Pakatan Harapan launches roadshows to explain what it will do next and what happened during political chaos

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim (both above), key figures in Pakatan Harapan, have kept a low profile since Malaysia's new prime minister was sworn in. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - Pakatan Harapan (PH) is embarking on a series of roadshows to explain to the public the political imbroglio that saw the coalition lose power less than two years after the general election.

The series of roadshows began in Kedah on Tuesday (March 3) night, in the constituency of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir, who is also the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. A second one will be held in Selangor on Saturday.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) communications director Fahmi Fadzil told The Straits Times that more will be held over the next few weeks to explain to both members and the public on what transpired behind the collapse of its government.

"Everyone wants to know what is going on and what our next step is going to be," he said.

Malaysia has been left both transfixed and frustrated at the political turmoil that engulfed the country since last Sunday when Bersatu and 11 PKR lawmakers left the coalition, triggering the collapse of the PH administration, which has run the country since the May 2018 election.

Since Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in by the King on Sunday, the two key figures in PH, Dr Mahathir and Mr Anwar Ibrahim , have largely kept a low profile. The roadshows, which will likely feature local party members, are the first public outreach efforts it has taken since the politcal crisis.

Observers said PH's moves are aimed at gaining support and sympathy from both members and the public. More importantly, this experience will give PH the opportunity to reset itself.

"Members will have the impetus to rise and build on a new momentum to face their political enemies," said Associate Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi, a senior lecturer at the University of Malaya.

Mr Prashant Waikar, a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), said previously that many people saw PH as underperforming, including voters in their support base.

"But now, it is receiving significant sympathy. This could allow it to make significant electoral gains in the next election without having to deal with the 'baggage of underperformance'," he said. "PH can also use this as an opportunity to think about what went wrong within the coalition itself."

In the meantime, PH is asking its supporters to be steadfast and patient as it believes Mr Muhyiddin's Perikatan National (National Alliance) coalition will not last, pointing out the different factional interests among the various parties and their leaders.

"I hope the spirit of struggle among Pakatan and Warisan MPs, as well as public disapproval of the coup, would help maintain our current strength. If we can hold on to our strength for as long as it can be, the coup coalition would find it hard to govern and will crack sooner than later," said Johor Democratic Action Party chief Liew Chin Tong.

PH maintains it was played out by traitors during the week-long chaos . It also insists that it is Dr Mahathir that has the majority in Parliament, not the new prime minister, Mr Muhyiddin.

PH claimed that Dr Mahathir commanded the support of 112 MPs in the 222-member Parliament and that Mr Muhyiddin has misrepresented his support to the King.

As such, PH's message to the public during the roadshow is that it is waiting for Parliament to be reconvened to file a motion of no-confidence against the new premier.

But there remain questions about when that will take place. A sitting originally scheduled for March 9 is now unlikely to take place and many believe the Prime Minister will want to delay a sitting until he is sure he has enough support to survive a no-confidence vote.

Parliament Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof said on Monday that he has not yet received an update on whether the Parliament meeting would go ahead as planned.

However, MPs told ST that they have not received any notice that indicated Parliament will not sit next Monday.

"Once we have clarity on this, the PH presidential council will meet to decide on our next course of action," said Mr Fahmi.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.