One year after becoming Malaysia’s opposition, Perikatan Nasional (PN), has failed as an opposition bloc, and will continue to be one for the foreseeable future, unless the leaders from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Pas can change their thinking.
Political analyst Associate Professor Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk said the opposition bloc also lacks charismatic, young, and dynamic leaders who can appeal to Malaysians across the racial and religious divide.
He suggested PN to try and convince former Umno Youth chief, Khairy Jamaluddin (main image), to be a part of the opposition.
Khairy, who was against Umno joining Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) so-called Unity Government, was sacked from the party in January for violating its Constitution in the 15th General Election (GE15).
“Bersatu and Pas do not have leaders that appeal to a multiracial and multireligious voter base,” said Azeem, director of the Centre for Policy Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia.
“(Tan Sri) Muhyiddin (Yassin) and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi (Awang) are 76, and Datuk Seri Hamzah (Zainuddin) is 66. Former prime minister Muhyiddin also has legal battles to sort out.
“Khairy will be 48 next month. Although he was an Umno man, he is still well-received by voters of all races and religions.”
Azeem said Khairy, or someone like him, is the type of person PN should consider having on its team.
Khairy, or KJ to his ‘fans’, has already said he is “PN-friendly”, although he has not joined any of the PN component parties, which includes Gerakan.
“However, I do not think Khairy would want to be associated with Pas, unless the party softens its stance. He can act as the bridge between the so-called Islamists, and Malaysians of all races and religions,” said Azeem.
“That is how PN can move forward without alienating other Malaysians, and remain true to its voter base.”
Azeem said a large group of voters are unhappy with the current government but would stick with PH rather than opt for a coalition seen as overly pro-Islam.
“PN and Pas, in particular, only seem to raise issues that affect its voter base in the Malay heartland. So, they talk about banning concerts, such as the recent one by Coldplay,” said Azeem.
“How is that helping the country? The opposition must look at ways it can help Malaysia become better and show it can bring prosperity to the citizens if it is in power.
“It must show that it is a coalition for all Malaysians as we are a multireligious, multicultural and multilingual nation.”
Separately, Azeem said Malaysia needs politicians – from both sides of the divide – to be more vocal in raising issues in Parliament.
“Opposition parties are at a disadvantage in this case, as their effectiveness is dependent on the Speaker of the House, who is usually sympathetic towards the government,” said Azeem.
“For many years, we have heard about reforming the electoral and political systems, but since the fall of Barisan Nasional in 2018, nothing has been done towards that end.
“We need to make the political system a lot more effective and give politicians more of a voice,” he added.