pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
IT IS said that most in the country are tired of all the debates, demands and threats pertaining to when and who will succeed the Prime Ministership, preferring the leaders in the government to focus on the struggling economy and other bread and butter issues.
It may be true as political fatigue tends to creep in when such an issue becomes an obsession for those who are perceived as those benefitting or losing out from the change, depending on how the scale tips.
But as much as there are opinions that many are tired of the subject, it will not be easily dismissed and it will, at the very least, hover in the Malaysian psyche until and unless the matter is resolved.
On the plate, the obvious is that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) will pass the mantle to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim within the next one year or two.
But it seems to be much suspicions among those supposedly supporters of Anwar that Dr Mahathir is not going to keep to the pre-election Pakatan Harapan agreement despite the latter repeatedly saying that he will not renege on what had been decided.
To make it interesting, albeit more complicated, Umno and PAS leaders had pledged support and urged Dr Mahathir to stay on the full term and opposed any attempts to pass the position to Anwar.
Several Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Dr Mahathir’s party) divisions reacted to the call from PAS and Umno, and concurred that Dr Mahathir should complete the term.
To further complicate matters, Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali and a few other leaders from PKR, the party that Anwar leads, had also thrown their weight behind Dr Mahathir.
While not saying that they oppose Anwar’s ascension to the Prime Ministership, Azmin’s and his PKR partners’ stand on the matter may swing the balance.
This has raised the ire of Anwar’s supporters, prompting some of them to demand Dr Mahathir to state exactly when he’s passing the baton to Anwar.
There is a degree of hostility, suspicions and unhappiness between the supporters of Anwar and Dr Mahathir. Thus far, it doesn’t seem capable of unravelling the Pakatan Harapan coalition.
In the past, no matter what opinion the Opposition parties may have on the choice of the successor during the Barisan Nasional (BN) rule, it has no bearing given that Umno then held a commanding position in the coalition and the others are just making up the numbers, if not more concerned of their own state, and this is particularly true with BN partners from Sabah and Sarawak.
As such, whenever the prime minister names his successor, usually by making him his deputy, no dispute arises and it is accepted as a fait accompli unless the prime minister changes his mind.
As long as he supports his deputy to succeed, it is accepted that the latter will enjoy the majority support from the Dewan Rakyat, a requisite stipulated by the Constitution.
However, this time around, given the fact that Pakatan Harapan is a coalition among four “equals”, the named deputy may not command the majority support in the Dewan Rakyat if any of the partners or some of their MPs prefer someone else.
This is despite PKR having the biggest number of seats compared to the other coalition partners, but far from having even a simple majority.
It is heavily dependent on the support of its other partners and if there’re any manoeuvrings, their candidate may not have the necessary “majority support in Parliament” to make it to the Prime Ministership.
It then becomes a bipartisan, numbers game in which the candidate will require support from across the floor. It has never occurred in the Malaysian political scene before.
Umno and PAS know this, hence their keenness to weigh in on the issue. Whether there’s any altruism in their stand on the matter is anybody’s guess, but their opinion may determine the future prime minister if the Pakatan Harapan partners are divided.
While Pakatan Harapan grapples with the issue, Umno and PAS have gone ahead with their plans to formalise a collaboration and are set to ink it next month.
The manner the union has been styled, it is perceived to be a right wing, racial-religious collaboration. It has raised much suspicion from the non-Muslims and causing some discomfort among Malay Muslims who consider themselves moderates.
Adding to the discomfort over the union is that Umno is still helmed by Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who has multiple cases to face in the courts.
Not so quiet in the background is Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, scandalised and facing damaging testimonies in court. Despite that, he seems to believe that he’s capable of making a political comeback and prodded on by his own coterie of supporters.
There seemed to be those of the opinion if Dr Mahathir, at 93, could do it, why couldn’t Najib who is only 66. Yet, it sounds somewhat profane.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.