|KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20: PAS leaders were unsurprised by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s call to his Umno party not to ridicule arch-enemy Pakatan Rakyat, saying it was time the ruling coalition accepted the wishes of the people for a two-party system or face the consequences at the next general election.|
“They have to wake up and be more realistic because Malaysians have accepted the Pakatan Rakyat. Umno must stop relying on silly and unethical politicking to stop us,” PAS vice president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man told Harakahdaily.
Indeed, two years have passed since the landmark 2008 general elections, where Malaysians voted in their first significant opposition. And although, the Pakatan has gained further strength, the past 24 months were also marked by upheaval and even tragedy.
This was due in part to the steep learning curve that all three partners – PAS, PKR and DAP – had to navigate, but mostly due to the incessant negative politicking and traps laid by the Umno-BN.
More difficult for Umno to adjust than Pakatan
As for the Umno-BN, after five decades of political hegemony, it has been even tougher for it than for the Pakatan to adjust and hit the new ground running.
Still trapped in glory days of the past, Najib himself launched an unpopular and counter-productive coup d’etat in Perak, which has cost him the Chinese vote not just in that state but also nationwide.
A petulant former Selangor mentri besar Khir Toyo paid scant regard to public opinion and tried to regain power through all ways and means – fair and mostly foul. As a result of these shenanigans, the two men have lost enormous political credibility - both personally and for their party.
“It is difficult for Umno-BN to point the finger at us when they have done so little in the past two years? Whereas in the Pakatan states, we have already started to make a difference,” Tuan Ibrahim said.
“The styles of governance in Selangor, Penang, Kedah and Kelantan where we insist on corruption-free, accountable and efficient administration are refreshing to the people and they will be happy to keep us.”
Going out to the constituents
However, as both coalitions move into the last lap, it is how well constituents feel they have been serviced that will ultimately win the day. The next general election must be held latest by March 2013.
Both Pakatan and Umno-BN realize this and have begun outreach programs rather than rely on mere rhetoric.
Despite the unceasing pressure from its rival, the Pakatan has unveiled a rash of programs aimed at helping constituent groups identify their troubles, knock out solutions and bridge over weak spots.
“I suspect the main reason why Najib made this call not to ridicule Pakatan is because Pakatan has been launching specific programs to elevate rural lifestyles. All this while, we did not let the topsy-turvy political conditions stop us from carrying out our field research.
“For example today itself, Pakatan – PKR, PAS and DAP – will be launching a Felda settlers convention in Jerantut. Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim will be present. Next stop is Kedah and again Pahang. In April, we will also have a second-generation or new-generation Felda settlers convention.”