When reports suggested that many opposition voters might sit out GE14, horror quickly spread among Pakatan officials and their media allies. Suddenly, there were reams of articles pleading for the Pakatan disillusioned to keep the faith and do their duty. Those who intend to skip the election or spoil their votes were rebuked alternately as naive idealists, self-indulgent narcissists, or complacent ignoramuses.
But what has Pakatan done to deserve our automatic vote? If you’re disappointed with the opposition, should you continue voting for it? Sure, you may hate Barisan just as much (or even more), but is that worth giving Pakatan yet another chance? What are you hoping to achieve?
Consider the central argument of Pakatan apologists: A change of government would bring about a two-party (in Malaysia’s case, a two-coalition) system in which politicians would no longer take voters for granted. Presumably, by some magical pixie dust, good governance would inevitably follow. As the theory goes, switching governments, just like swapping telcos, improves the services offered in the political ‘marketplace’ in the long-run.
The problem is it doesn’t hold up to any sort of actual scrutiny.
Note that Pakatan partisans rarely, if ever, present specific examples of their lofty theory succeeding in reality. That’s because there are hardly any. Regime change – whether through military force (Iraq), popular revolutions (Egypt, Ukraine), or even democratic elections (Indonesia, Philippines) – have produced shockingly mediocre results at best, and truly catastrophic ones at worst. Politically and economically, countries are either left worse off or mired in frustrating stagnancy.
This isn’t to say that changing governments has never brought positive returns (for example, US President Barack Obama advanced historic financial and health care reform). But in those cases, anti-incumbent forces invariably put forward a positive governing agenda as well as credible leaders. Pakatan fails spectacularly on both those fronts.
The coalition of convenience shows little interest in anything beyond removing Najib and reversing BN policies. It’s riven by frequent squabbling and embarrassing drama. It’s unwilling or unable to name a candidate for prime minister. And last but not least, it’s led by a former PM whose years in office are best remembered for racial politics, police crackdowns, and rampant cronyism.
Today, Pakatan is less the embodiment of change than an invitation to rehash a depressingly dark period in Malaysian history. If you’re looking for a new kind of politics, that’s more than enough reason to stay home come election day. Of course, some argue vociferously that such an act would only help BN remain in power. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it may be necessary.
Fattening themselves on an exclusive diet of anti-government sentiment has turned Pakatan leaders arrogant and complacent. It’s no small irony that the coalition has morphed into a mirror image of BN – albeit less competent, less coherent, and less diverse. Mahathir’s Pribumi party is merely a sole loser’s version of Umno – full membership is only afforded to bumiputeras. Meanwhile, DAP is analogous to MCA, but with a generous dollop of chauvinism.
Far from ending racial politics, Pakatan loudly affirms it. Is this yet another bitter pill that voters are obliged to swallow? If we’re exasperated by both BN’s and Pakatan’s failures, then we need to break this predictable cycle of swapping one bad actor for another. There’s a better alternative to just voting reflexively for Pakatan and hoping for a miracle that will never arrive.
What’s needed is the annihilation of Pakatan at the polls. How you go about achieving that is your choice. Pakatan must not win – not for now, at least. You may think I’m simply mouthing BN propaganda, but consider the strategic reasoning behind this approach.
Only a devastating enough defeat will force Pakatan to reform into something resembling a genuine alternative and government-in-waiting. Long secure in their perches, top Pakatan leaders – including Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, Wan Azizah, and Azmin Ali – have had a free hand to pursue the inept, short-sighted strategies that made Pakatan into the unpalatable disgrace it is today. They must be shown the door.
Otherwise, we’ll have to put up with a contest between BN and BN 2.0 (more accurately, BN half-past-six) for the remainder of our lives. That’s not change, but excruciating farce – and there’s no reason why we should prolong it further.
Yes, everyone who can vote should vote. But Pakatan voters who plan to withhold their support in GE14 are only following their head. Can you blame them? They’ve rightly surmised that they’ve been taken for granted by opposition politicians. Unlike their critics, they’re not looking for a cheap win and/or emotional validation.
They’re seeing the big picture, thinking about the future, and committing themselves to meaningful change. They refuse to be bought by vague promises or cajoled by untrustworthy personalities. If only the naive idealists, self-indulgent narcissists, and complacent ignoramuses would take note.