It was 1990 and the country’s political scene was one of chaos, sort of, as the Malays were split with the new Umno trying to regroup after the party was de-registered in 1988.
At that time the Chinese community was solidly behind the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) while the Malays were split into three – PAS, Umno Baru and splinter of Umno Semangat 46, and smaller ones such as Berjasa, Hamim and Kimma.
The one that stood out among the opposition parties was Semangat 46 led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah with Datuk Seri Rais Yatim, Datuk Ibrahim Ali and several other Umno leaders who opposed then Umno president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had set up Umno Baru immediately after Umno was de-registered.
Being a political strategist, Tengku Razaleigh was fast to notice that no one party could dent BN what more to unseat the ruling coalition and as such, he formed a loose opposition alliance.
However, DAP at that time was shunned by the Malays, likening it to communist movement and considered as brother to Singapore’s PAP.
With such perception, what Tengku Razaleigh did was formed a Malay-based opposition front with the Malay-based parties for east coast states of Kelantan Terengganu and Pahang and another for west coast states and Sabah and Sarawak where DAP was a participant together with Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM).
For the Malay-based front it was called Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah or APU in short while for the west coast and Sabah it was called Gagasan Rakyat (People’s Front).
They went into the 1990 general election and APU succeeded in capturing Kelantan which came under PAS until today while for the west coast, Gagasan Rakyat did not make any inroads.
The two opposition fronts went through the 1995 general election and remain status quo after which in 1996, Semangat 46 disbanded with majority of the leaders and members rejoined Umno.
With Semangat 46 in non-existent, PAS and DAP came together to form another opposition front called Alternative Front with the addition of a new party led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN) and together they went through the 1999 general election.
While PAS retain Kelantan in 1999 general election, the Barisan Alternatif or Alternative Front was plagued with problems between PAS and DAP as both parties could not see a common platform to work on.
The Alternative Front was then disintegrated when DAP withdrew and in the 2004 general election PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKN changed its name to PKR) worked together against BN.
However, before the 2008 general election, the three parties came together again, this time without a name but still voters knew them as Barisan Alternative and more organised where they have a common manifesto.
The result was overwhelming where besides retaining Kelantan, the pact won Penang and Selangor.
In the 2013 general election, they called themselves Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and retain the three states while penetrated BN bastion such as Johor, made inroads in Malacca and Negri Sembilan.
Things were looking good for them until PKR de facto chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim began manoeuvring by making the Kajang Move to have his wife who is PKR president Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Ismail to replace Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor Menteri Besar.
PAS which did not agree to the move had silently pursue its objective of implementing Hudud which angered the DAP which then called for PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang to be ousted and replaced with liberals Muslims in the Islamist party.
Fast forward to today, PKR and DAP formed Pakatan Harapan (PH) with the inclusion of former PAS leaders and members who formed a new party Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah).
Minus PAS, PH loses a major chunk of Malay Muslim voters who had helped marginal seats contested by DAP and PK to win in the last general election.
The political scenario at present is the reverse of 1990 – Chinese are solid behind DAP while the Malays are still split but majority are seen to be backing BN in particular Umno out of desperation to stay relevant as a political force.
Given such background, PH may not move forward much because going by the historical background, PAS is still needed to achieve the hope as Amanah does not have the right contents to attract the Malay Muslims.