Honeymoon's over, Malaysia's ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan told to buck up

Parti Keadilan Rakyat senior politician Rafizi Ramli (centre) with its president, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at the party's annual convention in Shah Alam last month. Mr Rafizi said the way forward for t
Parti Keadilan Rakyat senior politician Rafizi Ramli (centre) with its president, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at the party's annual convention in Shah Alam last month. Mr Rafizi said the way forward for the ruling coalition is to focus on its economic platform.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Govt struggling to fulfil election pledges as moves to welcome Umno defectors unnerve voters

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) needs to buck up as it is struggling to fulfil election promises and voters question its willingness to accept former Umno lawmakers into its fold, two prominent PH politicians have said.

The views offered by Mr Rafizi Ramli, a senior ruling politician close to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim, and Penang lawmaker Ramkarpal Singh dovetailed with the assessment of others from within and outside PH in recent weeks, as voters' honeymoon with the four-party coalition appears to have ended.

Meanwhile, veteran lawmaker Lim Kit Siang from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) warned yesterday that his party would leave PH if it abandoned the objective of forming Malaysia Baru, or New Malaysia, through major reforms.

Mr Rafizi, who was a former PKR vice-president, said the coalition led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad must prepare for the "deflation" of voter euphoria after the general election in May that toppled Umno-led Barisan Nasional.

"The deflation - from the euphoria to disillusionment - can be severe if not appropriately managed. There are signs that the euphoria has gone somewhat sour," he wrote in an open letter on Wednesday.

He said that while PH parties are worried about attracting more Malay voters, as it received only 30 per cent of their support in May, the coalition must focus on the key reason why voters from all ethnic groups elevated the coalition to power.

"We can never become more Malay than Umno or more politically Islamic than PAS (opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia). Race and religion are Umno's and PAS' strength; the economic platform is our platform," he wrote.

ECONOMIC CONCERNS KEY

Our key constituents are economic voters across the races... Reducing higher cost of living and fulfilling election promises top the key concern of the voters across the board. After a while, the public will lose patience with what is seen as mere excuses on the part of the PH administration.

MR RAFIZI RAMLI, a PKR leader.

"Our key constituents are economic voters across the races... Reducing higher cost of living and fulfilling election promises top the key concern of the voters across the board," he said.

"After a while, the public will lose patience with what is seen as mere excuses on the part of the PH administration."

PH has been blamed for failing to reduce the cost of living despite removing the unpopular goods and services tax and for not abolishing highway tolls. The alliance is also chasing students who took government study loans, despite its election promise to allow deferred payments.

PH has also backtracked on its human rights pledges by failing to sign a United Nations anti-discrimination charter, and has been unable to push back against rising racial rhetoric.

Mr Rafizi said the way forward "is to focus on our economic platform". "We need to demonstrate seriousness in making life better for the ordinary Malaysians, not to be dragged by endless cloak-and-dagger political manoeuvres of the old Malaysia," he added.

 
 
 

Meanwhile, MP Ramkarpal, a son of the late DAP chairman Karpal Singh, said he has been asked by worried voters about speculation that dozens of Umno lawmakers would soon jump ship to PH.

Quoting a voter, Mr Ramkarpal wrote on his Facebook page: "We are no different from Umno if we can consider accepting the very people we voted out... into PH."

Seventeen out of 54 Umno MPs have quit the party, with three of them now members of Tun Dr Mahathir's party.

Two of the four PH parties - Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Malaysia Bersatu and Parti Amanah Negara - have said they are willing to take in the Umno defectors.

DAP's Mr Lim, meanwhile, wrote on his blog that his party is in government to prevent Malaysia from becoming "a sham democracy... a failed state and a global kleptocracy".

"DAP leaders, whether in government or outside, will have no hesitation in leaving the coalition government if the objective of a New Malaysia is abandoned," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2018, with the headline 'Honeymoon's over, PH told to buck up'. Print Edition | Subscribe