PAKATAN Harapan appears to be unaware that one of its biggest assets has been Bersih, not Maria Chin Abdullah.
Similarly, Maria doesn’t seem to know that her platform should be Bersih, not Pakatan Harapan.
So, when Maria declared she was quitting as Bersih 2.0 chairperson to run in the next general election (GE14) under the federal opposition, the decision sealed a lose-lose outcome for both PH and Maria.
It doesn’t matter how much she tries to defend her decision, or how much support she gets from the Bersih leadership and supporters, her decision could be seen as an abandonment or even betrayal for many who once embraced Bersih.
This comes at a heavy price for the Bersih campaign to pay.
Bersih is a civic organisation, not a political party. It has a remarkable following by virtue of its noble position unbound by politics.
This explains why Bersih has managed to galvanise hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets.
The rakyat were sick of political power play and completely battered by the greed of political leaders. This is why they were willing to join Bersih rallies and not political ones.
Malaysians used to support Maria Chin, approved her aspirations and ideals, and even followed her footsteps.
But, the moment she is clad in the colours of Pakatan Harapan, her civic movement aura becomes wholly depleted, frustrating her erstwhile followers who now think they have been betrayed or even exploited by her.
And the price goes beyond her to Bersih. If even a Bersih leader can abandon the course, how is it going to get the public to continue supporting it?
While PH appears to have gained from the move, it has actually lost.
In the past, it used to trail behind Bersih and reap the fruits of Bersih’s efforts.
The first Bersih rally in 2007 brought sky-high expectations for fair elections among the rakyat as well as frustration towards the ruling coalition among undecided voters.
Thanks to the rally, the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat successfully took down a large number of BN seats in the general election the following year.
The subsequent rallies in 2011 and 2012 sent the urban voters’ anti-BN sentiment to unprecedented levels, helping the parties in the then opposition coalition capture several more urban and mixed constituencies in the 2013 elections.
These opposition parties would not have gotten so far if not for the boost from Bersih rallies.
Even with its lackadaisical showing at the 2015 rally, Bersih remained the most influential civic organisation in the country.
What PH doesn’t seem to understand is that civic organisations can accomplish campaigns political parties are unable to. They help attract votes that political parties themselves fail to get.
It is suicidal for PH to bring Bersih under its own wing!
PKR doesn’t really need Maria Chin to help win an additional parliamentary seat.
Whether she eventually runs in PJ Selatan or Selayang, her chances of winning are exceptionally good, but to be honest, PKR can win just as easily in these constituencies irrespective of the candidates fielded.
As such, Maria Chin will not boost the number of seats for PH in the end.
On the other hand, the rakyat may begin to feel disenchanted with PH, causing the opposition to surrender some of its narrowly-won seats this time.
While PH has won a Maria Chin, it will lose a super civic platform that is Bersih 2.0. And while Maria Chin may gain a Yang Berhormat title, she has relinquished all the pledges she once made to the civic campaign as well as the trust placed on her by the civic society.
– Tay Tian Yan writes for Sin Chew Daily.