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Ooh! What a crowded playing field

  • It's no secret that BN is not “too keen or comfortable“ facing straight fights and a united opposition.

By Mohsin Abdullah

A two-party system would be good for the country. At least two main coalitions.

That was the talk back then, when Pakatan Rakyat was formulated. And the coalition managed to set up straight fights in almost all constituencies in the past two general elections.

And the one-on-one fights benefited Pakatan Rakyat, to a certain extent. Not enough for it to wrest Putrajaya but enough to win the popular vote, took control of five state governments (at one point) and deny BN the two-thirds majority in parliament as well in states BN won.

It's no secret BN is not “too keen or comfortable“ facing such a situation, i.e. straight fights and a united opposition front.

Pakatan Rakyat is no more with PAS pulling out of the coalition, which is good news for BN. But in its place is Pakatan Harapan. That is good news for the opposition.

However, for GE14, as we know, the nation will see multi-cornered fights in almost all constituencies: three-, four- and even five-cornered fights.

Perhaps GE14 can make it into the Malaysian Book of Records for having the biggest number of multi-cornered fights.

BN is not saying it out loud but it should be happy with the situation. Political pundits see multi-cornered fights as an advantage to the BN.

Pakatan Harapan or PH acknowledges that, but says a huge voter turnout can offset BN's so-called advantage.

So, who do we have contesting come GE14, apart from BN and PH?

We have PAS with its own informal coalition called Gagasan Sejahtera made up of PAS, Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia or Ikatan, Barisan Jemaah Islam Se-Malaysia or Berjasa, a splinter party from PAS.

Then there’s Parti Cinta Malaysia formed by ex-MCA members but said to be pro-BN.

Gagasan Sejahtera is a little known loose outfit which the components somehow seem “not too interested “ in registering into a formal coalition.
Except for PAS, the other parties in Gagasan are not expected to make much impact.

Needless to say, PAS is the big brother in Gagasan and is putting in candidates in at least 160 parliamentary seats and many state seats as well. Even in constituencies which the party has never contested before and stand no or little chance of winning.

Why? Because the party wants to be kingmaker. At least that’s what they say. Meaning in the event no party (or rather coalition) has enough seats to form the new government, PAS will provide the extras, thus creating a simple majority. But to do that, PAS must first win enough seats. Can they do that? That's for another day.

Political observers are seeing the obvious. PAS is leaning towards BN and has forged a cooperation or pact of sorts, despite PAS fielding its candidates against BN, PH and anybody else contesting.

Some pundits call it the “unity government project”, something mooted by Umno and certain factions in PAS on the aftermath of the 2008 elections. But the unity government idea, or UG as it was called, never made it as influential PAS leader the late Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat was against working with Umno.

With the passing of Nik Aziz in 2015, PAS under president Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang is now seen to be friendly with Datuk Seri Najib Razak and co., preferring to attack PH rather than BN in the run-up to GE14.

Moving on, we have PSM or Parti Sosialis Malaysia.

The party contested the general elections in 1999, 2004, 2008 and 2013 using the logo of other parties. Namely DAP and PKR.

Obviously, they were part of the opposition and Pakatan Rakyat. However, this time the party will contest on its own, under their own ticket, using their own clenched fist logo.

Efforts to get them to once again contest as a Pakatan component failed as the party felt slighted, alleging that it has been looked down upon by the big boys in Pakatan and not treated on equal terms, which PH has denied.

Whatever the case, PSM is very much against BN.

Given such a situation will PSM give Pakatan the extras, if the need arises? The party, however, will not field many candidates and its best bet is Dr Michael Jayakumar, the incumbent in Sungai Siput.

Political parties apart, we have independent candidates contesting. Many, in fact, and too many according to some people.

I personally know one or two who are vying for seats, parliament as well as state assemblies.

They truly feel they can contribute to the country and are passionate in their cause despite the odds.

Independents usually end up losing elections.

But I can remember the feat of Mohd Jabar Yusof or popularly known as Cikgu Jabar, who stood as an independent candidate three times in 1972, 1978 and 1982 for what was then known as Batu Laut Selangor state assembly constituency. He won all three elections.

And in 1988, following a foul-up with Umno, Tan Sri Shahrir Samad resigned from his parliamentary seat of Johor Bahru and re-contested as an independent and won.

I can't recall other independent candidates winning.

Yet, we keep seeing independents coming to the fore in the current situation.

Political analyst Dr Hu Yi Shan puts it bluntly, ”Most are likely to lose even their deposits, as they typically do not command a lot of support in the constituencies without the help of a brand name and mobilization of machinery of political parties.”

Then why do it?

To Dr. Hu, some of them are potential candidates but are not picked by their parties. Hence they are “out for glory and revenge”.

And some, say Dr Hu, are placed by major resource-rich parties mainly to split opponents’ votes.

As to who the rich parties are, your guess is as good as mine.

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist who writes about this, that and everything else.)


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