COMMENT | Harapan logo: Is Anwar indecisive, weak, or a bad ally?

·5-min read
COMMENT | Harapan logo: Is Anwar indecisive, weak, or a bad ally?
COMMENT | Harapan logo: Is Anwar indecisive, weak, or a bad ally?

COMMENT | PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has been the main driving force of the opposition for over two decades.

Without him, Pakatan Harapan would probably be a much weaker force than it is now.

But it seems that Anwar's ability to both inspire and be the glue that binds the opposition together is waning.

The Port Dickson MP's reputation has already been dragged down by his multiple failed attempts at taking back power for Harapan, as well as his alleged plotting with Umno's Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Najib Abdul Razak.

Now his inability or refusal to make an executive decision on what logo Harapan should use in the next general election is also turning into a black spot.

DAP and Amanah's narrative on the matter are clear - a decision had been made during the Harapan retreat in April to use the coalition's logo, and this decision has not changed.

But six months later, PKR is still pushing for the coalition to use the party's logo instead just as they did in GE14.

Anwar has been pressed on the matter several times, and his response has repeatedly been "it's under discussion", "PKR needs time to discuss with its grassroots", and "Harapan needs to move as one".

He has also said that both sides have strong merits to their argument, but it is unclear if he has taken any steps - such as commissioning a study - to determine which is the better choice.

One could argue that discussing the logo has taken a back seat to battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, PKR's repeated insistence for its logo to be used clearly shows that this issue is quite high up on the party's list of priorities.

And the fact that there is still no definitive answer is a cause for frustration for many Harapan supporters, who believe this should be a simple and easy decision to make.

This then begs the question of why Anwar - as both PKR president and Harapan chairperson - can't bring the matter to a close.

There may be three possibilities as to why, and none of them is pleasant to say out loud.

But a frank discussion must be had, especially if Anwar is to one day lead the country should Harapan retake Putrajaya.

The first possibility is that Anwar is simply indecisive, and that Harapan's principle of "consensus" makes it harder for him to decide when there is disagreement.

The second possibility is that Anwar is weak and unable to rein in his party to come to an agreement with DAP and Amanah, meaning he is also susceptible to pressure from his support base.

In both these scenarios, an Anwar premiership would be plagued by many of the same problems faced by the previous Harapan government.

A weak or indecisive prime minister would find it very hard to push through reforms and policies.

Take for example, how Harapan abandoned plans to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All (Icerd) and the Rome Statute.

Pressure from right-wing elements who sought to racialise the issues had spooked the government then, who sacrificed reforms in fear that they would lose support from the Malays.

This, however, did not help them win over support from conservatives, and only irked the Malays and non-Malays that did support Harapan.

Likewise, the implementation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) had been stalled due to opposition from rank and file police.

Instead, we are now slated to get the Independent Police Conduct Commission, a watered-down and toothless body that has no authority to take action against errant police.

For reforms to happen in Malaysia, some unpopular decisions must be made.

A weak or indecisive prime minister can't be expected to make these decisions.

It may seem hard to believe that a veteran politician of Anwar's stature can be viewed this way.

But we must remember that even Dr Mahathir Mohamad - whom many critics believed to be a dictator - balked at the prospect of losing support.

Then there is the third possibility in this logo saga, that Anwar is responsible to some degree for the attacks against his allies.

It may be that Anwar does not want to use the Harapan logo for whatever reason, but can't say so to DAP and Amanah because he must keep the peace.

Instead, the task to attack and pressure the Harapan component parties has fallen onto PKR's youth and division leaders.

With PKR rid of most anti-Anwar elements, is it difficult to believe that attacks against the party's allies are the actions of rogue members or that Anwar can't put a stop to it?

Pakatan Harapan chairperson Anwar Ibrahim
Pakatan Harapan chairperson Anwar Ibrahim

Anwar may not have personally ordered PKR leaders to push back against DAP and Amanah.

But, unless he has no control over his own people, the conclusion must then be that Anwar is either turning a blind eye - or worse - condoning the friendly fire.

Which of these three possibilities is right, or if there is a different reason altogether, is for Anwar to reveal.

It is true that there is merit in both sides of the Harapan logo argument.

The Harapan logo belongs to the coalition, and using it gives a sense of equality in Harapan, and that it is not another BN with a domineering Umno at the helm.

But the last time the Harapan logo was used, the coalition suffered an embarrassing defeat in the 2019 Tanjung Piai by-election.

Likewise, PKR's insistence on using the party logo in the 2020 Sabah state election resulted in them winning two out of seven seats.

Comparatively, Perikatan Nasional, which had debuted its logo just a month before the polls, won 17 seats in Sabah.

But the PKR logo was the one used when the coalition won the 2018 general election.

The logo issue is a trivial one on the surface. But Anwar's slow response to it is worrying.

While Covid-19 must be the central focus of all politicians, the reality is that Malaysia is heading towards a general election soon.

If Anwar can't resolve internal disputes swiftly, then there is a very real possibility that Harapan enters GE15 disunited and with their supporters disenfranchised.

ZIKRI KAMARULZAMAN is a member of the Malaysiakini team.

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