Why only blame Anwar for Harapan’s setbacks?

To signal out Anwar as though he was in total control and other political operatives were not contributing to Harapan’s failure as a government or as an opposition coalition, is disingenuous. Harapan leaders, young or old, must step up.

“In conclusion, the arms of others either fall from your back, or they weigh you down, or they bind you fast.”

– Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

COMMENT | As someone who is a critic of Anwar Ibrahim but still could make the argument that he deserves his chance at Putrajaya, I find all these rumblings that he should step down rather puzzling.

The electoral victories made by Pakatan Harapan in its various iterations were made possible by Anwar, even though some (now) argue that he really didn’t play a part in any of it.

Breaking BN’s two-thirds majority and winning states was something that was unheard of. Now, this is not some sort of plea to emotion but rather a reminder of what a potent opposition could do against an entrenched regime.

These were victories, maybe not ones that handed Harapan the keys to Putrajaya, but they made the opposition into a viable threat and a possible alternative to BN.

Now of course no leader is indispensable and the fact that younger Harapan political operatives are not up to the task of assuming leadership says a lot about Harapan. The fact that Azmin Ali managed to destabilise a government, says a lot about Anwar’s leadership or lack thereof, but this did not happen in a vacuum.

Believe what you want about Umno but Azmin’s treachery was a gift to the party in the sense that now the leadership of the hegemon is open to any who could corral the disparate groups within Umno, which is essentially what happens in political parties all over the world. Harapan is stuck with – who knows for how long – with the same old problem.

Having said that, laying the blame for Harapan failures – electoral or otherwise – solely on Anwar is missing the larger systemic issues which are causing the base to lose faith in Harapan.

Unlike other Malay political leaders, Anwar has the weight of expectations of the non-Malay community on his shoulders. The base of Harapan is the non-Malays. This means that racial and religious extremists have a strategy against Anwar, which has worked well for decades.

Political adversaries of Harapan are in a win-win situation because, if Anwar fulfils or exceeds those expectations, they will use it against him because their base is steeped in racial and religious anxieties which (they are told) only a Malay-based political party can assuage.

They will claim that Anwar’s subservience to the non-Malay community is at the expense of the Malay community.

If he disappoints the non-Malay community, then the far-right will win as well. They would spin this as further evidence that a multiracial political party will not be able to survive and the non-Malays were taught a lesson in pinning their hopes on a “Malay” reformist.

The only reason there is Harapan is from the moves Anwar made, aided in better days by cohesive, even if flawed, opposition political operatives. Similarly, the failure of Harapan today, be it electoral or otherwise, rests in the hands of political operatives who believed that by any means necessary meant ditching alliances and policy frameworks that got them to the position to challenge Umno/BN in the first place.

Every step of the way, the mandarins of Harapan were canoodling with former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who they used to refer to as an existential threat to democracy in Malaysia, placating former members of Umno now in Bersatu drag, ditching campaign promises and demonising those who attempted to point this fact out and through proxies attempting to shape narratives that Anwar was too power-hungry for the Putrajaya throne.

I have no idea why Anwar behaves as if this is the first time at the rodeo, but it seems rather queer to signal him out when everyone else was sleazing about Putrajaya attempting to maintain power by the most underhanded ways possible.

As far as Anwar having the total support of Harapan, remember when DAP strategist Liew Chin Tong wrote about the strange case of Muhyiddin Yassin, even back then, Azmin was being shopped around as deputy PM (by an unidentified “important NGO leader”) and the offer was taken seriously enough that it became a talking point.

So really even blaming Anwar solely for the Azmin fiasco is problematic and maybe I have been too hard on Anwar on this point.

Anwar’s failed numbers game

Anwar never got the royal treatment given to the old maverick, that’s for sure and the fact that his incarceration emboldened not only his political adversaries in BN but also within Harapan points to the dysfunction that was hidden from the average Harapan voter.

Honestly, even mid last year, Harapan political operatives were publicly speaking of Anwar’s failure to secure the required votes to be named as the PM candidate for their own coalition. I mean, seriously, going public with something like this when we all know that if Harapan wanted Anwar to be PM, numbers be damned and roll the dice on an election.

And let us not forget all the Harapan Plus debacle about naming a prime minister candidate. It sounds absurd, but I have had Harapan MPs tell me that they wanted Mahathir to remain in power longer than the specified agreement and these were not Malay political operatives, they were non-Malay political operatives. And they are still people who think that Mahathir deserves a third chance.

As for Anwar’s failed numbers game. When Anwar attempted to play the numbers game – the first or second time, who can keep track – Anthony Loke, publicly stated “you have to ask Anwar if he has the numbers”, which is galling because certain Harapan political operatives made an issue working with the “court cluster”.

Honestly, if Anwar did pull off his number game, does anyone really think that Harapan would have an issue about seizing Putrajaya, and if you do, can you point to anything that backs up this belief? And this is an important point because what Harapan was doing was hedging its bets instead of drawing a clear line, which meant rejecting Anwar outright if he persisted in his political manoeuvres.

I happen to believe an even bigger tragedy by Harapan than the Sheraton Move was rejecting the olive branch offered by Muhyiddin Yassin, which was brokered by political operatives from Harapan.

Now the Harapan council is sending mixed messages about working with the current government. Is this the fault of Anwar too? Or maybe, we have a Harapan council made up of morons, who could not organise an orgy in a brothel.

This is the problem I have with arguments calling for Anwar to step down. Do not get me wrong, if the argument is that all the old guards of Harapan should step down, then this is a rational argument to make.

However to signal out Anwar as though he was in total control and other political operatives were not contributing to Harapan’s failure as a government or as an opposition coalition, is disingenuous.

Keep in mind they are people who just want to overthrow the current government but replace PN, with a substitute, not an alternative. This is how bad partisanship has gotten.

I want Harapan leaders, young or old, to step up. If they cannot do this, they should step down and leave the field to folks who are actually fighting for reforms and not hedging their bets as to who could get them to Putrajaya.

By : S THAYAPARAN (Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum – “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”) – MALAYSIAKINI

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Stringer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s