Beware of the poisoned chalice


Today is the Ides of March, a day the Bard made famous in his tragedy “Julius Caesar”.

Of course, no Malaysian politician — except maybe a handful of the superstitious and believers of the occult — would lose any sleep over it even if several soothsayers shouted “Beware of the Day”.

But Ides of March or otherwise, there seems to be a number of self-styled political pundits alongside opportunists who were speculating, or even hopeful, that this session of the Parliament which convened on Monday will witness the unprecedented vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The narratives that had been making their rounds basically contended that some factions within Pakatan Harapan were impatient to take over the helm and that they had the numbers to pull off the no-confidence vote.

To lend credence to the narratives is the public expression from PAS’ top leadership extending their support, unsolicited though, for Dr Mahathir in the event such a coup was attempted in Parliament.

PAS’ recently-wed partner Umno, through its acting president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, too did not want to be left out in the expression of support for Dr Mahathir’s uninterrupted premiership. The support from Mohamad also came unsolicited.

All these expressions came before and after the Semenyih by-election on March 2, when the combined force of PAS-Umno wrested the seat from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, Dr Mahathir’s political vehicle.

It prompted Dr Mahathir to publicly “wonder” as to how does “the supporting him” work when they were working to defeat his party, which in turn meant that his enemies, if they truly existed, would be justified to push for the no-confidence vote following his party’s defeat.

The reason given for these expressions of support is that they did not want anyone else to lead the nation until the 15th General Election (GE15) is called.

In other words, they want Dr Mahathir to stay on for the full term unless a snap election is called.

It sounds kosher, or rather halal, if not for the fact that Dr Mahathir had, in the run-up to GE14, agreed to pass the baton mid-term to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

For all intents and purposes, their support for Dr Mahathir, in the event of the yet-to-be substantiated move to table the no-confidence vote only, serves to drive a wedge between the Pakatan Harapan components.

Whether it rattled the plotters, if they truly existed, is anybody’s guess. But on one occasion when asked what he felt about PAS’ support, Dr Mahathir’s succinct respond, “we’ll see if PAS will truly support me when the vote of no-confidence is tabled”, underscored what the whole issue is all about.

Dr Mahathir, well-seasoned by political intrigues and backstabbing, was obviously taking the speculations without breaking his stride.

He returned to the fray to bring an end to a kleptocracy and against all odds, he led the Opposition then to their first-ever electoral victory in the national polls. He agreed to stay in office until mid-term only to clean up the awful mess inherited from the previous government.

Thus far, since the successful defeat of the Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s regime, Dr Mahathir has worked harder than anyone else in trying to reset the nation.

If the hours that he spends working and burning the midnight oil offer some insights, it is obvious that Dr Mahathir is a man in a hurry and playing politics is not a priority.

Whether he succeeds in resetting the nation only time will tell, but the pace he keeps reflects that he wants to complete the tasks soon, definitely not until the term ends.

All these lead to the fact that Dr Mahathir is working in tandem with the agreement and if there’s any attempt to derail it, it would either come from those who are impatient to see the end of his premiership or those who do not want his successor to succeed him. And they need not necessarily come from within Pakatan Harapan.

That aside, the expression of support from PAS and Umno is fast turning into a poisoned chalice, though they would have preferred it to be the sword of Damocles.

With the Parliament session moving into full swing and scheduled to end on April 11, the talk of vote of no confidence seems to be fast waning. Other mundane matters will be occupying the conspirators, co-conspirators and counter-conspirators, be they imaginary or otherwise.

Once this Parliament season ends, then the speculation of another attempt of a no-confidence vote will shift to the next season, scheduled for July 1 through the 18.

As for now, it is unlikely that Dr Mahathir will keep looking behind his back, wondering when the purported backstabber or backstabbers will likely strike.

Due to that, Dr Mahathir will likely miss the opportunity to utter Caesar’s famous last words: “Et tu….”, whoever the person may be.

  • Shamsul Akmar is the editor at The Malaysian Reserve.