There was a recent report that Perikatan Nasional (PN) was planning a coup which PN party Bersatu’s deputy president Ahmad Faizal Azumu later dismissed as baseless. Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) chief whip and its lead party, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB)’s senior vice-president Fadillah Yusof, who is also a deputy prime minister, had reportedly said that no one had approached them about forming a new government.
It might have been just a rumour but it is reflective of the desire of some political parties to change governments. If PN wants to change the government it must be certain that it can muster a majority from the Members of Parliament (MPs). With its 74 seats, inclusive of PAS’ 49 seats, PN would need the support of GPS (23), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS-6), Warisan (3), a few other East Malaysian parties and Muda (1) to form a government with a simple majority.
Comfortable in government, it is unlikely that PN will make much headway to get the support of parties already in government. The latter wouldn’t want to rock the boat.
Should PN somehow be able to get a majority of MPs to support it and initiates an attempt to topple the incumbent unity government, it needs to be sure it has the support of the majority of Malays to justify its move.
No doubt PN won 54% of the Malay vote but it needs to be ascertained as to whether that figure is reflective of the preference of the majority of Malays nationwide or whether that figure simply reflects the fact that Malay voter turnout in PN’s mainly rural base was very high, hence inflating the percentage of Malay vote in its favour.
In other words, the 54% Malay vote may not be representative of the Malay vote in the urban areas where the majority of Malays are now located. Until the Malay vote is inclusive of the Malay majority in the urban areas, no Malay-based party or coalition can claim it has the support of the Malay majority.
PN has the largest number of Malay parliamentary seats because more parliamentary seats were delineated in the rural areas where the Malay majority once was. That majority has splintered as the majority of Malays are now in the urban areas and until more Malay-majority parliamentary constituencies are created in the urban areas, the Malay vote will not be representative of the majority of Malays.
So, PN can not justify a coup — if it’s planning one — on the grounds it represents the Malay majority because it is debatable if it does.
In the absence of a redelineation of parliamentary constituencies to give more weight to the Malay majority in the urban areas, the only solution to claiming the support of the largest community in the country — the Malays — is to form an alliance between the rural Malay-based coalition and the urban Malay-based party/coalition. In the current scenario that would be a PN alliance with Pakatan Harapan (PH).
Unfortunately for PH, its Malay-based party, PKR, lost nearly half of its Malay support in the last election and PN has declared it will not support PH. If one or all of the newer parties win seats in the urban areas, then they would replace PKR as the urban Malay coalition which can join forces with PN to form a comfortable majority.
GPS and GRS, however, might be reluctant to join such an alliance which would have a dominant PAS with 49 seats as it might be uncomfortable with its Christian voters who are the majority races in Sabah and Sarawak.
What then, would be the best alternative? It all depends on whether MPs will fight for the interests of their voters — even if it means going against their leaders when it is clear they have compromised the constitution.
If their constituents want it, MPs are duty-bound to form alliances and/or change an administration but they have to do it without involving the king or the sultans in order to respect the mandate of the people.
MPs should be prepared to hunker down for tough negotiations and — whatever the tradeoffs — ensure that the interests of the people are not traded off for a political solution. If MPs don’t know how to find a solution without sacrificing the interests of the voters, then they are not fit to be MPs. They are sleeping on the job and simply following a path of least resistance if it benefits them.
The current political landscape is fluid and crisis-prone because no MP has so far demonstrated the leadership skills of finding a solution without selling out the interests of the voters and compromising the constitution.
While crises are unstable periods, they are ripe with possibilities for leaders to emerge who can muster the support of the people. The people are waiting to see for such leaders to rise up who have the skills to lead and fight to uphold the sovereignty of the nation without resorting to cheating and forming unsavoury alliances that put leaders in the debt of others.
The MPs need to wake up and test their mettle during these trying times and prove their leadership qualities and their worthiness to represent the people.
If they won’t, perhaps, it is time to replace them with MPs who can be leaders and fill the vacuum that currently exists.