TEN years before Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition formed a coalition known as Barisan Alternatif. The impetus for the formation of BA was the imprisonment of Anwar Ibrahim.
PAS, DAP and the newly formed, hipster-named keADILan came together to demand reforms and to change the government. This uncomfortable coalition soon became undone in 2001 when DAP unilaterally pulled out from the pact, leading to its dissolution in 2004.
Prior to 2008, the Hindraf wave, anti-government sentiments and the sheer will of voters once again forced these parties to come together for a second time. Pakatan Rakyat was born, and things seemed to be going well: this new coalition denied Barisan Nasional’s traditional two-thirds majority and managed to take over five state governments in the process.
But the mistakes of 2001 should not be repeated. Different ideologies had the potential quickly pull these parties apart again. After all, success can do far greater damage to relationships than failures, especially where money and power are concerned.
Some people, like Zaid Ibrahim, recognised this and moved quickly to cement this relationship by opening up communication channels at every level, eventually even a Pakatan Rakyat National Conference.
The second such conference culminated in a proper common policy framework – Buku Jingga.
From the get-go, PAS’ reluctance to completely embrace the Buku Jingga should have been a sign of things to come. And now they have their own version, Dokumen Hijau.
It is 2017 and now we have Pakatan Harapan with two original founding members – DAP and PKR – and two new parties – Amanah, an offshoot of PAS and PPBM, an offshoot of Umno.
Aside from a few deaths and a few new additions, the faces in front also seem familiar.
Even the person touted to be the next prime minister remains the same. Or is it?
In 1998, it was far easier to promote the idea of Anwar as prime minister as it was easy to see him as a good man wronged; a promising leader denied his chance to take this country to what would have been greater heights. Someone who was a friend to PAS and someone DAP could accept as a hardliner leader.
In 2008, the different parties needed a galvanising figure to gravitate to. Someone whom the Malays and Muslims could look up to, but at the same time able to appeal to the non-Malay Muslims at a time where their anti-government sentiment were at its highest.
But these are no longer such times.
PAS has, to a considerable extent, managed to damage the reputation of its former allies as intolerant towards Islam as they have managed to damage its own reputation of being intolerant towards non-Muslims, and along with it, the image of its present leaders.
Recent cases such as the slapping incident outside a mosque in Penang, and the campaign by some of its grassroots members from there to hound Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at every buka puasa event are examples that have set PAS-DAP relations to even colder levels, a situation that may affect Malay voter sentiment.
Amanah and PPBM may have too little time to alleviate these concerns about DAP with the grassroots.
PPBM also appears to be gently nudging Dr Mahathir for the post of former prime minister-turn-prime minister in waiting.
But the question that should arise is why are only two names being proposed for this job by Pakatan?
A senior statesman who has given up a good part of his life developing the country and his former deputy whom he sacked, and who for the longest time waged the reformist agenda war against him.
A former deputy who is currently serving time in prison, and who cannot at the moment, contest in the next general election.
It is not like there is a lack of talented leadership from the ranks of Pakatan Harapan.
Azmin Ali is a more than erstwhile leader who took over the reins at a politically volatile time and continues to steer his government calmly through repeated attempts to break his administration up.
Though accused by many to be the reason Dr Mahathir has sacrificed his retirement, Mukhriz is after all a former Menteri Besar and federal Cabinet member, as is his party comrade, Tan Sri Muhyiddin.
There’s also Nizar Jamaluddin from Amanah, the one-time blue-eyed boy of PAS, a two-term MP and former MB of Perak, who holds degrees in engineering and law, and speaks multiple languages.
Whoever they choose is still anybody’s guess, but the pact will be wise to remember that their candidate not only needs the support of all the parties concerned, he (or she) must have the respect and support of the electorate.