pic by BERNAMA
FOR Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s (picture) critics, it was a field day. After all, it is not often that the politician, who seems to be a perpetual optimist, particularly when it concerns having the numbers and becoming the prime minister (PM), would sound less convincing.
Whether Anwar is losing it or not, his detractors viewed his reply, to a question from a journalist that he had adequate numbers (to form the government and in effect allows him to stake his claim to the PM’s position) is a downgrade to his claims some six months ago of having “strong, formidable and convincing” majority.
However, if there’s any consolation, critics of the present government pointed out that at least Anwar, unlike PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, is ever ready to face the media, while the latter was only comfortable to have a monologue vis-à-vis televised messages to announce government policies and such.
There were the occasional, irregular press conferences that Muhyiddin had held since taking office a year ago, but as far as his detractors are concerned, these conferences were attended by selected and from among the compliant of the media corporations.
And the affection — which Muhyiddin used to enjoy when he held his televised messages, describing himself as the “Abah”, the fatherly term used when addressing the public, and previously received with “Sayang Abah” (we love dad) — is gone and at times dismissed derisively, especially on social media platforms.
Despite that, it doesn’t mean that Anwar, by default or otherwise, is getting any closer to the coveted seat in Putrajaya.
In fact, he seems to be drifting further and further away and that is not only measured by the choice of words he uses but rather the political path he seems to attempt to take en route Putrajaya.
As was in his press conference and an earlier interview with a Malay daily, his mention of collaboration with Umno in helping him realise his quest did not go down well with his partners in Pakatan Harapan (PH).
By any measure, a united PH of 89 MPs can collaborate with a united Umno of 37 MPs, they would between them have 126 MPs, and even if they exclude the kleptocrats, they would still manage a comfortable 120 majority.
However, the problem is that Umno is fragmented into what has now been labelled as the “court cluster” (referring to the kleptocrats and those awaiting trial), the “ministerial cluster”, in reference to those who had been appointed to lucrative positions in Cabinet and government-linked companies.
Then, there are several other mixed clusters that oppose any collaboration with PH, Anwar or the DAP, or all of them.
In other words, if Anwar wants Umno to help him end his PM-in-waiting status, he can’t be selective in his choices of Umno MPs and all things considered, the kleptocrats are vital and seemingly keen, too.
Even then, it is still doubtful that they may provide the necessary numbers unless the majority of the other clusters are game.
That is, however, only one side needed to be manoeuvred. The other that requires attending to is the extreme allergy felt by some clusters in PH towards some of the Umno MPs, if not towards Umno wholesale.
Generally, the allergy is towards the kleptocrats and given Anwar’s limited choices, it is as good as not realising the numbers.
This sentiment is, however, not a secret and had been worn by most PH on their sleeves as proof of their right to ride the moral high horse.
Therefore, it is actually quite a surprise that Anwar had gone public to declare the intent of collaboration with Umno when he should fully well know the PH sentiments towards his former alma mater and some of their alumnus.
And given the regularity of PH presidential council meetings and those of other levels and wings, these aspects would have expectedly been discussed, dissected and the collaboration rejected.
Thus, it was also a surprise that several PH leaders, namely from DAP and Parti Amanah Negara had roped in non-aligned Opposition parties to issue a statement urging Anwar to strengthen the Opposition bloc and reject any collaboration with kleptocrats.
Such a statement conjures several contaminants — that PH is unable to rein in Anwar in deciding the direction and collaboration of the coalition; and that PH on its own is unable to advise Anwar from pursuing his own course that it had to seek external support and/or that Anwar charts the course of the coalition without consulting his partners only when he had closed the deal.
In other words, PH neither has the courage nor the gumption to defend its principles and turf when dealing with Anwar so much so that it had to rally outside forces to provide it with the necessary backbone.
Such spinelessness in the middle of a government that is perceived to be punitive, insensitive and over-indulging in double standards is actually disgusting.
And the hopelessness will render a nation helpless.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.