Anwar’s pivotal week ahead

The Dec 19 vote of confidence may crack open a new framework for Malaysia’s political landscape

by HABHAJAN SINGH / pic Muhd Amin Naharul

PRIME Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has exactly one week before he steps into the hallowed chambers to test his majority in Parliament.

The Dec 19 vote of confidence may crack open a new framework for Malaysia’s political landscape. A failure, seen highly unlikely at this juncture, will throw the nation into a political chaos with the potential of a change of guards at the top.

The legwork towards the Dec 19 vote on the floors of Dewan Rakyat, the lower house of the Parliament, will be critical. That work is already in motion, including the recent appointment of ministers and deputy ministers.

Apart from his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, which has 82 seats (including one seat held by affiliate member

Malaysian United Democratic Alliance [Muda]), Anwar can count on the backing of coalition partners made up of Barisan Nasional (BN) [30], Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) [23] and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) [6], making up 141 MPs.

A critical start will be the vote of confidence, the second time in the nation’s history. The first came about in 1976 when Tun Hussein Onn took over as the third PM after the death of Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

Then comes delivering on their policies and promises, which would present its own sets of challenges as Anwar’s government is made up of a coalition of coalitions, badged as a unity government.

“The leaders of the unity government will have to try to make this government work, and deliver transformative reforms to the institutions and the economy,” DAP strategist Liew Chin Tong and MP from Iskandar Puteri, Johor, said in a text message. Last Friday, he was appointed as the deputy minister for the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

He added: “In a year’s time, if this government does well, we will see the emergence of a new political order that may last very long.”

Political analysts spoken to are not discounting internal friction in the Cabinet itself. Many questions were raised when BN chairman and Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (picture) was made deputy PM and minister of rural development.

His string of corruption-related cases still pending in the courts was fodder for criticism, but Anwar has so far defended the appointment as Zahid seems to be eager to keep BN in the fold of the new so-called unity government.

“Zahid is key to Umno staying in the current government. And don’t overlook the fact that GPS also looks at Umno when deciding whom to support. So, he plays a critical role,” a former minister told The Malaysian Reserve.

A fund manager also noted the role played by Zahid and a number of Umno leaders badged as the court cluster.

“You may not like them, but you have to acknowledge that Anwar would not have become PM if not for Zahid,” he said.

Once setting aside the vote of confidence, the next major challenge will be crafting the federal budget for 2023. The last proposed budget, presented under the prime ministership of Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri with Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz as the finance minister, was left on the shelf as Parliament was dissolved three days later to pave the way for the 15th General Election (GE15) on Nov 19.

Anwar, who is doubling up as the finance minister, will have an opportunity to set the tempo. In initial soundbites, he has said that addressing cost of living issues will be the top economic agenda of his government.

When Anwar took the oath as PM five days after the GE15 results were announced, the stock market responded positively.

“The market has responded positively to this news, however, the longevity of this positive momentum requires structural economic policy reforms to continue to drive foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow. Foreign policy will also be in focus given the trade diversion theme under Bretton-Woods 2.0,” JPMorgan Chase & Co said in a research report released early this month.

On this front, Anwar has placed Rafizi Ramli, his second-in-command from PKR, to manage the Ministry of Economy. The concerted efforts by Anwar, Rafizi and Senator Tengku Zafrul, who returned to the Cabinet as international trade and industry minister, will have some bearing on the FDI flow into the country.

“We will be watching Tengku Zafrul and see how effective he will be. He’s more like an outsider, not really representing any of the coalitions that make up the government,” said a political analyst.

In GE15, Tengku Zafrul donned the BN stripes as the candidate in Kuala Selangor, Selangor, but lost to PH’s Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Restoring order in Parliament

Friday, April 2, 2021

Staring right into Umno’s soul

Friday, March 18, 2022

A soluble solution, maybe...

Friday, June 25, 2021

The tardiness of instant and soon