An impasse by any other name


A RECENT Prime Minister’s Office circular which made its way to the public sphere courted a fair bit of mockery and ridicules leading to a wordsmith coining a phrase that “this prime minister by any other name is still clueless”.

There’s nothing original in the phrase as it is nothing more than a rephrase of the Bard’s popular quotes from “Romeo and Juliet”, one of his most famous tragedies.

But the wordplay on the prime minister’s (PM) name and its evolution from Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture) to Mahiaddin Md Yassin, witty or otherwise, does not make his ascension and his position today less tragic.

In fact, the outcome of the much-anticipated meeting of the Malay Rulers on Wednesday is the culmination of Mahiaddin’s failures, perceived or otherwise.

If anyone chooses to reflect, his rise to the coveted post was disputed from the word go.

His predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad warned him against working with Umno en-bloc as apart from empowering the kleptocrats who were defeated in the 2018 polls, it would also subject him to their mercy, given their superior numbers in terms of MPs on their side.

But the then Muhyiddin, who probably only saw the PM’s signage on the door he was about to open, ignored the wisdom and proceeded with his scheme of things.

And when he was named as the eighth PM, proof of his insufficient majority was shown and publicised and by any measures, Mahiaddin owed his post to the palace at that material time.

Initially, after taking over, Mahiaddin enjoyed relative success with a captive audience who subscribed to the doctrinal Malay-Islam leadership. But the reciting of the doa (Islamic supplication) and aired repeatedly managed to provide him the pious brand.

But such brandings without meeting other expectations led to disaffection.

Ironically, having been labelled as a backstabber for betraying Dr Mahathir and his colleagues in Pakatan Harapan, and by extension the mandate of the voters, Mahiaddin now has to deal with his own set of backstabbers.

Though he had managed to maintain a razor-thin majority since managing to occupy the seat, the process of securing the numbers continued to be disparaged as accusations that rewards and positions were the ultimate considerations.

As a result, a bloated Cabinet was formed while GLCs (government-linked corporations) and GLICs’ (government-linked investment corporations) rewarding positions were distributed among politicians who could and would continue to prop up the PM.

But as he waned in his prime ministership, Umno in particular, which is the single-most responsible party in propping up Mahiaddin, distanced itself from him.

The more Mahiaddin skidded and faltered in his premier lane, the bolder and louder his critics from Umno became. Soon, Mahiaddin suffered the ignominy of being undermined by Umno kleptocrats who unashamedly assumed the high moral grounds as they loudly and persistently disclaimed his leadership.

Of course, the failure of his government is not his fault alone as the opportunists and self-serving appointees lived up to expectations. However, the buck stops with the head as much as the rot starts there.

Yet, none of these should surprise Mahiaddin. Dr Mahathir had forewarned him as any seasoned politician worth his or her salt would have realised that working with a kleptocrat-led Umno is akin to riding the tiger.

While Dr Mahathir and those who had warned him against setting up the Perikatan Nasional government can relish with satisfaction that they had told him so, it doesn’t solve the crisis the nation had been dragged into by the mismanagement and the apparatchiks he had surrounded himself with.

It is then no surprise that a large segment of the society was quite excited when the Malay Rulers and the King, after their meeting on Wednesday issued two statements, among which wanting the Parliament to be convened soon, that there is no extension to the Emergency after the 1 August scheduled end, as well as the need for a stable government.

While the detractors of Mahiaddin and his government relished the idea that it was a reprimand and affirmation of their failure from the Rulers, the crux of the matter is that the Royal directives are passed back to Mahiaddin and his government to attend to.

As it is, the reaction from Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, the de facto Law Minister, underscores the whole quandary.

His contention that the King did not specify the date for the Parliament to be convened and that soon for Takiyuddin is September or October as had been proposed by the government.

Similarly with the concern of the Rulers on the need for a stable government with the support of the majority of the people to which, Mahiaddin and his government may embark on yet another “buying spree” for political frogs who, at this time of crisis are hard-pressed for funds, would be easily tempted.

And what do supporters of the Opposition hope for when the Parliament reconvenes?

That a vote of no confidence will be tabled and their MPs would be able to prove that Mahiaddin has lost the majority while their long-standing PM in waiting, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, will finally secure the prized position?

With a Speaker accused of favouring the ruling coalition, would it be too far-fetched to believe that the vote of no confidence motion would not see daylight.

If, by any chance Anwar does get to prove his majority, wouldn’t his numbers include the kleptocrats and their ilk as well as party hoppers, backstabbers and opportunists?

And a government formed as such would be no different than that of Mahiaddin’s as the participants would once again look at their political gain first and foremost, even at a time when the nation and its people are being choked out of existence.

And before Anwar’s supporters assume the high horse that their choice of leader would not resort to such measures, they just need to Google for Sept 16, 2008.

Beyond that, leaving the solution to the failed government will result in an impasse. The comedy of errors will persist.

None will, however, be laughing.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.