Young politicians not stepping up to replace elders, say analysts

POLITICAL parties in Malaysia have little choice but to nominate old leaders as election candidates simply because the younger generation are not being encouraged to replace them, political observers said.

The pundits were commenting on Pakatan Harapan renaming Anwar Ibrahim as its prime ministerial candidate although some have said it is time he be replaced with a new face.

They said that the PKR president had time and again claimed to have had the numbers to form the government but had failed to deliver.

Iman Research Programme director Badrul Hisham Ismail said the young leaders in Pakatan Harapan are not putting themselves forward to supplant Anwar, leaving the opposition bloc with no choice but to fall back on the 74-year-old leader.

“Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Pejuang chairman) is 96 years old and is still being touted as the one who can lead the country.

“The problem is, the young people in politics are not pushing themselves forward, they are not trying to grab the opportunity and that leaves the old to continue to lead.”

Badrul said Rafizi Ramli and Nurul Izzah Anwar are the two candidates who could succeed Anwar but who have failed to show ambition.

“Rafizi has said he wants to stay out of politics, the same with Izzah. They have surrendered before trying. The young need to step up, they cannot expect their names to be nominated without trying,” he said.

Merdeka Center for Opinion Research director Ibrahim Suffian said the Malaysian political system does not encourage youngsters to move ahead.

“That is what they have. Having Anwar is their only choice. In our country, the system is that the party leader will be the prime minister.

“Dr Mahathir, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Hadi Awang to name a few. This is what we have. They can, of course, put a new candidate, all they need to do is name a new and younger person, but that has not happened,” said Ibrahim.

DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said yesterday Anwar was Malaysia’s best candidate for prime minister but said the Port Dickson MP must go stand for election to prove his strength.

“I have not hidden my position that the best prime minister for Malaysia today is Anwar Ibrahim and not anybody else, whether Muhyiddin or Ismail Sabri,” said Lim.

“I, however, disagree with those who believe that it is still possible for Anwar to become the prime minister through the game of numbers.”

In mid-August, PH as well as other opposition parties chose Anwar to occupy the country’s highest office following Muhyiddin Yassin’s resignation.

But Anwar’s 105 backers were outnumbered by those of Umno’s Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who had the support of 114 MPs.

Ismail was consequently sworn in as the ninth prime minister.

It was not the first time Anwar had failed to gain majority support. In September last year, Anwar declared he had “strong and formidable support” in the Dewan Rakyat that was enough to oust Muhyiddin.

He did not prove his claim.

Badrul Hisham told The Malaysian Insight that Anwar might still have the support from the public to lead the opposition in the election.

“He has the influence, amongst politicians and people in politics, he has it. The public too, I think he has the support,” he said.

Anwar was supposed to replace Dr Mahathir as the prime minister when the Langkawi MP was with Bersatu.

That did not materialise as Muhyiddin who was the Home Minister during Pakatan Harapan’s tenure in Putrajaya, decided to pull Bersatu out of PH while Dr Mahathir resigned from his post after claiming that he has lost the support of MPs.

Muhyiddin accepted PKR MPs from Azmin Ali’s camp and formed Perikatan Nasional together with PAS. Umno also threw it support behind Muhyiddin, but the lynchpin Barisan Nasional party did not join Perikatan Nasional.

Public sentiment has changed with some demanding that the opposition replace Anwar with a new and younger candidate as prime minister candidate.

PH should consider a new name

Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar said PH needs to address the prime minister candidate issue immediately before the next general election.

Hisommudin said based on a recent study by Ilham Centre, Anwar is losing the support of Chinese voters and PH should look at the issue seriously before it is too late.

“His slogan ‘I have the numbers’ is now rhetoric because when given the real opportunity to prove his worth, he didn’t turn up,” Hisommudin said.

“The non-Malays, especially the Chinese, want a new shift and this is mentioned in their social media when we conducted a study. They want a new person to lead.

“If PH does not address this issue, it will cost them the election. The Chinese were the ones who gave them a huge number of votes (in the previous elections). If they refuse to go out and vote this time, PH will be in big trouble,” he said.

Hisomuddin added that he had conveyed this message to PH leaders but received lame excuses.

