JUNE 8 — Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim are turning a theoretical potent mix into a thermonuclear device threatening to decimate their coalition’s chances in the upcoming general election.
Leading to the query: Is change incumbent on a personality leading the charge, or being in charge thereafter?
The question plagues those in the Opposition ranks.
What worries observers, other than the reform agenda’s air being sucked vacuum-dry, has been ineptness.
There is no cogent theme when it comes to who is in charge for a coalition which is already handicapped by being permanently fluid.
It’s all wishy-washy covered by slapdash verbosity. It gets murkier with every press release. It’s pitiful that secondary leaders fail to step in to resolve the impasse.
They need to champion an objective means test to select the coalition’s boss without conditions, admit their party’s complicity in the confusion and prioritise the change agenda.
There is too much “we shall see” in place of “this is what we are working towards.” And the “what” has to be specific.
Politics is about what is possible and infinitely cursed by permutations, but that is not licence to echo every possibility at every juncture and worship the permutations as celebrations of democracy. It masks the inconvenient truth, a failure to lead.
Sticky conundrums AKA Donut Wars
Two soft centres have come to a head.
Both in knee-deep muck.
Should PKR persist with a six-step elongated stratagem to realise Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister? To win by promising Anwar as PM; overturn the conviction through a perceived newly-suppliant court system — so Anwar is immediately eligible, which a pardon does not offer; oversee a PKR MP resigning his or her seat — looking at you Kelana Jaya; win that by-election; avoid the coalition’s parliamentary majority collapsing in case of an overly vulnerable advantage; and gain consent from the party, coalition and Agong in that order.
These steps voluntarily and severely expose the new government.
Surely, campaigns should not resemble a Hollywood script.
There are reasons why movies dramatise and take liberties in the storyline and timelines, for films need to entertain.
It’s awful to go the other way around, to adopt a movie script and then to endeavour to realise it.
In the other corner, the old man.
Must Mahathir Mohamad always offer himself to be in charge?
Whether to be a reassuring interim despot prime minister or mere advisor acting as coalition anchor, biographers are not fooled, they know titles matter little to Mahathir as long as he decides.
He often revisits his own critique of distant British residents for being more ruler than the sultan during the colonial age, despite their briefs suggesting they are merely advisors.
For he becomes that modern day resident.
He has shed Umno, but not his own personality.
His shadow looms over the new coalition and friends despite him admitting that his time has passed.
Is it responsible to present himself as the stabilising factor for the whole coalition when his exit is nearing? Does it not reduce the relevance of other leaders in his own party, including the president Muhyiddin Yassin and his son Mukhriz, when the spotlight is firmly on his ever-evolving opinions rather than his evangelism for a power putsch?
Is he adding to the sum of the parts, or rearranging what is in and out of the sum?
Would Pribumi cease to have impetus without its heart and soul?
This is creating a distracting narrative, from one about a motley crew bound by a common creed and willingness to set aside personal ambitions to see out victory, to one about comparing influence between an inmate’s potential and a nonagenarian’s stamina — a contest whose outcome will be purely academic.
Hybrids are the future
Egos reside in individuals, but ideas are above personalities.
They survive them.
It is evident that every choice as PM-designate needs a name, but only inasmuch to satisfy the line of reporting and to indicate with whom the buck stops.
Perhaps superstars by design become toxic over time in a democratic movement.
Mahathir was a small-timer once. Coming to the fore after two blueblood cousins and prince in 1981.
He did not rely on name recognition, but rather a combination of his political capital within his party and expansive dreams to a population getting to know him.
Today, Malaysia does not need a proven talent to cross the finishing line. It only needs a leader with potential coupled with some fine ideas, to appeal to our voters.
Both Anwar and Mahathir can use their years in service and international fame to embellish the credentials of any candidate the coalition objectively selects. They can shrewdly add gravitas to the whole movement and the name they put at the tip of the arrow.
Malaysians won’t have to choose Anwar or Mahathir, but can be comforted by the resource the coalition possesses.
Malaysians can choose someone without the baggage of Anwar or Mahathir.
That is a tantalising prospect.
One the Opposition is likely to ignore.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.