Pakatan Rakyat woes

JAN 2 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim knew it. He knew that once the excitement of pushing Barisan Nasional all the way on March 8 was replaced by greed, personal interest, petty politics, narrow political ideology and race issues, he would have a battle keeping the dream of a two party system alive.

That is why he huffed and puffed and talked up the possibilities of a mass crossover of elected representatives from the Barisan Nasional to Pakatan Rakyat from the word go. There was an element of self interest, sure. After spending six years in prison, having his reputation pockmarked by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and written off as a historical footnote, nothing would have satisfied him more than being sworn is as the prime minister of Malaysia.

But it was not all about satisfying one man’s ambition. He knew that the euphoria which accompanied the Opposition’s super showing in Election 2008 could not be maintained indefinitely. At some point, the heady mix of social activists, educationists, career politicians, professionals that made up Pakatan Rakyat would clash, the result of inexperience in governing; unrealistic expectations and differences in ideology.

Truth be told, this mixed constituency was a major plus point for the coalition during the election. They allowed Pakatan Rakyat to reach out to a wider spectrum of voters than the Barisan Nasional and allowed Pakatan Rakyat candidates to speak more convincingly on an important raft of issues, from corruption to the rights of Indians.

But Anwar knew that it would only be a matter of time before the hardliners in Pas lifted the lid on their pet topic — hudud and the Islamic state. This conservative spine of the party reluctantly agreed to put their main platform on the backburner in the run up to the polls. With elections over and Pas in a strong position, it was going to be more challenging persuading Pas leaders to keep their calling card buried. Once hudud was raised again, DAP’s veteran politicians would strike back. This scenario is being played out right now following comments made by Pas’ Husam Musa during a debate with Umno’s Khairy Jamaluddin.

Anwar also understood one fact of political life in Malaysia — race is never far from the surface. What more when it is wrapped up in unrealistic expectations. The Malays, Chinese and Indians in Pakatan Rakyat were willing to speak the language of accommodation and unity in the run up to the polls. They had to be on the same wavelength to be taken seriously as an alternative to Barisan Nasional.

Ironically, the strong showing on March 8 led some Pakatan Rakyat MPs to believe that the role of their communities — and not the common platform or the excesses of BN — was pivotal in their electoral success. As a result, they pushed for positions and contracts, and sought instant remedies, some of which had been promised to them before the elections.

PKR’s S. Manikavasagam said as much when he criticised the party’s leadership. He alleged that PKR was a Malay-centric party, lamenting that Indians had not been offered senior positions in government-linked companies, state agencies and local councils.

“We feel cheated, we are disappointed. Nothing has been done, ‘’ he said, accusing Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim of not keeping promises made to the Indian community.

He is not the only one feeling aggrieved. Some Malay politicians in Pakatan Rakyat are uneasy over the demands being made by the Indians and the uncompromising stance by DAP’s veteran leaders on several issues.

Is Anwar surprised by these troubles? Hardly. He knew that many of his political comrades came together because of their intense hatred for BN and what it stands for. Once that anger dissipated, it was always going to be a challenge keeping everyone focused on the big goal — staying as one and keeping the two-party dream alive.

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