This Leader believes the series of by-election setbacks serve as a report card — a signal lobbed in the direction of PH. Not a death certificate, although bombast will creep in. As a government-in-waiting, a tag BN-plus-Pas would probably style itself with, it would want to spell out coherent policy ideas. Herein lies the true test. (NSTP/MOHD AZREN JAMALUDIN)

THE enduring formula, Barisan Nasional, slipped into near-oblivion in May 2018 in the face of a stunning Pakatan Harapan seat and vote count.

Umno bigwigs had hinted the party would be doomed if it were to lose. Well, it’s still around. Umno has not reformed spectacularly either, but it did not veer from the “usual” political narrative.

This dogged slant was cemented by the political marriage with Pas. They realised they were diametrically opposites in 1978, which caused a fractious break-up and a protracted feud.

When they reconciled this year, MCA and MIC did not oppose, despite racialist hooting. Ahead of Tanjung Piai and amid hints of worsening polarisation, Umno pondered fielding its candidate.

It decided to go with MCA, therefore keeping the then precarious BN chugging along; with the aided advantage of Pas on board. It may turn out to be a formidable alliance, especially in constituencies with the right racial composition and political history.

Tanjung Piai is one. Some 57 per cent of voters are Malays and the seat has always been MCA’s. In “true BN spirit”, MCA’s Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng won with a 15,086 vote-majority over PH’s Karmaine Sardini.

What now? Some politicians see it as a “referendum” that points to PH’s end. Premature, this. They are allowing headiness to get ahead of clear thinking. In truth, Tanjung Piai acted out of character in May last year.

At best, this Leader believes the series of by-election setbacks serve as a report card — a signal lobbed in the direction of PH. Not a death certificate, although bombast will creep in. As a government-in-waiting, a tag BN-plus-Pas would probably style itself with, it would want to spell out coherent policy ideas. Herein lies the true test.

PH has the numbers. With hard work, it could well narrow the deficit and win back the people’s confidence. The big game changer is wealth creation. It is where BN faltered in May last year.

A sizeable percentage of BN personalities had the trappings of wealth. PH should focus on generating new wealth and distributing them fairly and extensively — enter Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s shared prosperity vision.

With an imaginative and creative faculty — say, the idea of generating one million new millionaires across the races, it may be lofty, but not necessarily impractical — let’s have a contest of big ideas. There are many examples.

Anyone operating a chain of cafes, homestays will have a chance, alongside with beauty and health products. Batik designers, durian farms, fisheries, car parts manufacturers, vaccine production, renewable energy, oil and gas ventures, artificial intelligence, facial recognition technology, travel, property — wealth creation leads to wealth effects.

This setback should also compel PH to look at deficiencies; the latest being the recent downgrading of Malaysia’s air safety rating by the United States Federal Aviation Administration.

Both sides of the political divide may want to focus on the deliverables, tired though this may sound. PH has the advantage of incumbency, still.

And, BN must be reminded that its manifesto for the 15th General Election will endure unprecedented scrutiny. For decades, the BN manifesto was glossed over only for PH to walk into a quagmire with its election pledges.

Here’s the absolute truth — Malaysian voters are now considerably bolder.