Lost in transition

pic by BERNAMA

WITHOUT any reason or rhyme, 115 academics and PhD holders decided to come forth and urge Malaysians, all and sundry, to support the leadership of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture).

Unless it was intended to provide intellectual weightage to the non-empirical notion that sycophantic tendencies are rewarding, the unsolicited support did not go down well with at least half the population who still felt that the Muhyiddin government is not the one they had chosen, and that the academics should stick to their vocation and avoid partisan politics.

Apart from that, unless the support could be added to the razorthin majority that Muhyiddin has in Parliament, it would have been an exercise in futility.

However, Muhyiddin may not need such support anyway as it seems Pakatan Harapan (PH) and its allies, that are supposed to bring an end to his unelected government in the near future, are instead giving him a lifeline.

Either by chance or design, their inability to agree on their choice of prime minister (PM) is dividing the coalition, so much so if the Parliament is to be held tomorrow, they would not be able to mount a vote of no confidence with ample numbers.

The divide is over whether PH or rather PH Plus should stick to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad or opt for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the choice of PM, should the efforts to dislodge Muhyiddin and his backers succeed in Parliament.

Anwar and his supporters insisted that he be given the right to the crown as they had backed Dr Mahathir in the 14th General Election and before the coup by Muhyiddin, Dr Mahathir’s term as per pre-election agreement was almost due.

Furthermore, Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) with 38 MPs in its stable is dominant, while Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia is divided between him and Muhyiddin.

However, much to the chagrin of Anwar and his supporters, DAP and Amanah, their original partners in the Opposition days, seem to favour Dr Mahathir over Anwar for the prime ministerial candidacy.

While some of Anwar’s supporters are accusing DAP and Amanah of stabbing Anwar in the back, they are not telling the whole story.

Tracing back the days before the fall of the PH government effectively on March 1 when Muhyiddin took his oath of office, there were two incidences that should provide some insights as to what is developing with the PH parties today.

The first incident was Dr Mahathir’s decision to resign as PM effective Feb 24. While there are those who blamed Dr Mahathir for the fall of the PH government due to his resignation, it is actually misplaced if history served as a guide.

With the exception of Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak who was ousted in an election, all other PMs of Malaysia left office before their term came to an end — from Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Tun Hussein Onn, Dr Mahathir, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Dr Mahathir (second tour of duty). A new PM took over and served the government until the next election is called.

In the recent case involving Dr Mahathir’s resignation, the government should have continued with a new PM. However, what led to the downfall of PH was Bersatu pulling out from the coalition and that was Muhyiddin’s doing.

Dr Mahathir had resigned because he was facing two battlefronts — one the demand from Anwar’s loyalists who wanted Dr Mahathir to step down despite him having promised to step down after APEC (which is scheduled in November).

The second was Muhyiddin and a majority of Bersatu supreme council members who demanded that Dr Mahathir agree with their plan to pull out from PH and work with Umno and PAS to form the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

Despite objections from Dr Mahathir, it was obvious that Muhyiddin and his team were adamant and proceeded with the now infamous Sheraton Move. If Dr Mahathir had agreed to the move, he would have remained the PM.

Muhyiddin would not have been successful if he did not get the support of Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Anwar’s estranged loyalist. Azmin felt his former mentor had betrayed him vis-a-vis the sex tapes and in his defence of the PKR deputy presidency, Anwar had openly supported Rafizi Ramli. Azmin succeeded, but it spelt a bitter end to the relationship.

With Azmin and several of his supporters joining Muhyiddin, the PH government collapsed and uncertainties over who commanded the majority support in Parliament prevailed.

A slew of statutory declarations (SDs) were submitted to the King and in the end, there was no clear majority. PH, instead of backing Dr Mahathir who had resigned because he refused to be a PM of PN, gave their support to Anwar who had convinced them that he had the numbers. As it turned out, he did not.

Realising that Anwar did not deliver what he promised, Amanah and the DAP and, for that matter PKR, fearing that they were going to lose the government to Muhyiddin went back to Dr Mahathir.

On Feb 28, PKR, DAP and Amanah leaders asked Dr Mahathir to be their candidate for PM.

Dr Mahathir agreed and on Feb 29, PH, alongside Dr Mahathir and Bersatu MPs loyal to him, Warisan and several other MPs from Sabah and Sarawak got together and collected their SDs, securing a total of 114 — two more than the required 112 simple majority.

By then Muhyiddin had, however, convinced the King that he had the numbers and brought along leaders of the different parties to back his claims. That was that and Muhyiddin became and remains the PM.

And Anwar remains the PM in waiting.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.