OCTOBER 15 — Make no mistake, it’s fabulously unusual even for Malaysia’s obfuscated political culture.
The excitement initiated three weeks ago by Leader of Opposition Anwar Ibrahim’s declaration the Muhyiddin Yassin administration was over on September 23, was expected to have an outcome two days ago, one way or the other.
Instead, we all have to wait longer. The audience with the Agong turned inconclusive. However, reactions thereafter reveal there’s more to it.
One version suggests it’s a NO to Anwar.
And there is the other which is buying time while the claim gets verified, so MAYBE Anwar.
Or the cynical one, it’s a ruse for Perikatan Nasional (PN) partners to demand more from coalition leader Pribumi Bersatu. The rebels get what they want, or they force parliamentary dissolution or join a better bidder.
It’s simply impossible to rule out possibilities.
Two things have been conspicuous.
One, DAP — with its 41 MPs — remains tepid. Other than releasing a statement they’d support Anwar if he has a majority. Nothing substantial to add.
They’ve sidestepped the only question which matters, would DAP work with Umno? The demonisation of DAP as the enemy of Malays is one of Umno’s greatest achievements, and joining forces leaves them open to attack from their own supporters.
Meanwhile, Umno’s erratic. The signs were up early when party president Zahid Hamidi stipulated that he’d allow Umno MPs to choose whoever for PM, as if deciding chicken or beef for a set lunch. Which was followed by a slew of Umno MPs sending mixed messages.
Tuesday’s supreme council meeting stopped short of abandoning Muhyiddin. Umno’s official message to Muhyiddin, “We are not too happy, and might change our minds about you, but we are listening.”
The unofficial position probably is more damning. Last night it was revealed Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has asked Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun in writing after Anwar’s September claim, why the previous no-confidence motion was not presented to the chamber.
DAP and Umno have 79 seats in Dewan Rakyat, in total.
Between them, lies the future of the present government.
A recent past
DAP’s dilemma is from fresh February wounds.
After the collapse of the Mahathir Mohamad government, two factions raced each other to a parliamentary majority. Pribumi Bersatu President Muhyiddin and then-PKR deputy president Azmin Ali cobbled together a total few seats over a majority, with the help of Umno, PAS and GPS.
They became PN.
But in the lead-up to the internal falling-outs inside Pakatan Harapan, DAP was used as the lightning rod for all race attacks on the soon-to-fail government. Pakatan became a soft target because of how badly DAP were slandered daily.
While Umno hit them hard, Muhyiddin and company benefitted most from Pakatan’s fall as they abandoned ship to gang up with previous enemies.
Betrayal or a history of political abuse from one party, which hurts DAP most?
DAP gets to pick soon and answer the question, agree with Umno to unceremoniously remove those PN betrayers or retain their enmity with Umno?
If it’s about ending PN, DAP may back Anwar’s pursuit for a majority, but not join Anwar’s Cabinet in case of success.
Always number one
Umno, on the other hand, is a victim of its own success as it’s never lost an election it led since independence until 2018. It’s built for power, not to be second to anyone in government even if all of them were from Umno anyway.
Their way is for all Umno splitters, like Muhyiddin and Anwar, to return back to the party on its terms. In fact, Tengku Razaleigh returned to Umno after a failed stint heading Semangat 46.
This is to say, Umno was never going to play second fiddle to another party while with PN. Which might explain why Anwar has presented himself as the head of a unity government, and not on top of a PKR-led coalition to coax support from Umno.
If Umno slides from a PN government into a unity government, it still would be playing second fiddle to one man, Anwar.
The close relationship between Anwar and Zahid would be critical in that situation. Zahid can sell to Umno that Anwar leads the coalition not as PKR president, but a unifying personality. Anwar proves it by clearly prioritising Umno as much as PKR in government positions.
Again, stay close to your news alerts. Things are afoot.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.