Sticking to a time-tested non-starter

graphic by MZUKRI

DETRACTORS of Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak are banking on the High Court’s decision at the end of July to be his Waterloo. Despite that, there’s also a lingering doubt that something may not follow such script and he escapes conviction, and instead, be on track for a major political comeback, at least that’s what his supporters are hoping.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s political future is also being closely watched come next week’s parliamentary sitting.

His motion for the removal of the highly popular Speaker is expected to test the extent of support he has from Umno, PAS and allied forces, and at the same time, tests the unity of purpose between the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition and its allies.

Several possibilities are being speculated — firstly, Muhyiddin gets his motion across and that will diminish doubts that he does not command the majority.

Secondly, if he fails in his bid, that will reaffirm the suspicions that he does not command the majority and that he should resign. The only way for him not to have the majority will only occur, based on the numbers on paper, when its partners from the loose Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition choose to abstain or even vote against the motion.

The question would then be why would any of the PN partners abandon Muhyiddin? Again, a failure on the part of Muhyiddin has the potential of leading to the Parliament being dissolved and paving the way for a snap election.

It is no secret that this is the route preferred by most Umno leaders and that is especially pertinent with the likes of Najib and those facing dozens of cases in the courts.

While this scene is being speculated, the PH, comprising PKR, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara, is expected to demand that the government be returned to them and their choice of prime minister (PM).

The problem is that the choice of PM is only decided by PH and not its allies that are expected to deliver the numbers.

Pakatan Plus (the acronym used to denote PH and its allies — Parti Warisan Sabah, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia faction opposed to Muhyiddin, and MPs from several other parties from Sabah and Sarawak) have a collective number which is supposed to be just shy of two to three MPs to wrest the majority from PN.

However, they had been caught in a protracted impasse over the choice of PM, with PKR insisting that the choice should be its president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and nobody else though earlier DAP and Amanah were more inclined to have Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to be the candidate and to relinquish the post after six months (though there are opinions that said it should be up to a year).

PH on its own has a total of 91 seats and if added with Dr Mahathir’s Bersatu faction and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Afdal’s Warisan, a total of 107 is supposedly to be in hand with a few lose pledges to the alliance, making them sure of having the majority to wrest it from PN.

However, Warisan and the others that are going to make the numbers do not want to give their support to PH Plus if the candidate for PM is Anwar and their preference is inclined to Dr Mahathir.

This has not gotten down well with PKR and Anwar, hence, the impasse.

Three weeks ago, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel when, in an informal meeting between DAP, Amanah, Dr Mahathir’s Bersatu faction and Warisan, a DAP leader mooted the idea that Mohd Shafie be named as PH Plus’ candidate for PM.

Dr Mahathir alongside all those present supported the idea and he was tasked to announce it. He did only for DAP and Amanah to backtrack after the PH presidential council’s meeting and decided to name Anwar as the coalition’s candidate for PM.

The Pakatan Plus allies of PH were caught off guard as they had started to accept that nominating Mohd Shafie would have been a game changer and put an end to the perception that both Dr Mahathir and Anwar were only bent to be the PM and not the cause.

For Dr Mahathir’s faction, a PM from a Borneo state was a good compromise to a stalemate. After all, apart from a booster to strengthening relations between the Peninsular and the Borneo states, it was time for the Peninsular politicians to “return the favour”.

For decades, Peninsular political players had taken for granted the Borneo states to be their “safe deposit”, meaning those who secure the support from their MPs would be the leader of the nation.

While much of the fault also lies with the politicians from the Borneo states, who are only interested in becoming the leaders for their respective states over the years, such anecdotal referencing has become somewhat condescending and presumptuous.

Adding further to the strained relations between Sabah and Sarawak and the Peninsular Malaysia are claims of being sidelined and their wealth exploited.

A PM candidate from their midst should almost immediately take the sting out of the hostilities and take the relations between the Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak to a new high.

Of course, there would be opposition to Mohd Shafie as the choice even from within Sabah itself, but under the circumstances, Mohd Shafie should be as good as any, if not better.

Obviously, DAP and to a certain degree Amanah, did not have the conviction to follow through with their suggestion and stuck to a formula that had already failed.

It is said blissful is the head buried in the sand.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.