PH can’t pitch big tent yet, say analysts


PETALING JAYA: Two political analysts see Pakatan Harapan’s idea of uniting all opposition parties as a non-starter until they can agree on a candidate for prime minister.

The main contenders are PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, Warisan chief Shafie Apdal and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Yesterday, a statement from PH said Anwar would be meeting the leaders of other opposition parties to invite them to join the coalition or work with it under its “big tent” concept of reinforcing the opposition bloc.

Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said the big tent framework could be a success, but only in theory. It would not work if the different parties could not agree on the choice of a leader for the bloc, he told FMT.

Former academic Azmi Hassan agreed, saying he did not think an opposition bloc would win the next general election without first reaching a consensus on the candidate for prime minister.

“The only way for the opposition to get confidence from voters is for all parties to be under one big tent and, in order for this strategy to work, these parties have to fully agree on who should lead the opposition coalition,” he said.

Oh also said the opposition parties would face a major challenge, especially in the fight for Malay votes, if they decided against banding together before the election.

“Malay voters in this country are very conservative and they tend to vote for Umno and PAS,” he said.

He noted that only 25% of Malays voted for PH in the last general election.

“If more opposition parties are now vying for the 25%, then, of course, it’s going to further dilute the opposition’s vote, whereas Umno and PAS will still have an ironclad 75% of Malay votes,” he said.

Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaya said the big tent strategy was feasible if it meant that all opposition parties would adhere to the basic principle of working together to capture Putrajaya.

He said there were various layers of cooperation available for these parties, such as agreeing on the seats each would be contesting for.

He suggested that PH initiate a discussion to assess the reaction of other opposition parties to the idea of a big tent framework and then conduct an exercise to find out how voters would react.

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