Who will win their hearts?

From left Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan, former chief minister Datuk Seri Md Sulaiman Ali, state umno chief Datuk Seri Ab Rauf Yusoh, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan.-filephoto

IF there is a 15th General Election (GE15) this year, Last Christmas, the hit 1984 song by Wham!, might sum up the mood of Opposition voters.

To paraphrase the song:

“Last GE14, I gave you (Pakatan Harapan) my heart / But the very next day (ie 22 months, before the Pakatan government fell), you gave it away / This year, to save me from tears / I’ll give it to someone special.”

The results of the Melaka and Sarawak polls last year in which Pakatan lost badly – PKR didn’t win any seats in either election and DAP won fewer seats in its urban, Chinese stronghold – showed that sizable numbers of Opposition supporters are fed up with Pakatan.

Pakatan’s losses in those two state elections were consistent with its defeats in the by-elections after 2018’s GE14 – even when Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia was part of the “alliance of hope”.

Some in the Opposition crowd gave their heart (votes) to Barisan Nasional/Perikatan Nasional/Gabungan Parti Sarawak, or did not go out to vote, as indicated by the low voter turnout in Melaka (65.85%) and Sarawak (60.67%).

Arguably, the fear of Covid-19 resulted in Pakatan losing seats which they could have won. But the unkept GE14 promises (then Pakatan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s infamous “manifesto bukan kitab suci” – the manifesto is not a bible – comment angered many people) and Pakatan shenanigans like fielding political “frogs” in the Melaka elections have turned off some of those who voted for the alliance in 2018.

Some of the anti-government crowd have also realised that politics is not black and white or good versus evil. In GE14, in the mind of the Opposition crowd, Pakatan represented good while Barisan represented “evil”. Now some of them realise that Pakatan might not actually be as “holier than thou” as they thought, and might even be similar to the coalition they had been programmed to hate.

“The Pakatan leadership trio of Anwar, Mat Sabu and Guan Eng, their brand has lost its appeal among Opposition voters. The three don’t inspire,” said a friend who used to be a Pakatan supporter that hated the Barisan government so much that he registered to vote for the first time at the age of 50 in 2017 just because he wanted to teach Barisan a lesson. He was referring to Opposition leader and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.

“Actually, Najib was not bad when he was Prime Minister,” he added, referring to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who this voter had demonised in the run-up to GE14.

Don’t get me wrong, there are those who are still passionately against “Bossku” (as Najib is called by some of his supporters). These are the same people who were against Dr Mahathir, but PKR and DAP convinced them to support the Langkawi MP as prime minister, saying he was the only means of “saving” Malaysia.

My Pakatan friend is unlikely to go out to vote in GE15. He has given up on politics as “crooks have replaced crooks”. He sees the current leaders in the government and Opposition as dinosaurs who are dragging the country down. He said parties like Umno and DAP need dynamic and young leaders, not those tainted by scandals.

Playing devil’s advocate, I said Pakatan would still be able to manipulate him into hating the government: “The Timah whisky issue and the Selangor floods are making you angry at the government again,” I said.

“I won’t vote in GE15,” he reiterated.

One part of Last Christmas suggests my friend could change his mind: “Once bitten and twice shy / I keep my distance, but you still catch my eye / Tell me, baby, do you recognise me? / Well, it’s been a year, it doesn’t surprise me / ‘Merry Christmas’, I wrapped it up and sent it / With a note saying, ‘I love you’, I meant it / Now I know what a fool I’ve been / But if you kissed me now, I know you’d fool me again.”

I do believe if Pakatan “kissed” my friend again, he’ll be fooled again.

This GE15, who is the someone special the Opposition crowd will give their hearts to save themselves from tears?

Will we see “rebound politics”? Pakatan broke their hearts when its 22 months in power did not bring about the changes they had hoped for. These voters are on a rebound now and are looking for a party to fall in love with.

These broken-hearted voters could give their hearts up to an old lover: Barisan, which some of them see as a pillar of stability since it was in power for decades.

Or perhaps emerging third-force parties – such as the newly-registered Muda, Sabah-based Parti Warisan, and recently-launched Parti Bangsa Malaysia or Parti Kuasa Rakyat – will win their hearts.

But at the moment, these parties are new entities in national politics. None contested in Melaka and Sarawak, and we don’t know how the voters feel about them. They have to strategise how to woo these broken-hearted voters.

“A face on a lover with a fire in his heart (I gave you my heart) / A man undercover, but you tore him apart / Maybe next GE15, I’ll give it to someone / I’ll give it to someone special (Barisan/Perikatan/third force or back to Pakatan?).”

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