12-Point Strategy as Blueprint for Pakatan Rakyat to capture federal power in Putrajaya in 14GE
Yesterday, I posed the question whether Pakatan Rakyat could rise to the challenge to decide the political future not only of Sabah and Sarawak but the whole of Malaysia in the 14GE.
In my media statements in the past four days, I had illustrated with facts and figures that the three Pakatan Rakyat parties of DAP, PKR and PAS had achieved their best parliamentary and state assembly election results not only in peninsular Malaysia but also in Sabah and Sarawak – at one time helming five State Governments in Kelantan, Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Perak – during their tripartite co-operation in the 1999, 2008 and 2013 General Elections.
Today, in the last of a five-part series, I wish to present the following 12-point strategy for Pakatan Rakyat as a blueprint for capturing federal power in Putrajaya in the 14th General Elections.
1. Full and immediate commitment by all three Pakatan Rakyat parties of DAP, PKR and PAS, whether at national, state or local level, to enhance public support in next four years for Pakatan Rakyat’s quest for federal power in Putrajaya in 14GE.
All three Pakatan Rakat parties, DAP, PKR and PAS, at all levels whether national, state or local, and embracing all wings, whether national, youth or wanita, should in the next four years, make full, conscious and immediate commitment to enhance and strengthen public confidence and support for Pakatan Rakyat’s quest for federal power in Putrajaya in 14GE.
This should be the common agenda for every DAP, PKR and PAS meeting, whether at national, state or local level, whether national, youth or wanita, in the run up to the 14GE – to increase and maximise not only Pakatan Rakyat’s electoral and political capability in the quest for federal power in Putrajaya in 14GE but equally important to enhance public support and confidence in such a political objective.
The various DAP State Conventions to be held in the next six weeks, beginning with Negri Sembilan and Penang this weekend, will be excellent occasions to put into practice this first item of the 12-prong strategy for the Blueprint for Pakatan Rakyat to capture federal power in Putrajaya in 14GE.
2. Ensure as fair of a delimitation exercise as possible
The upcoming electoral delimitation exercise is arguably the most important political development that will shape and influence GE14.
For the first time in history, the delimitation exercise will involve Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.
Also for the first time in history, the Barisan Nasional will not have a two-thirds majority in Parliament for it to ram through the delimitation exercise.
In addition, Pakatan has two-thirds control of the state legislatures in Kelantan, Penang and Selangor and more than one-third of seats in the Kedah, Terengganu, Perak and Negeri Sembilan state legislatures.
This means that the number of seats at the federal level and in these states cannot be increased without the support and consent of Pakatan Rakyat.
Pakatan’s challenge then is to ensure that the delimitation exercise is as fair as possible in terms of the apportionment of seats between the different states so that it follows the one-man, one-vote, one-value principle while at the same time, recognizing the unique positions of Sabah and Sarawak.
Equally important is to ensure that the same one-man, one-vote, one value principle is followed within each state for Parliament as well as State Assembly seats.
The most effective mechanism to ensure full transparency in the delimitation exercise is to establish a Parliamentary Select Committee for the Delimitation Exercise.
3.Target the areas which it failed to retain in GE2013
While Pakatan won seven more parliament seats in GE2013 compared to GE2008 (89 compared to 82), we also failed to defend 15 parliament seats which we won in GE2008.
If we had managed to retain all 15 seats, Pakatan would have won 104 seats. This would not have been enough to win power at the federal level but it would have put Pakatan in a much stronger position.
Pakatan’s challenge then is to target the areas which we failed to defend in GE2013. These areas are: Padang Terap, Pendang, Sik, Merbok, Baling and Kulim-Bandar Baharu, all of which are in Kedah; Ketereh, Tanah Merah and Machang in Kelantan; Balik Pulau in Penang; Bagan Serai in Perak; Hulu Selangor and Kuala Selangor in Selangor; and Titiwangsa in KL.
Focused, seat and state centric strategies will be needed to win back these seats.
For example, split-voting will have to be reduced in Ketereh, Tanah Merah and Machang in order for Pakatan to win back these seats. In all three areas, Pakatan’s votes at the state level were more than BN’s but yet Pakatan lost in all three parliament seats.
In Kedah, an effective state opposition, a credible line-up of leaders as a government in waiting and alternative state policies may be needed in order to capture the middle ground and win back the state.
4. Target the marginal BN seats/areas
In addition, Pakatan also needs to target the other BN marginal seats/areas which we failed to win in GE2013. There are 24 parliament seats which the BN won in GE2013 with less than 55% of the popular vote (excluding the above mentioned 15 seats won by PR in GE2008). These include seats such as Cameron Highlands (majority 462), Bentong (majority 379), Sungai Besar (majority 399), Labis (majority 353) and Pasir Gudang (majority 935), all of which were won by BN with less than 1000 votes.
5. Defend the new seats/areas won in GE2013
Pakatan won 15 new parliament seats in Peninsular Malaysia in GE2013. We cannot assume that all of these seats/areas will be successfully defended by Pakatan in GE14. Specific emphasis must be placed on these seats, especially those which were won by small majorities, so that we do not repeat the experience of GE2013 where we failed to defend the number of seats which we won previously. Specific seats that require special attention include Kuala Nerus (majority 610), Sepang (majority 1142) and Batu Pahat (majority 1524).
6. Defend the marginal PR seats
Just as the BN have their marginal seats, so does PR. PR won 17 parliament seats with less than 55% support (excluding the new seats mentioned above). These seats need to be defended especially Bachok (majority 201) and Bukit Gantang (986). If PR is targeting areas where the BN is weak, one can be sure that the BN will be doing the same in areas where PR is perceived to be vulnerable.
