Beset with the lip sync and lip service


GIVEN what has transpired since last weekend, even hectoring the prime minister (PM) and his band of merry men with “I told you so” would neither be satisfying nor sufficient.

But firstly, they have to accept that the attempt to justify the push for the declaration of emergency in handling the Covid-19 pandemic was not bought by the citizenry and instead, widespread opinion is that the move is purely to prolong the hold on the position of PM.

If prior to that, accusations that the PM had lost the confidence of the majority were still doubted by those rooting in his corner, both the move and the rejection seemed to validate what had been conjectural.

It is actually a double whammy — the push for the declaration is an attempt for a lifeline and the rejection exposed the manoeuvre to be self-serving and public interest being the least of its concern.

That made the position of the PM extremely precarious, if not outrightly unmandated, as well as untenable.

However, all these developments do not in any way provide a solution to the political uncertainties that have engulfed the nation of late.

A general election is out of the question, especially after seeing what happened post Sabah polls. Continuing with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin without a vote of confidence or facing a vote of no confidence would mean that his legitimacy is in question.

But removing him will not necessarily resolve the problem as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, albeit his claims to have the numbers and prior to this the frontrunner to the coveted post, seems to have lost steam.

The reason is simple — he would only be able to secure the numbers if he is prepared to work with Umno’s kleptocrats.

However, if he does, his base support that comes from the DAP and Parti Amanah Negara would be in a predicament as they had publicly and repeatedly denounced any cooperation with the likes of Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his predecessor Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, who between them are facing dozens of financial scandals in court.

On the flip side, Umno stalwarts too had publicly and repeatedly rejected any cooperation with Anwar and the DAP, leaving the equation in the numbers game inconclusive.

With all these uncertainties and no solution in sight, some of the DAP and PKR supporters had, in their frustration that their champion had again led them nowhere in the quest to instal him as the 9th PM, reverted to blaming Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the current state of affairs.

Their regular chant, if Dr Mahathir had not suddenly resigned in February and if he had decided to do so but he had passed the mantle to Anwar, Malaysia would have been politically stable if not blossomed.

But they are not being honest, unless they truly are myopic, if not dense.

If they were to reflect and slowly inhale the developments since February until now, they would probably realise that what is happening today was as much the outcome if Dr Mahathir had continued and if Anwar had taken over.

Foremost, when Dr Mahathir decided to resign, he had lost the support of more than half of his party and Pakatan Harapan (PH), or rather PKR, had also lost the Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali’s bloc.

Even if there was a majority for PH, it was razor thin and given the unending vitriol demanding his resignation from detractors within, Dr Mahathir at best would have been a lame duck, if not walking on eggshells, to continue.

Indeed, he could have heeded the King’s request for him to retract his resignation, but he would then be dependent on the Palace to remain in office and whenever a crisis of confidence erupts, as faced by Muhyiddin, Dr Mahathir would have to depend on the Palace for support.

He would have been ridiculed as Muhyiddin is subjected to today and if he was unashamed, he would then drag the Palace to his defence and along the way bring disrepute to the Royal institution.

And yes, he could have attempted to name Anwar as his successor as in the convention of Barisan Nasional (BN). But he knew Anwar did not have the majority, hence his call for the matter to be decided in Parliament.

It was proven that Anwar didn’t have the majority when the King decided to interview all the MPs to state who they wanted to be the PM.

Realising that there was not going to be a clear-cut majority among any of the contenders, during the short period when Dr Mahathir was the interim PM, he mooted the idea of a unity government.

While the current Perikatan Nasional (PN) leaders were prepared to discuss the formation, PH leaders rejected it outright and declared that it would lead to dictatorship, despite Dr Mahathir explaining that he would be bipartisan and technocrats would be appointed in place of some of the politicians.

Lest those vilifying Dr Mahathir also forget, two days before the King decided to announce Muhyiddin as the PM, as a last ditch, Anwar and other PH leaders went to Dr Mahathir’s residence urging him to reconsider being their candidate as PM.

He agreed only if certain conditions were met, to which some of the PH leaders were originally opposed to but relented finally.

The key message of this episode, in case it is missed by some, is that the PH leaders conceded that Anwar would not be able to have the majority and that to remain in power, their best bet was still on Dr Mahathir.

It is of course argued that if Dr Mahathir was prepared to support Anwar, then the latter would have the majority. Again, recent episodes have shown that some of the MPs who gave their support to Dr Mahathir refused to extend them to Anwar.

Nevertheless, on the eve of the announcement of Muhyiddin being appointed as the PM, PH and Dr Mahathir managed to collect statutory declarations from 114 MPs, but by then it was too late.

The King granted Muhyiddin and party leaders an audience, accepted their collective representation (not listing out the MPs supporting Muhyiddin individually) as providing Muhyiddin the majority to be the 8th PM.

As expected, Muhyiddin’s majority has been disputed since then and Umno, which had formed the PN government in the name of Islam and the Malays, today proved that positions and more importantly, self-preservation, are equally if not more important.

All these only point out to the fact that whoever were to succeed Muhyiddin as PM under the PN and PH divide would continue to be unstable and subject to the threats and demands from within and without.

A new approach needs to be taken to resolve the divisiveness of party politics. The unity government is actually not unconventional.

The late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein in pursuing the greater alliance that led to the formation of BN cut across party lines and divides.

There must be pride and dignity to realise it, which at times, requires some to swallow them. Alas, these are rare commodities.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.