“PH said they do not have time to name a new candidate because the election is just around the corner and Anwar is the best candidate that they have. I think that is a naive answer.”

“They need a new strategy in this election, but if they believe that their current strategy can win them the election, then carry on,” he said.

Veteran political observer, Sayuti Omar, on the other hand believed that Anwar was still the best person to be the next PM.

The author of several political books said PH could win big in the next election if it can work together with other opposition parties which are not in its coalition.

“One thing about PH is, they are united. If they can consolidate with Pejuang, Warisan and other smaller parties they can win big,” Sayuti said.

“Unlike Perikatan Nasional or Barisan Nasional, the animosity is still there especially between Umno and Bersatu. Are they going to agree to a one-to-one fight or will there be three-cornered-fights.

“Anwar with his charisma and diplomatic ties with other foreign countries are our best bet. His experience is what makes him stand above the rest,” he said. TMI

Logo tussle knocks PH’s ‘Big tent’ askew

Word has it that PKR is pushing for its logo to be used as the Pakatan Haparan emblem in GE15, expected to be held some time after the middle of next year.

The DAP and Amanah sides in this argument say that the decision to use PKR’s logo in GE14 was due to untoward circumstances. The then Registrar of Societies was simply being recalcitrant in not approving the PH logo in time for GE14, held in May 2018.

In the event, the PH logo was approved by RoS mere days after the coalition’s victory in GE14. Also, the same PH logo was used by its candidates in all the by-elections that were held since GE14. Though PH lost most of these polls, the defeats had nothing to do with the logo.

PKR is not without some mildly compelling reasons for its insistence that its logo be used by PH in GE15. One is that the PH logo is irredeemably tainted by what they denounce as Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s treachery towards PH during the final months of the coalition’s 22-month residence in Putrajaya.

That treachery was particularly bitter because several leaders of DAP and Amanah had suffered from the authoritarian ways of Dr Mahathir during his 22 years as Umno president and Malaysia’s prime minister (1981-2002). They had bad memories of their mistreatment but put those aside to accept him as the PH leader because the necessity of removing a corrupt Barisan Nasional from federal power overshadowed all other considerations.

Additionally, PKR exponents argue that as their logo had carried PH to victory in GE14, the PKR colours enjoy a special catchet among the supporters of reformasi, the cry for political economic reform that has highlighted the PKR struggle from 1998 till now.

They assert with some cogency that the PKR logo endorsed by a majority of the Malaysian electorate in GE14 was the first time in 61 years a national poll had rung in a change of government in the history of Malaysia. No small achievement that.

They contend that because the historic vote was betrayed by Dr Mahathir and by the duplicity of Muhyiddin Yassin, the Bersatu president who became prime minister of a new government replacing the PH incumbents, the PKR colours deserve a measure of resurrectory grace.

Understandably, PKR’s resentment towards Dr Mahathir remains high, though a year-and-a-half have passed since he abruptly resigned the headship of PH and premiership of the country.

The passage of time has not softened the wound of that memory and though Dr Mahathir continues to justify the abrupt manner in which he exited, his explanations have commanded steadily diminishing credibility.

General opinion has congealed around the hypothesis that he threw in the towel to prevent Anwar Ibrahim from succeeding him as prime minister. This betrayal rankles in the party’s collective memory.

These narratives are persuasive but to yield to them would be tantamount to a settling of scores. General elections should not be fought to appease parochial concerns. Furthermore, new political parties, like the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA), are emerging on the national political landscape; they should be invited to engage with PH under the “Big tent” concept of a gathering of all opposition parties.

MUDA possesses an appeal to the young who will be empowered when the vote is given to the 18-year-olds and above crowd soon, a demographic that is expected to be at least a few million strong when they come on to the electoral rolls.

What then would parties like MUDA think if the more established opposition parties opt to fight GE15 under a component’s colours rather than the coalition’s logo?

Would they want to get under a “Big tent” when it is seen to be contracting around one of its poles?

PKR must look at the evolving picture of new voter empowerment and how PH can leverage on it rather than content itself with a discharge of rancour over past injustices to it and its supremo. FMT