KUALA LUMPUR - Senior Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders have come to the defence of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the head of the opposition coalition, after his leadership was called into question following its poor showing in the Melaka state election last Saturday (Nov 20).
Senior leaders from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) - which along with Mr Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) are the main components of PH - said it was unfair to blame Mr Anwar entirely for the outcome.
PH, which contested all 28 legislative assembly seats at stake in Saturday's poll, eventually took only five, a far cry from the 15 it won in 2018 when it counted Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) as a member. Bersatu bolted from the opposition coalition last year, which led to the collapse of not only the PH government in Melaka but the federal government as well.
But even without Bersatu, PH held 11 seats in the assembly before it was dissolved to make way for polls last month.
Last Saturday, however, DAP took only four seats and Amanah one. Mr Anwar's PKR suffered the humiliation of not winning a single one even though it contested 11 seats, more than what was allocated to its partners in the coalition.
Mr Anwar's leadership has come under fresh scrutiny following the stinging defeat, with voices even within the DAP calling for him to step down and urging a "reset" for PH.
But veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said that it was counterproductive to blame Mr Anwar solely for the decisions that the coalition made leading to the Melaka polls, although he added that moving forward, PH must act like a coalition of equals.
Amanah vice-president Hanipa Maidin also said that PH made collective decisions.
"For me, it is not right to point fingers at Anwar or even PKR for our defeat in Melaka," he said on Monday.
Mr Anwar's decision to accept and field two Umno assemblymen who had pulled support for the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration - effectively triggering the state polls - has been cited as a key reason for PH's defeat, apart from a low voter turnout.
The two assemblymen - who contested under the PKR and Amanah banners - were defeated resoundingly in their respective contests.
DAP was the only PH partner to publicly state that it disagreed with Mr Anwar over the decision to court the defecting assemblymen, but it eventually deferred to the majority decision within the coalition's leadership.
BN won 21 seats last Saturday, a landslide victory just over three years after suffering a historic defeat for the first time ever in the state.
The Perikatan Nasional coalition led by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin won two seats.
Mr Anwar had not directly commented on the outcome of the poll which also witnessed poor voter turnout of only 65 per cent. But, on Monday, he urged the government to reconsider "restrictive" Covid-19 protocols for election campaigns, although he did not directly cite the protocols for PH's poor showing.
The government banned almost all forms of campaigning during the Melaka poll, leading to a somewhat muted campaign that mostly relied on social media. The move was to prevent a recurrence of a Covid-19 wave, similar to what occurred in Sabah in September last year.
The next state poll is expected in Sarawak with the Election Commission due to decide on a date soon. It is expected to take place in December.