ALBERT Einstein’s famous quote rings in the air as the Pakatan Harapan coalition Plus an ensemble of collaborators seek to reinstate what is called the people’s mandate given to them via the 14 general elections on May 9, 2018.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” as Einstein once said, seems to hold relevance all around Malaysian politics, if not life.

At one end, we have a right wing nationalist herd harping on the same racial and religious tones that continue to exist so long as there is a gallery to play to and power to grab.

That, despite the reality being the very threats to race and religion professed throughout the bloc’s tenure in opposition of Pakatan Harapan, far from addressed in the three months thus far of Perikatan Nasional’s rule.

The option the people have is for Pakatan Harapan to force a counter-coup to reclaim power from the Muhyiddin Yassin-led loose coalition sitting on a highly questionable majority.

But does Pakatan Harapan Plus really embody the hope of change that people are expecting or are we again justifying Einstein’s definition of insanity?

The facts that must be taken into account do not centre around Pakatan Harapan’s fall to the political coup on March 1 alone.

Moving forward, Pakatan Harapan must learn from the mistakes that led to its significant drop in ratings and popularity within the 22 months in wrested power from Barisan Nasional. Then the question to be asked while negotiations towards a second term in office take place is, does PH itself recognise the failures of its first term.

The pertinent questions to be asked are of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s stewardship because the failures of his cabinet resulted in national issues that virtually drowned out the good performances by so many assemblymen and MPs in service of their constituencies.

The highlights were the racial temperatures being heightened by riots at a Hindu temple in Subang Jaya in December, 2018, which all relevant ministries failed to address, namely the Home Ministry and the Housing and Local Government Ministry as it involved crime, as well as disputed land.

Instead of the relevant ministers (Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin) and taking the lead and dousing the fire, ministers like Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (National Unity) P. Waytha Moorthy and Human Resource Minister M. Kulasegaran were forced to try and bring the matter under control by addressing and pacifying the Indian community.
Neither did Dr Mahathir himself display any sense of urgency in putting out the racial flames being torched by outside parties not involved in the matter who only sought to fan racial tensions.
That incident then heightened into a riot that allegedly resulted in the death of fireman Mohd Adib Mohd Kassim. And even that was not handled with urgency and was allowed to be politicised to the extreme.

It opened the floodgates for racial tensions to be flamed. Sensing the PH government’s weak stance on the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a United Nations convention which resulted in the Perpaduan Ummah demonstration. The government conceding defeat to pressures that defied common sense, was again a political victory for the then opposition.

Then came the issues of Felda settlers, who were given hope of reprieve from almost life-threatening debts as a result of scandals which the PH coalition itself promised. But virtual absense of Rural Development Minister Rina Harun, compounded fears that PH might not keep their word.

One industry that seemed to heave a sigh of relief upon PH’s demise was the sports industry, who over the 22 months of PH rule, became more accustomed to the Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s video selfies commenting on various political matters than actually resolving pressing issues faced by athletes preparing for major events.

In fact, if there is one Perikatan Nasional minister who has easily outdone his predecessor from PH, it is Youth and Sports Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican. And it is simply by focusing on his assigned job within his portfolio and resolving issues faced by athletes and sports administrators. It also helps that Reezal is far less saddled by political issues and controversies that Syed Saddiq was and still is.

There were many instances of delays and more significantly the reluctance to adhere to the manifesto promised to the people and the very fact that it was Dr Mahathir himself who threw in the towel very early in his tenure with his infamous “Manifesto Bukan Kitab Suci” (The Manifesto is Not a Holy Book) statement, erased much hope PH gave the people in their push for victory in the 14th general elections.

The fact that PH actually delivered on 75 percent of its manifesto and all its efforts to project this message were easily drowned out by Dr Mahathir’s controversial repeat of his statement about the Malays being lazy and over-reliant on the government. Though Dr Mahathir may have his reasons and justification, such statements were uncalled for at a time when the people were looking at his government to perform and deliver on their promises.

And then came the never-ending debate on the transition of power from Dr Mahathir to KEADILAN president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

While pro-Anwar pressure groups have been slated by the pro-Mahathir bloc, this was another instance where a simple definitive answer from Dr Mahathir would have sufficed. Instead, a clear promise preached through mega sound systems before the thousands across the country who attended the Jelajah Harapan campaigns prior to GE14, seemed to be strategically blurred as was the reform agenda that formed the basis of the opposition bloc’s struggle for 20 years.

We now come to the point where PH and its partners comprising Parti Warisan Sabah/UPKO, Dr Mahathir’s bloc of five MPs who do not support Muhyiddin and a handful of MPs pledging support for a counter-coup, decide on their next step forward.

And Dr Mahathir’s name is in the hat again to be picked against Anwar.

The fact that Harapan or hope could depend on the coalition reappointing a chief executive that led its failed tenure alone raises questions about the validity of the struggle or “perjuangan” as is often portrayed alongside the changes (UBAH) or shift from the political elite to a government driven by the people.

Pakatan Harapan, be it Plus or Minus, does not seem reluctant at exposing itself again to the insanity of committing the same mistake yet expecting and even promising a different result.

Fazly Razally