THE emergence of a so-called third force in the form of the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) is a big headache for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders. Many of the people in the movement, and those who support such a movement, are the very ones who would normally support PR. So, if the MCLM were to field candidates in a general election, it’s bound to steal votes away from PR.
If PR wants to have a ghost of a chance to take over Putrajaya, it has to avoid such three-cornered fights at all cost. The MCLM does not want to be a spoiler of course. What it wants is to put forth good candidates for Parliament. And it wants to do this by way of offering its candidates to PR parties.
This doesn’t mean the candidates are keen to join those parties though. This approach is not unprecedented. Perkasa founder Ibrahim Ali (formerly Umno and then independent) ran under the PAS ticket while Wee Choo Keong (Malaysian Democratic Party) and Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj (Parti Sosialis Malaysia) ran under the PKR ticket. Still, it was not a common thing and occurred in only a few instances. MCLM though is said to want to field some 30 candidates. That’s a lot of candidates for the PR parties to absorb.
What PR should do is formalise itself as a proper coalition and allow for direct membership. If Barisan Nasional (BN) can do it, why not PR? But even if this is done, there’s still the problem of allocating constituencies for these candidates. How are they going to find places for 30 of them? For one thing, MCLM must be reasonable and not expect to contest in a seat where PR is the incumbent. If they agree to that though, it almost necessarily means that it’s PKR or PAS that will have to make room for the newcomers because DAP won most of the federal seats it contested in.
PKR, in contrast, fielded candidates in a huge number of seats. It won many contests but it lost many as well. If it wants to make way for MCLM, it can. So can PAS to a certain extent but the kind of candidates MCLM would be putting up are not likely to be the ones that will naturally fit into a PAS constituency. The onus then is really for PKR to give way if it wants to avoid three-cornered fights.
Which constituency then should the MCLM go after? As a start it should target all the seats occupied by party-hoppers, the ones who have left their party to become BN-friendly independents. If MCLM wants to make a positive difference, those are the seats they should focus on. Then, MCLM should try to win the seats that PR failed to do so the last time around. If it’s true that they have such superior candidates, they should have a fighting chance.
And what happens if PR, and PKR in particular, does not accommodate MCLM’s request? Will MCLM’s leaders go the way of Zaid Ibrahim and spew bitter criticism at PR? Will it also field independent candidates in certain seats and force three cornered-fights around the country? If it does, that would be the biggest mistake MCLM ever makes for it will then lose all credibility. People who would normally support it will suddenly say, "These guys are so full of themselves."
The key is compromise. Look at how Perkasa, many of whose members are supposedly from Umno, is behaving rationally and deciding not to campaign in Tenang so as to not jeopardise BN’s chances. Tenang has a considerable non-Malay population. If Perkasa can exercise restraint in an effort to further its agenda, should MCLM exhibit at least as much rationality and restraint to achieve its agenda too? -from Oon Time by Oon Yeoh