By Dennis Ignatius

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The election results clearly show that the country is deeply divided and unsure of whom to trust in the current toxic political climate. Negotiations to find a way out of the impasse are on-going,

There are not many good options on the table.

PN – dominated as it is by PAS – is too narrowly focused. PAS is simply too extreme. PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan is now hastily offering assurances that PAS will respect diversity and plurality but bigotry is just too much a part of their DNA to take such assurances seriously.

I agree with Haris Ibrahim of ABU that it is time for Malaysians to recognize the divisive and dangerous nature of PAS’s ideology. It would be utter folly to hand power to them.

In view of this, a Pakatan Harapan (PH) partnership with a much-chastised UMNO is perhaps the best compromise. If UMNO can agree on at least a minimalist agenda – no special treatment for those charged with or convicted of corruption, all those facing trial for corruption or other offences to be excluded from cabinet, the reform agenda – there is no reason not to accept it.

It will be good for UMNO and DAP to finally start working together. There is much that they can learn from each other to help build that ‘keluarga’ Malaysia that politicians have talked so much about but done little to achieve.

UMNO’s presence will also provide assurance to Malay voters and civil servants that their interests will be protected while non-Malays will take comfort that PH will be fair to all. It will make for good synergies.

Hopefully, GPS and GRS will also support a PH-BN coalition. Sabah and Sarawak have long been minimised in national politics and their interests neglected; it’s time they take their place as full and co-equal managers of the nation’s destiny. As well, given their culture of respect and tolerance for diversity, going with PH is a no-brainer.

But now is the time for strong leadership from East Malaysia, not vague, wishy-washy statements about waiting for Peninsula parties to sort things out. If they are not willing to stand up and exert themselves for the good of the nation, they shouldn’t be surprised if they continue to be taken for granted.

To be sure, many within both PH and BN will have reservations about working together given the deep-seated animosity and distrust between them. Indeed, it is by no means certain that Zahid Hamidi can deliver all 30 of his seats. The road ahead will not be without challenges but if anyone can bring them all together it is Anwar Ibrahim. He deserves the opportunity to lead where all others have failed.

Perhaps, the voters in all their wisdom, intended for this to happen. By giving neither of the three coalitions an outright majority, it now forces our politicians to negotiate and make compromises in the interest of all communities and for the good of the country.

Malaysians are generally pragmatic. They’ll keep an open mind and be willing to give the leaders of both PH and BN the breathing space they need to forge a new partnership provided important principles are not compromised.

Time is running out. For the sake of the country, I hope that Pakatan Harapan, Barisan Nasional, GPS and GRS can put aside their differences and work together. If they can accommodate each other today, our tomorrow might just begin to look better.