“Today, PH has tasted power and has all the data and information it needs at its fingertips. So, get rid of the thick egotistical cocoon that still seems to encapsulate the various media and support teams and coordinate efforts towards building a tsunami-scale shockwave”
Raggie Jessy Rithaudeen
Prior to the 14thgeneral election, almost everyone who supported Barisan Nasional condemned Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for sharing a stage with Lim Kit Siang. But that turned out to the best strategy yet – the union served as ‘proof’ that the DAP was serious about ‘unity’ and ‘change’. Contrary to what many a strategist and analyst believes, the union contributed immensely to the downfall of Barisan Nasional and may still be the albatross around the opposition’s neck.
But people were very angry
But they were equally shocked. Tell me, do you still feel shocked that Mahathir rubbed shoulders with Kit Siang? Even before the general election, the shock factor only lasted a while. Soon, people began opening up to possibilities they never before imagined. Some actually believed that Mahathir wanted the DAP to rule so that the Malay-Muslims would get angry and unite. Just take a trip down to the nearest mental asylum and see for yourself what ‘shock therapy’ can do to a person.
But why didn’t it work in 1990?
There wasn’t a shock factor.
Back then, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s Semangat 46 formed two coalitions with several opposition parties to contest the Malaysian general election. The Gagasan Rakyat (GR) coalition joined forces with the DAP and Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) while the Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU) teamed up with PAS, BERJASA, Parti Hizbul Muslimin Malaysia (HAMIM) and the (then) newly formed Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress (KIMMA).
But it wasn’t as if Mahathir had joined forces with the DAP. And neither was the DAP able to sell the concept of ‘change’ and ‘unity’ as effectively as it did prior to GE14. Barisan Nasional, which had only been in existence since 1973, was already a healthy representation of right wing and centre parties, the majority of which were non-Muslim. Razaleigh’s team-up with Kit Siang did little to raise eyebrows as the former was known to enjoy rapports with leaders from all walks of political life.
So you see, there really wasn’t a ‘shock factor’ to begin with. And when you don’t have a shock factor, people aren’t that easily influenced or able to open up to new possibilities. Sure, you had thousands upon thousands attending Semangat ceramahs and almost nobody turning up for UMNO events. Actually, that’s how the saying “ceramah turnouts are not indicative of one’s strength” first came into being. But despite all the alliances and turnouts, Semangat showed very poorly in the general election and won only 8 of the 180 seats it contested at federal level.
Everyone had predicted that Gagasan Rakyat would win and criticised BN severely. Actually, criticising government is the in thing to do as you can easily find one hundred and one reasons why the government of the day isn’t functioning well. Coupled with Razaleigh’s leadership of Semangat and PAS being in the picture, everyone dared predict that Gagasan Rakyat would win as doing so “didn’t make one look or feel stupid.” But what mattered most at the end of the day was not what people said in warungs or coffee shops but who they ended up voting for at the polling booth.
How is it the same today?
The problem with most of us today is that we rely too much on comment sections online to gauge sentiments abound. In the first place, the total number of people who comment online account for less than one per cent of the reading population. This is a fact known to any intelligence, Special Branch, political and (or) Information Technology expert. In the second place, we tend to misinterpret comments by thinking that the majority online is naive, when in fact, many are intelligent and merely go with the flow.
Sure, there are many seeking to boot PH leaders out. Even I would like to see the federal government rid of Lim Guan Eng, Mujahid Rawa, Liew Chin Tong, Waytha Moorthy, Kula Segaran and their likes. But just as you had people in the nineties criticising BN but voting for the coalition anyway, you’d stand an equal chance of seeing people rip PH apart in comment sections online but voting for the coalition anyway. GE15 will see the participation of 16 to 16.5 million voters, 71 per cent of them being Malay and Bumiputera Muslims. If you can’t get an online viewership of three to four million people or a minimum of 500,000 people to attend a major “anti-PH” rally or event, you got nothing.
So how can one defeat PH?
First, you have to figure out the ‘shock factor’ you want to trigger. It has to be a smart ‘shock factor’ and has to mean a lot to the people. In the case of PH, Mahathir’s team-up with Kit Siang and Anwar Ibrahim worked because the DAP spent close to three years building hype on the need for ‘change’ and ‘unity’. So, when the team-up finally happened, it represented ‘proof’ that the DAP was serious about ‘change’ and ‘unity’. It follows, whichever group that’s hoping to bring PH down must first spend a year or so telling people what it can deliver that PH can’t before triggering a shockwave that will cause the ruling coalition to tumble.
Once upon a time, when Barisan Nasional was the only coalition that had tasted federal power, confusing the enemy was the way to go. BN had the means to manipulate and confuse PH because it had data and information at its fingertips. Yet, due to the lack of coordination, egocentric role-plays and the complete lack of coherence among media cells, the party was akin to a cart pulled by many horses in many different directions. Today, PH has tasted power and has all the data and information it needs at its fingertips. So, get rid of the thick egotistical cocoon that still seems to encapsulate the various media and support groups and coordinate efforts towards building a tsunami-scale shockwave.
Why is Mahathir taking his own sweet time to make a move?
Both BN and PH are currently trying to confuse each other. Actually, that’s an act in futility. Because everyone is so confused, there isn’t a coordinated “wave of opposition” by any one group that’s headed straight for any single party and (or) individual (the DAP focused on Najib and UMNO pre-GE14). This has given Mahathir all the time he needs to strike deals with PKR, Amanah, DAP, Warisan, GPS, UMNO and PPBM politicians. These politicians would rather place their trust in him because he seems to be the only person in control. Actually, it didn’t occur to them that the reason he’s in control is because the people around him are busy confusing themselves.
It follows, the longer he takes to make his move, the higher the likelihood that gets to know what each and everyone around him is planning. Information tends to get leaked whenever you have people around you who’re confused. A confused group also tends to make many mistakes and often collapses on itself given time. Notice how PKR and Amanah are crumbling without the need for anyone to do anything? Give and take a year, and Pakatan Harapan as we know it will cease to exist and be replaced by a brand new “Mahathir coalition.”
Now do you know why they call him a Machiavellian?