New line-up shows Pakatan still reliant on old 'brand names', say analysts

Bede Hong

Pakatan Harapan leaders during a press conference after the presidential council meeting at PKR's headquarters in Petaling Jaya yesterday. Analysts have concerns over the lack of new faces in the opposition's coalition's leadership. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Najjua Zulkefli, July 15, 2017.

WITH veteran faces featured prominently in the Pakatan Harapan’s leadership line-up, the opposition appears unable to move beyond familiar political brand names that are Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, say analysts. 

In yesterday’s announcement, the top three posts – that of de facto leader, chairman and president – were held by Anwar, Dr Mahathir and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail respectively.

In addition to criticisms that Pakatan still had no clear leader, Umno treasurer-general Salleh Said Keruak was also quick to point out that there were no new faces in the top three posts and that DAP was unrepresented in the top three.

“They’re using the same old faces, which means they’re overly reliant on these political brand names,” said political analyst Jeniri Amir.

Jeniri said Pakatan believed it had the clout to bring in the votes, especially among the Malays. 

“But certain things cannot be ignored. Mahathir is 92, and Anwar is still in jail,” said the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) associate professor.

“They’re too dependent on Anwar to lead the country. Don’t tell me they don’t have good leaders from the second echelon. They should have come up with fresh faces. It’s like they’re running on fumes. 

“They should have decided on the best candidate for the prime minister’s post first.”

On policies that Pakatan promised to carry out if it came to power, Jeniri said: “I take what is promised with a pinch of salt, especially when Dr Mahathir is involved. 

“Dr Mahathir is an opinionated leader. It is important for the opposition to be able to reach a compromise as a team to lead the country.”

“That’s why I believe (PKR deputy president) Azmin Ali is a good candidate to be Pakatan’s prime minister.

“He is able to compromise to get things done. Pakatan initiatives failed many times because there were too many opinionated leaders.”

Pakatan’s pledges include abolishing the Goods and Services Tax, forming a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal and implementing institutional reforms.

“We’ve all seen what Dr Mahathir did over the 20 years (he was in power), especially to the judiciary. Once you give him back power, you’ll see. We’ve seen him make a lot of U-turns on his promises, and we’ve all forgotten that he did once say Anwar was not suited to be prime minister.”

Wong Chin Huat, head of the Penang Institute’s political and social analysis section believed Dr Mahathir would draw in Malay support that might have been lost after PAS left the opposition coalition.

“Now that PAS has chosen to collaborate with Umno to perpetuate the old political order with its Islamist new packaging, Dr Mahathir becomes the best attraction Pakatan can offer,” Wong said.

“Dr Mahathir would not be able to woo too many Islamists even if they are not happy with PAS. However, he can woo a sizeable number of Malay nationalists who are not happy with Umno, likely more than filling the gap left by PAS.

“A Dr Mahathir-Anwar pairing may sound cynical, but it is perhaps more appealing than any younger pairs,” Wong added. – July 15, 2017.

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