Malaysia’s opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has been pronounced dead but its component parties are trying to keep alive ties that sustain the opposition grip on the key state of Selangor.
Party Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail yesterday announced that PR could no longer “function formally”. She was speaking a day after the Democratic Action Party (DAP) said that the pact was dead, blaming ideological differences with the third party in the alliance, the Islamist Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah, the wife of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, however, also said that PKR will not cut its ties with the DAP and PAS, blaming neither but chiding both for precipitating a crisis. “PR no longer functions formally,” she said in a statement, emphasising that PKR would continue to support the DAP-led Penang state government and the PAS-led Kelantan state government.
Her decision to preserve the relationship with PAS appears to be aimed at safeguarding the state government in Selangor, the richest state in Malaysia. PKR cannot sustain a majority in the 57-seat state assembly without the support of both PAS and DAP.
However, PAS does not hold any influence in the Penang state assembly as it has only one lawmaker while DAP dominates the 40-seat state legislature with 29 assemblymen.
PAS, on the other hand, controls the Kelantan state assembly with 32 out of 45 seats. DAP has no representatives while PKR has only one.
Dr Wan Azizah also said her party would not stop efforts to build a new coalition “among political parties, non-governmental organisations, groups and influential individuals to defeat Barisan Nasional (BN)”, referring to the ruling coalition.
Although BN has yet to comment on PR’s demise, the rupture will only strengthen its argument that PR has always been a “marriage of convenience”.
PR was formed in April 2008 after the three opposition parties worked together to deny BN its usual two-thirds majority in the March general election. It came close to defeating BN in the 2013 General Election, winning 50.87 per cent of the popular vote but only 40 per cent of the federal Parliament.
On Tuesday, the DAP had tried to pressure the Selangor government to drop its PAS representatives, with its secretary-general Lim Guan Eng saying DAP would support the state Menteri Besar Azmin Ali “to reframe the state government with a new functioning coalition”. Mr Azmin, the PKR deputy president, has been reluctant to be caught in the middle of the spat between the two parties.
Some analysts, like Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan, say PAS should be expelled from the Selangor government because the party no longer conforms to PR’s common policy framework.
Mr Azmin could easily form a new coalition with members from PKR and DAP and those willing to jump ship from PAS. Analysts say the biggest beneficiaries of PR’s disintegration are Umno and the ruling BN.
“Despite being deeply unpopular and beset by many issues ranging from a slowing economy, GST and the leadership troubles, its future appears less terminal given that its main opponents have unravelled,” said Merdeka Centre director Ibrahim Suffian.
He believes PKR is the biggest loser as it now has to face both PAS and Umno in a three-cornered fight in the next elections.