Ex-Barisan Nasional minister Khairy Jamaluddin feels honeymoon over for Pakatan Harapan

Khairy admitted that the voters rejected Barisan Nasional and Najib Razak.

Sulaiman Daud | January 09, 2019, 07:34 PM

Khairy Jamaluddin, Umno member and shadow Finance Minister, had a simple message for Malaysia's ruling coalition, the Pakatan Harapan.

"You can't possibly go on governing by saying that at least we're better than Barisan Nasional (BN)," he said.

Khairy was speaking at the Regional Outlook Forum 2019 in Singapore, organised by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Over 650 guests attended the event at the Shangri-La Hotel.

The former minister of youth and sports made the case that the honeymoon period had worn off for the PH, about eight months after its historic election victory in May 2018.

Faded goodwill

According to Khairy, the PH had a lot of goodwill from the public at first.

Even when the PH were not able to fulfil the campaign promises in their manifesto, the public seemed to accept the PH's explanation that they inherited an "economic mess" from the previous BN government.

However, he believes that the man on the street has not seen a noticeable improvement in his living standards.

Citing the abolishment of the Goods and Services Tax as an example, Khairy acknowledged that it had been somewhat effective in keeping Malaysia's Consumer Price Index relatively low.

But he said that if one spoke to the average Malaysian citizen, it's unlikely they would reply that the cost of living has improved substantially.

Khairy cited more examples of the under-performing economy, including the weak ringgit, a decline in foreign investment, and low commodity prices impacting Malaysian businesses.

"My sense is that the shine is beginning to wear off," he said.

Why Barisan lost

But if Khairy had strong words for the less-than-impressive performance of PH, he did not shy away from confronting the reasons why Umno and the BN coalition lost in the first place.

"The main reason was a straightforward rejection of Barisan Nasional, specifically of our leader Najib," said Khairy.

He added that the PH had formed a "powerful narrative" by consistently linking the 1MDB scandal to the rise in the cost of living, which fired up the voters.

They also managed to tie the scandal to unpopular government policies like the GST, which resonated with Malaysians finding it hard to make ends meet.

However, Khairy also said that the PH benefited from "historical revisionism" when it came to Mahathir Mohamad, the current prime minister.

According to Khairy, the PH successfully appealed to "nostalgia" of Mahathir's previous tenure as prime minister, while glossing over uncomfortable subjects, such as "crony capitalism" and his friction with the royal families.

He said that the image of Mahathir reconciling and campaigning alongside former political foes such as Anwar Ibrahim and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) convinced voters that this was a new, reformed Mahathir.

Following the general election, Khairy ran for the leadership of Umno, coming in second place.

He lost to Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the former deputy prime minister.

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Top image by Sulaiman Daud.