COVID-19 has crushed all pretence of Pakatan Harapan (PH) as a credible opposition or government-in-waiting.
The ineptitude of PH since being ejected from Putrajaya in February 2020, bedevilled by skewed priorities, has swept away all illusion.
Pressure on the coalition is mounting.
The decision to remain aloof and sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the ruling government now looks foolhardy, and, along with the cost crisis, could stunt the coalition’s ambitions to return to Putrajaya.
The pandemic and rising costs in food – which both discriminate by religion and economic status – have brought forth the country’s deep malaise.
And the worst is yet to come, with experts predicting that another wave will hit, sooner than projected. It is unimaginable to think how the crisis could worsen – and how much more loss is to come.
There is no doubt that the prime minister has lost enormous support across the country over his government’s continued mishandling of the country.
From failing to anticipate rising costs accordingly to holding state elections in Malacca and Johor, the government appears not just tone-deaf but wilfully intent on denying the enormity of the situation presently affecting the country.
What PH needs to do and should be doing now really matters.
For the sake of the country, it cannot afford to let Barisan Nasional (BN) win.
The rest of the world is holding back laughter, waiting to see if the country returns to and continues with its shameful title of a kleptocratic administration.
There is the question of what would happen if the country returned to a kleptocratic administration. It will be a gigantic setback.
This is a disturbing reality for the PH coalition. In the space of slightly more than two years, it burnt a lot of the political capital it had when it walked into Putrajaya in May 2018.
It is not surprising for the gap to have widened among voters who voted for PH in May 2018 and those who voted for BN, a gap that may be hard to close in the 15th general election (GE15). This will also raise doubts about the viability of the current leader of PH continuing to lead the coalition and be named prime ministerial candidate.
Things could still get worse.
PH is facing not just increased political polarisation and rising prices but the risk of a recession that could hit around the time GE15 is called.
Having moved cautiously to date, it would not be a surprise for the Finance Minister and Bank Negara Malaysian to adopt an aggressive stance in the latter part of the year or early next year as signs of a worldwide downturn becomes more apparent.
Yes, all things considered, the present government is facing the worst possible environment for an incumbent in need of a bounce back. But then again, a sharply slowing economy could inflict a blow to PH’s prospects, too.