KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 ― Given its ragtag nature and its collection of diverse interests held together by a man once vilified by his current colleagues, one question is always bubbling at the surface: Can the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition last?
DAP's parliamentary leader and symbol of resistance and opposition to successive Barisan Nasional (BN) governments since the 1960s, Lim Kit Siang, cautioned against such pessimism.
“On the surface it seems unlikely, in the same way it seemed so impossible we could win the elections.”
“But we won,” Lim told Malay Mail in an interview yesterday.
Many Malaysians remain euphoric and are still expressing disbelief that PH, cobbled together as a coalition of PKR, DAP, Parti Amanah Negara, and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia ― together with Parti Warisan Sabah ― managed to bring down the BN juggernaut and Umno in the May 9 elections.
“Let's not underestimate the commitment of the four parties to make it work,” Lim said.
The DAP veteran, who was one of the main opposition figures against Dr Mahathir when the latter headed Umno and BN from 1981 until 2003, said the two of them simply “must trust each other” now.
“So long as we have a common objective we must trust each other to make it work,” the Iskandar Puteri MP said.
That common objective, he said, was to end the “rot the country has got itself into.”
He added that PH component parties recognised that on May 9 it was as if the country had been reborn, and the coalition must fulfil the hopes of Malaysians so that the country's new dawn would not end up like the Arab Spring, that largely failed to bring the promised democracy to the Middle East countries.
But can the new coalition government hold it together, especially when Dr Mahathir is set to depart the scene as promised in two years?
Lim fully expects the PH administration to go the distance. “I don't see why we are unable to do so,” he said.
“After two years the component parties will be more experienced and we should be able to complete our term under Anwar as the eight prime minister,” he added, referring to the pact’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was recently freed from prison and pardoned.
But big challenges still lie ahead. He recognises the fact that Islamist party PAS received roughly over 10 per cent of the popular votes, while BN got 34 per cent. PH parties and Warisan are now in power with just 49 per cent of the popular vote.
The PH government must now be able to reach out and also represent the 51 per cent of voters who did not vote for them, Lim said.
“In any event I don't believe they wanted a kleptocratic Malaysia or wanted to prop up Najib as PM.
“We are seeing the enormity of the the crime in 1MDB. They will realise they have been taken for a ride. They were misled into voting the way they did,” he said, referring to the scandal-plagued 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
Lim said he will play a role in the so-called “new Malaysia” or post-BN era, but “time will tell” what part it will be as he said he has yet to be offered any Cabinet post.
But after 52 years in active politics, Lim said the 14th general election would definitely be his last.
“I think so,” he said, when asked about finally taking a break.
“I will serve out the five years.”