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Friday, July 14, 2017

A good step closer to contesting under one opposition logo

Pakatan Harapan is to be commended for taking a huge step towards registering as a formal coalition.
We won’t count chickens before they hatch, which, in this case, means its actual application to register, as all sorts of things still can happen.
That said, from an outsider’s perspective anyway, Pakatan has probably crossed the bigger hurdles towards applying for registration by now (whether the application is approved is another question, of course).
Should Pakatan Harapan successfully register as a coalition, then in this one (only?) regard at least, it may have accomplished more than Pakatan Rakyat. For unclear reasons, the latter never pursued registration to its full end, and each component party thus campaigned under its own respective logos.
Should Harapan candidates all contest under a single Harapan logo, this would be a positive step in the right direction.
Given the political climate, I hesitate to say that such a move alone will make a very big impact in terms of increasing the number of votes the candidates get.
However, in the long run, running under a single logo against BN (which does the same), implies greater unity of purpose - something that is quite important in any government in waiting.
Top heavy leadership
Let’s have a look at some of the other important details from Thursday night’s announcements.
First to note is the leadership structure. Surely, this is one of the most top heavy entities we have in the country.
We have a de facto leader, a chairman, and a president; followed by three deputy presidents, and four vice-presidents.
Obviously, all these posts were made to accommodate the many big names in the coalition, and to distribute posts in a manner deemed equitable by all parties.
Among the bigger downsides to this approach, of course, is the fact that this structure tells us nothing about who makes the actual decisions.
It also does not formally define what the respective powers of the de facto leader, chairman and president are. The devil is very obviously in the details here.
In BN, for example, for all its faults and odious dominance by Umno, there is no doubt as to who is in charge, and who is calling the shots.
In Pakatan Harapan, it appears to be manifestly unclear. This basically means less accountability, less transparency, and probably less unity.
De facto democracy
Some may argue that this is a more democratic approach, and that at least Pakatan has announced that after an interim holder of the post (and presuming a royal pardon is successfully gained), Anwar Ibrahim will be the eighth prime minister.
In a competition to determine who is more democratic, any institution with an unelected (and thus unaccountable) “de facto leader” is unlikely to be a front runner.
Announcing that Anwar will be made (eighth) PM after another individual is first made interim (seventh) prime minister (while a royal pardon is applied for for Anwar) could also be a step forward.
The entire situation is tricky, however. This interim person is to be announced later, and while we can give some leeway and time, this announcement is extremely important for the Pakatan Harapan campaign - one made the sooner the better.
Note that an “interim” PM may not be all that interim, after all.
What if no royal pardon is given? What if the interim PM decides that for the “national interest”, he or she must stay on in power?
It certainly would not be the first time someone fails to surrender power when he or she should.
Low excitement levels
A friend of mine was telling me that in anticipation of the general election earlier this year, her boss (a political leader) started reducing her company’s workload, just in case.
It appears that preparations for the general election were in earnest.
What struck me was that I had hardly noticed. I’m nowhere near as involved in politics as I used to be, but I still follow the news pretty much every day.
Yet somehow important people/parties being in almost full swing election preparation mode barely registered.
I suppose in general, excitement is definitely lower than it was for the last general election. There are many essays that could be written about that, but suffice to say, I suppose people just feel there’s a lot less to be excited about.
The prospect of three cornering with PAS is obviously another wet blanket hanging over our expectations for the next general election.
Only 50 seats?
There was what I imagine to have been a purposely misleading Bernama headline a few days back: “Rafizi: Harapan hopes to win 50 parliamentary seats in GE14”.
Reading it, I was shocked - I thought it meant Pakatan only hoped to win 50 seats in total. Thankfully, Malaysiakini commentators on the article helped me realise he probably meant 50 more seats in addition to the ones they have now.
The way things are going, though, one can hardly be blamed for thinking that Harapan will actually end up (or believe they will end up) with 50 seats in total.
In any case, for the sake of Malaysian political development in general, let us hope that Harapan successfully registers as a coalition, and that it contests under a single logo.

If so, regardless of the outcome of the election, we would have taken a historical step forward.
NATHANIEL TAN enjoys how the new Harapan logo looks like a Starfleet logo. He imagines this will bring them luck.- Mkini

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