7. Continue to use the Pakatan governed states as examples of how Pakatan governs differently from BN
One of Pakatan’s biggest assets is the manner in which the state governments have differentiated themselves from the previous BN state governments, notably in Penang and Selangor. Pakatan’s challenge from now until GE14 is to take a further leap in its performance in the Pakatan held states so as to increase the contrast between the BN government and what a Pakatan government would look like at the federal level.
8. Emphasize rural outreach
There is little doubt that Pakatan won a significant majority of votes in the urban areas in GE2013. What allowed BN to maintain power is their strength/Pakatan’s weakness in the semi-rural and rural areas. Pakatan’s challenge in the lead-up to GE14 is to have a focused rural outreach strategy, especially in the marginal BN seats/areas.
The expected increase in the cost of living as a result of the reduction in subsidies, expected increases in electricity tariff and fuel prices, and the widespread effect of the GST to be implemented in 2015, presents Pakatan with a unique opportunity to relate to the rural voters how the BN government has increased their financial burdens and decreased their disposable income.
Only when the rural voters feel the negative effects of the BN government in their own pockets will a majority of them vote against the BN and support Pakatan. This will have to be one of Pakatan’s main strategies in reaching out to the rural areas.
9. Have a focused Sabah and Sarawak strategy
The seats mentioned above (both BN and PR marginal seats) are for Peninsular Malaysia only. Pakatan faces different challenges in Sabah and Sarawak and hence, requires a different approach in both states.
Pakatan Rakyat cannot take its new-found support in the urban areas in Sabah and Sarawak for granted. Four out of the 9 parliament seats in Sabah and Sarawak won by Pakatan in GE2013 are marginal seats – Sarikei (Majority 505), Sibu (Majority 2841) and Miri (Majority 1992) in Sarawak and Sandakan (Majority 1008) in Sabah. These seats need to be defended aggressively.
Pakatan also needs to target BN marginal seats. Four parliament seats in Sarawak were won by the BN with less than 55% popular support. One of them, Baram, was only won with a 194-vote majority. In Sabah, BN won 10 parliament seats with less than 55% popular support including Beaufort (Majority 672) and Kota Marudu (Majority 842).
However, unlike Peninsular Malaysia, PR in Sabah and Sarawak has to manage the additional challenge of local parties.
While a majority of voters have shown that they think that Pakatan is more credible as an alternative to BN than local parties, these parties can still act as ‘spoilers’ and take away enough votes to prevent Pakatan from wining some of these seats.
Pakatan will have to find a better way to co-operate with some of these local parties in order at the very least, avoid three-cornered fights, especially in the marginal BN areas.
In terms of rural outreach, the recently launched Impian Sarawak and Impian Sabah programs of bringing in small development projects to the rural areas may provide the template for Pakatan’s rural outreach strategy. If successful, this should be rolled out to as many areas as possible, especially in the marginal BN seats/areas.
The forthcoming 11th Sarawak State Elections will provide an excellent opportunity to put the Sarawak-focused strategy to the test.
The 2011 Sarawak state elections broke new ground for Pakatan, especially in the urban areas and allowed Pakatan to convert these results into parliament seats in GE2013.
The same can occur in the next Sarawak state elections. If Pakatan manages to make significant inroads into the rural areas during the Sarawak state elections, this would put more pressure on the BN and on Taib Mahmud and give Pakatan the advantage leading up to GE14.
10. Enhance Pakatan cooperation at all levels
Pakatan Rakyat has come a long way in terms of inter-party cooperation since 2008. At the national level, the Pakatan Presidential Council has regular meetings where issues of strategic and national importance are discussed. PR has now passed three alternative budgets and presented its joint manifesto prior to GE2013. PR has also fought in the trenches together in the many by-elections before and after GE2013.
This cooperation needs to be enhanced at all levels, but especially in the frontline states of Johor, Sabah and Sarawak were inter-party cooperation has not had a long history.
Joint statements can be made by Pakatan state leaders on national issues and issues which are important to the particular state. More activities should be conducted on a cross party platform. Each party can leverage on its strengths to open doors for leaders of the other component parties.
At the same time, Pakatan needs to manage the internal disagreements between the component parties at the national as well as the state levels. Mechanisms can be identified at the national and state level to address some of these disagreements and manage them internally before they are blown out of proportion by the media, especially the BN controlled media channels.
11. Emphasize inter-generational leadership
One of the great strengths of Pakatan is its mixture of experienced leaders and younger leaders both at the state and national levels. This stands in sharp contrast to the leaders in BN, most of whom are of the older generation and thus, more used to a politics-as-usual approach.
Pakatan needs to make full use of this mixture of leaders – both young and old – to enhance the credibility of the coalition. The experienced leaders provide the assurance of a certain amount of continuity and stability while the younger leaders provide and represents the ideas and idealism and dynamism of the younger generation.
If done well, this will be a very potent mixture which the BN will find hard to combat.
12. Counter the lies and propaganda of BN
One of the most effective weapons used by the BN leading up to GE2013 was the ‘fear’ propaganda that somehow Malays in the country would lose their rights under a Pakatan government.
DAP was used as a bogeyman and its leaders were accused of all sorts of things – from being Communists to wanting to create a Christian state in Malaysia to being anti-Islam and anti-Malay. This propaganda was more obvious in the Malay mainstream media namely Utusan as well as in broadcast television, notably TV3 and RTM.
Pakatan has already begun to fight back against these lies and propaganda spread by the BN, especially through social and online media. But more needs to be done. More creative messages and channels are needed in order to assuage the fears of at least a majority of Malays that their rights and livelihood would not decrease under PR but that their lives would actually be better under a PR government.
If Pakatan can address each of the main challenges outlined above, I am confident that we will be in a good position to capture Putrajaya in GE14 with each party pulling its own weight and enhancing the appeal of Pakatan as a whole.