and NGOs who sympathise with the idea of "grassroots participatory democracy" to lobby for a preferential voting system.
After the successful installation of the preferential voting system, PSM may field as many candidates as they like as it works in favour of smaller parties. Fielding many candidates does not hinder the outcome of the election result because the preferential voting system counts every vote. In other words, no candidate's votes are wasted.
It's best to have a preferential voting system because the big political parties will be forced to listen to you when you have sizeable votes that dictate the winner of the contesting seat. It also brings the political horse-trading down to the electorate and grassroots level.
Waiting for a more accommodating leadership that tailors to the aspirations of small political parties under our current voting system is a waste of time.
The preferential voting system is more sympathetic to smaller political parties and minorities. It encourages a genuine healthy "participatory democracy” and promotes diversity of political beliefs instead of hegemony.
PSM has set high standards such as declaring personal assets to the public annually for future politicians to follow. There will be no parachute candidates; their candidates have to work at that particular constituency for a minimum of five years before running for a seat.
PSM’s tireless and selfless service to the poor and marginalised earns them the title of the "real down to earth hard working and honest politicians of our time". Pakatan has a lot to learn from PSM in these areas if they accept PSM.
PSM is relevant by virtue of their principles and their consistency in their political stand and beliefs.
There will be no hard feelings if Pakatan rejects PSM as PSM has always worked independently before Pakatan's existence. Their target audience are different. People who are attracted to PSM are quiet achievers.