Malaysiakini : “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” ― Nelson Mandela
COMMENT | The opposition are
slaves to the 'avoiding three-cornered fights' meme. I get that the data
favours the strategy of avoiding three-cornered fights, but this idea
only makes sense if it means denying BN allies in Parliament. It makes
no sense if it means helping potential BN allies retain power, or
potentially enabling opposition-held states to be destabilised from
Furthermore, this idea that denying BN a two-thirds majority somehow
constrains the regime because they are unable to make constitutional
amendments is misleading. The current Umno regime has put forth
legislation that further sustains their power and erodes individual
liberties and they did this without needing the magical two-thirds
Nobody cared when Chairman Najib made his NSC debut
– “A couple of days ago the National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016
came into force. Did anyone, besides the usual suspects, bother to read
the bill? Did anyone really care? When the Act came into force, a BBC
newscaster asked a local pollster if there was any opposition to it and
the response was that they were concerns raised by ‘civil society’
because of the dodgy record of the Umno regime. How quaint, I thought.”
And let us assume that Umno/BN needed a two-thirds majority that
would erode our rights and to enhance the position of the “Malays” and
“Islam.” By “our”, I mean anyone who does not ascribe to the “bangsa dan agama” weltanschauung that is mainstream Malay politics.
Does anyone really think that Umno would not be able to muster the
requisite support from Malay members of opposition parties who tell us
(and their non-Malay supporters remain quiet) that they always have to
prove that they are Malay and Islam enough for their base?
Malaysian politics is so screwed up that rational people, regardless
of religion or ethnicity, can never be sure that the progressive forces
in this country would not succumb to racial or religious politics just
to remain relevant. The argument is that by remaining relevant, our
rights would be protected, but every time opportunities to defend those
rights arise, these people's champions cave in to business-as-usual
Speaking for nobody else, my objections with working with PAS is not
because they are an Islamic party. It is not that because they are
anti-DAP or Amanah or Bersatu. It is because they are not independent.
You can be Islamic and despise the ideologies and political
personalities of your coalition partners if you have a common opponent
that you wish to overthrow.
This is old ground for me. From the beginning, I articulated
the agenda and the folly of “negotiating” with PAS – “A few months ago,
I quoted what some PAS insiders said to me – ‘What he (PAS president
Abdul Hadi Awang) hopes to achieve, according to some PAS insiders who
spoke to me, is rule by proxy. To make sufficient gains into the federal
system by supporting Umno thereby generating the perception that PAS
has a de jure, if not de facto role, in the government.’
“Of course, that near perfect political animal – and I mean this as a
compliment, by the way – PKR deputy president Azmin Ali finds it
difficult to negotiate with PAS. ‘We have to swallow our pride and put
the interest of the nation before the party’s interests,’ he says, not
realising that this is what makes PKR and Harapan sound weaker than they
Fighting BN and its proxy
And therein lies the rub. Is Umno the common political opponent they wish to overthrow or is Umno the sub rosa political partner they wish to enable. Who benefits if PAS remains in power in Pakatan-controlled states?
Who benefits if PAS remains politically relevant? If we subscribe to the
theory that mainstream Malay politics is all about ‘bangsa’ and ‘agama,'
then we have to acknowledge even with the failings of the other
opposition political parties, PAS has remained steadfast is their desire
to cooperate with Umno.
In other words, who is the opposition in reality negotiating with
when they negotiate with PAS? What would happen when the opposition is
weak, engaged in inter-party schisms, coalition bickering and lack a
unified agenda, that PAS remains in power? What would happen if they
gained more influence in the opposition? What would happen if that
influence were actually to the benefit of Umno/BN? What would the
strategy be then?
Which is more of a gamble – allowing PAS to remain politically
relevant or losing an election to Umno? Please keep in mind that if the
theory is correct that PAS’ role is to act as a spoiler, then even if
PAS loses seats, there would be rewards aplenty to incentivise PAS to
remain as a sub rosa ally to the hegemon. In this game, only PAS wins.
And that is the myth of the three-cornered fights. Perhaps back in
the day when PAS was more independent, it would have been prudent to
negotiate with PAS. However, in the current political climate there is
no three-cornered fight. Let me repeat that. There is no three-cornered fight.
The reality is that you are fighting BN and its proxy. If the people
are truly on your side, then the opponent and its proxy are banished.
That is the nature of the game. There is no point negotiating with the
proxy in the hopes of “winning” the fight because negotiation merely
destabilises your coalition to the benefit of your opponent and furthers
the propaganda campaign to voters that your coalition is weak so why
bother voting for the coalition.
But let us say that by some miracle the opposition wins and manages
to retain seats (and states), thereby freeing themselves from the
shackles of this three-cornered fight meme and its dependence on
PAS. This would be a game changer that could lead to actual political
and social change.
I speak for nobody else when I say I do not mind losing in the upcoming election, but I will not throw the game away.