Alliance of lasting hope or a one-term wonder?

Phlip Rodrigues

Modified 28 Jan 2020, 4:39 am

COMMENT | Pakatan Harapan is becoming an unwieldy ship whose captain - very old, very seasoned - is struggling hard to keep it on an even keel. On all sides storms of controversies howl and rage on, making such a din that all hopes of unity are fast receding into the dark horizon.

In the beginning, there was so much promise of a new political era with the exit of the old order universally scorned and hated for its unbridled greed and corruption. Joy spread all over the land when power shifted to Harapan and the ancient took his oath of office for the second time to become the world's oldest prime minister.

Voters took a huge gamble in casting their ballots for a coalition of diverse beliefs and interests yet united in its common endeavour to rewrite a new chapter in the political life of the country. They were won over by the promises made to rebuild the nation and to fulfil the dreams of the people.

It was an impressive victory - the ruling party, a 60-year-old behemoth named BN, was sent crashing down to the general relief of the electorate. The people had had enough of all the political shenanigans that had drained the country almost dry and brought it almost to the brink. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the transformed political climate had opened new paths to a brighter future.

It was a promising start but then things began to fall apart to reveal an unpleasant truth: the coalition is fragile and is not strong enough to push back the tides of extremism fuelled by religion and racism. Harapan stands on five pillars upholding its many pledges to bring back the glory days but the pillars are becoming wobbly and are in danger of collapsing.

What ails Harapan? It should have grown stronger even with the brief passage of time, but what fills the air is cacophony that is jarring on the ears of the people. All the partners are not articulating a brave, new world for Malaysia or speaking in one tongue. There is only a babel of voices.

In any nation, the leader who administers the country must speak and act from a commanding height. All policies formulated must be implemented from a position of strength. There must be certainty and predictability: the people must know that the course being pursued will lead to a definite, positive, predictable outcome.

To the dismay of the public, the flow of Malaysian politics has become erratic and unpredictable. The grand old man himself is not sure he can fulfil the mandate, given that a shadow is lurking restlessly and menacingly in the wings to take over his job.

Situation in Malaysia is peculiar

Governing is becoming increasingly difficult because the country is obsessed with the succession issue. How can the (good or bad) doctor chart a better life for all when the post of prime minister has turned into a political football where each side wants to score the most goals (foul or clean) to advance the fortune of their candidate without considering the adverse repercussions on the destiny of the nation?

Under normal circumstances, the next in line to the political throne will have no problem taking over the reins. The transition will be smooth, the outgoing leader will retire in good faith and the incoming successor will loyally discharge his duty to the best of his ability. A nice scenario.

But these are abnormal times. The situation in Malaysia is peculiar. Power resides uneasily with the current prime minister who must give up his seat before his full term expires. The doctor is not happy with the present state of affairs. When he places his stethoscope on Harapan, he knows the patient is sick, very sick.

Even if, or when, the anointed one steps into the arena to claim his right to rule, the patient is unlikely to recover. For the PKR leader himself is a harbinger of more illnesses to come. Trouble follows him everywhere. The stain of the past still darkens his political career.

Harapan is a beautiful idea that can work wonders for a country sorely in need of a firm hand to right the wrongs of the past, heal the deep divisions and move us all to the goals and pledges envisioned in the manifesto.

But storm clouds are gathering. All the bickering, in-fighting, back-biting, and old sordid tales of immoral acts are portents of bleak times ahead for Harapan. All the actors - small and big, young and old - are beating their own muddy paths, singing their own discordant tunes, and writing their own contradictory scripts. They follow not what they preach in their stirring manifesto.

In the not too distant future, people will be making a beeline to the voting booths as parliamentary democracy swings into action again. 

People must cast their ballots to elect a new government, but this time around Harapan may not be everyone's favourite. Suffering from self-inflicted wounds, the alliance of hope may turn out to be a shooting star, a fairy tale, a one-term wonder. 

PHLIP RODRIGUES is a retired journalist.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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