By Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--PKR and Pakatan Harapan can win the next general election. The GE15 is going to happen sooner or later - the party has to be prepared regardless of Umno’s machinations.

The last few months have not been easy. We have to admit that our performance has left a lot to be desired. The rakyat, too, is demanding real change, having suffered through health, economic and climate crises.

But with wisdom and courage, we will be able to rally our supporters and ordinary Malaysians.

Here’s how we can get the process started.

Undi18 reforms

First, let’s wake up to Malaysia’s current political demographics. The Undi18 reforms that we fought hard for mean some 5.8 million new voters will be added to the rolls. Of that, 1.2 million are aged 18 to 21 - and counting.

This means that the youngest voters - assuming an election is called this year - would have been born in 2004, after the Reformasi movement.

While there is no need for PKR to abandon its heritage, we must make ourselves relevant to these young voters, rather than expect them to conform themselves to our mould.

Yes, we must embrace the latest social media apps and campaign tools like TikTok. But beyond the medium is also the message. We must also have a fresh vision and mission that is relevant to young Malaysians.

We cannot fight GE15 on the issues of the 2018 general election or even the Sheraton Move betrayal. That cannot be all we offer voters.

PKR and Harapan have now been in the federal government. We have held Selangor and Penang since 2008, and Negeri Sembilan since 2018. Voters will now judge us on our plans for government.

While in power for 22 months, aside from Undi18, we also pushed for amendments to recognise the special position of Sabah and Sarawak (which failed due to politicking from Umno, PAS but also GPS – yet which we duly supported when the three parties were in power), pushed through an increase in the minimum wage and made schools more accessible for all. The media environment was also noticeably more open.

But like it or not, the 2018-2020 period had its flaws. More crucially, its time has passed and it’s time to move on.

Sense of responsibility

Next, we need to be clear on what we stand for. Our message should be a full-throated and uncompromising defence of the welfare of the rakyat as well as the national interest.

What should separate us from irresponsible populism, however, is a sense of responsibility.

But PKR must also come up with concrete ideas on creating jobs and increasing wages. More ambitious policies must be spelt out.

We should stop blaming our youths for not wanting to work – when many, including graduates, have to cope with unskilled and temporary jobs to earn a living.

Viable policy on climate change

Next, PKR must have a viable policy on addressing climate change.

We have to protect both our natural heritage and our economy. The two are interlinked. The party cannot and must not surrender this space to others. The survival of the planet is at stake.

And it must not shy away from championing the views of the silent majority of moderate Malaysians when it comes to wedge issues like race, religion, gender and language.

As the most successful multiracial party in Malaysia’s history that has in its short history won seats in every state in the federation and multiracial representatives, we are the most equipped to have grown up conservations and voice these views.

Reject party hopping

Fourth, if we claim to champion reform, then we must stick to its tenets.

“Party hopping” is the cause of so much voter anger and mistrust, which in turn is a threat to Malaysian democracy. We cannot compromise on this any longer. We must reject easy expedience in the name of supposed political gain - voters can and will punish mendacity if we take them for granted.

Anyone who wants to be in our ranks must be committed to reform. We can only win the votes of Malaysians if we have credibility.

In many ways - and this leads me to my final point - there are actually many convergences between the youth vote and PKR.

While it is true many young Malaysians may not remember the Reformasi - the political scenario they grew up in was shaped by it and the struggles of its activists.

They are the children of the Reformasi, whether they realise it or not. Both want a better Malaysia that is socio-economically just.

Realising this common ground will be achievable if PKR president Anwar Ibrahim is able to put forward a strong, youthful team with integrity.

Continuity - of the best of the party and its spirit - can coexist with renewal. In fact, neither will be complete without the other.

Like Malaysia, PKR has a long journey ahead of it.

But if we are willing to work hard, smart and boldly - we can give the rakyat the kind of government they deserve but has eluded them thus far.