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'Serious trouble' for Harapan after PKR-DAP clashes

S'WAK POLLS | ANALYSIS The clashes between Pakatan Harapan candidates from PKR and DAP in six seats after nominations closed today for the Sarawak polls are a sign of serious trouble within the opposition coalition, an analyst says.

Political analyst Prof Andrew Aeria told Malaysiakini that the parties have disappointed their supporters and electorate who view Harapan as a viable alternative to Barisan Nasional.

“Their failure to compromise shows that they have broken one of the first rules of politics. This is very unfortunate. Pakatan Harapan appears to have a very serious problem in working together.

“The people were hoping that the parties can resolve their differences and avoid such clashes,” said Aeria, an associate professor at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s politics and international relations department.

Aeria also attributed the situation to a failure in the leadership from both parties to communicate with each other.

“The clashes just show how much bad blood there is between their leaders at the local level (in Sarawak),” he said.

Referring to the five-cornered fight in Batu Kitang, Aeria said the situation reflects the “level of vindictiveness and bitterness between so-called coalition parties”.

In Batu Kitang, DAP’s Abdul Aziz Isa is going up against PKR’s Voon Shiak Ni, after PKR had reneged on its agreement to not field candidates in five rural seats.

The three other candidates are Lo Khere Chiang (BN), Othman Bojeng (Independent) and Sulaiman Kadir (Independent).

Based on an agreement reached two weeks ago between the PKR and DAP’s central leaders, DAP was supposed to give up Batu Kitang and contest against BN in the five rural seats – Mulu, Murum, Simanggang, Ngemah and Mambong.

Very self-centred

Until last night, Abdul Aziz was still slated to contest in Stakan and Aeria said the last-minute decision to field him in Batu Kitang shows that the “whole idea of serving the people is a fiction”.

At the same time, Aeria said the BN coalition is also not spared from such infightings between its component parties.

“The BN is not any different (from Harapan)… Overall it shows how politics in Sarawak is still very self-centred,” he said.

Political analyst Ibrahim Suffian concurred with Aeria, saying the current situation has highlighted the issues in trying to manage coalitions and maintaining internal party cohesion.

"The three-cornerned fights indicate the tussle between acceding to internal party leadership and maintaining a viable coalition.

"The clashes also seem to indicate that internal weaknesses within parties can be exploited by opponents and coalition partners," he said.

Specifically, Ibrahim explained that the dissension between state and national leadership of the two parties has presented cracks that their opponents can take advantage of and affect a party's cohesion.

Sarawak PKR chairperson Baru Bian had earlier today said that the window for negotiation with DAP on disputed seats was open until the last day before nomination.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had expressed disappointment with PKR’s decision and accused the latter of shortchanging his party.

A total of 80 out of 82 Sarawak state legislative assembly seats are up for grabs after BN won two uncontested.

Polling day is set for May 7.

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