JUNE 30 — Timing in politics is everything. Sometimes, all that's necessary is an hour of good fortune.
Which is why struggling politicians claim it's worth sticking around just in case. You never know! Such fortune shone on a battered Umno in 2020 — to return to power via an unimaginable alliance of interests.
But as Rod Stewart sings it, “Some guys have all the luck, some guys do nothing but complain.” And in complaining with no purpose, drive or cleverness, Pakatan Harapan stays in a rut at a time when — yes, that thing again — all roads must surely lead to Putrajaya.
As one of the two established coalitions in the country, a distressed Barisan Nasional (BN) must surely mean good days for Pakatan. Alas, it is otherwise. It appears that Pakatan has absolutely no interest in filling the confidence void.
Before the customary repeats about Pakatan’s habits, how bad are things for Umno-BN?
Bad moon rising
The prime minister reminds people daily of how out of ideas our politicians are; in a way, he makes all Malaysian politicians look poor.
He faces revolt everywhere in his party. As vice-president, his legitimacy to lead an Umno government is tenuous but Deputy President Mohamad Hasan is not an MP and President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has legal distractions.
Umno cybertroopers have been baying for national elections for months now. However they have to backpedal as fresh developments force rethinks.
Former Umno election chief and still ambassador to Indonesia — can anyone keep up with these axes and appointments? — Tajuddin Abdul Rahman was sacked as Umno supreme council member, and duly in Malaysian style went after the party president.
Tajuddin has tales and more tales to tell, and all of them are not fun reading for Umno supporters. Of secret meetings where those close to Zahid conspire to force him out, using the most reliable — not — method possible, statutory declarations. Mind you, this is only Act I.
Every last-term Umno MP has a laugh and joins the speculations. By the way, Umno Sabah is run by Bung Moktar Radin, Tajuddin’s shouting teammate at Dewan Rakyat. Those two have had some wonderful afternoons of ceaseless voice battles on behalf of Umno-BN in our most esteemed chamber to discuss the nation’s future.
Umno-BN’s major troubles are also outside.
The post-Covid-19 economy watch unnerves the Ismail Sabri administration. He wants to steady the ship but the war in Ukraine has turned the heat on.
Rising prices from global supply chain upheavals has brought reluctant subsidy and price ceiling removals.
If that is not upsetting enough, chicken price floats up or more so the meat floats away from the masses. A life of less chicken is impossible for most Malaysians. And if that is bad, then the loss of subsidies for cooking oil translates to more expensive fried chicken. Oh, the humanity! Government tried to play it cool. Insisted an increase, therefore targeted, of BKM (Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia) ends up nullifying the costs of unsubsidised goods. The finance ministry believes RM8 billion — a new handout record — which is up to RM2,600 per family offsets new burdens.
The public is not quite convinced.
Already the student unions have threatened openly to go to the streets if the subsidies are lifted. Both Universiti Malaya and International Islamic University lead a coalition of student organisations across the country. They are unequivocal in their denunciation of subsidy removals.
The government is desperate. They have reached out to all feel good options. Like hanging on to the coattails of our athletes.
Unfortunately, they came short.
The SEA Games squad returned home as middle ranked in a region of 11, and the national football team made it to the Asian Cup after 42 years. Thanks to favourable results in other competing groups, an inept Bangladesh and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) upping the finalists from 16 to 24 so half of Asia can qualify.
Be certain any good news from the Commonwealth Games is set to be celebrated.
But yes, back to the threat of Malaysians up to their noses with higher prices.
Jobs Malaysians want are not available, while the manufacturing and plantation industries are desperate for workers which a toxic employment market, which screams for a restructure. Unfortunately, the government can only think of bringing more foreign workers in.
So yes, the prime minister is in a bit of a pickle.
Pakatan’s slow train to nowhere
Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan flags are picture along Jalan Sg. Udang in Melaka November 13, 2021. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
PKR is in transition — but whisper it since it’s taboo inside the party to use the T word — and for now, waits for the central leadership line-up to be announced. Since presidential power is supreme, all gains by opponents are neutralised by Anwar Ibrahim’s own appointments to the committee, not the least secretary general.
As number two, Rafizi Ramli is Anwar’s clear and present. Which merits an analysis in a different column soon.
Far more importantly, Rafizi’s bloc has spoken separately about how the election they want to win is the next general election, PRU16, preferably without Anwar.
So, PKR’s circuitous passage to internal change likely hampers its ability to compete in the impending general election.
Only DAP Secretary-General Anthony Loke demanded more for the coming polls. But DAP continues to stipulate its strategic role to contribute but not run the coalition.
Which leaves a pliant Amanah — most people do not speak about them too much. They struggle with attention.
Pakatan voters are at a crossroads. The jaded either don’t vote or pass it down to the newcomers — MUDA, mostly. Despite their base being confused about what is next for the coalition, Pakatan has picked an amazing time to suck.
In all universes, this is perfect timing for Pakatan.
Umno the Goliath is battling itself, the prime minister bores rooms, jobs are missing, prices are rising and set to rise more, and there is even talk of reintroducing the GST.
Yet, as only Pakatan can find a way, it finds a way to not stand up to be counted.
If in their locker they have an earth-shattering idea to reinvigorate the coalition and therefore set themselves to lead the country, they might want to take it out now.
Right now, how it looks, one boxer is in the ring dazed and confused waiting for a knockout punch but the other boxer left the ring to change his shorts. Not enough stripes, he says. Find them shorts soon.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.