Tag Archives: Anwar

Rural Malay voters will be the kingmakers in GE15

Despite the bombastic rhetoric by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi — who is facing corruption charges in court — and his party cohorts — who are also facing corruption charges in court — that the Malays will only vote for Umno, that opposition parties can’t handle a general election during the monsoon period and that they are doomed to lose, they don’t seem entirely convinced.

If they were, they would go into the 15th General Elections (GE15) alone with its small Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in a do-or-die fight. For a long time, Zahid declared that Umno/BN would go into GE15 alone without its former coalition partners Bersatu and PAS. But, yesterday, Zahid gave orders to its cyber troopers to stop attacks on PAS, which can only mean, at the barest minimum, that Umno is now open to working with PAS again and especially as a partner in an expanded BN coalition.

Either Zahid wants to go along with PAS’ notion of a united ummah (Muslim community) or he knows but does not want to publicly admit it for fear of losing Malay votes that he is not confident of en bloc Malay support for Umno/BN in the Umno heartland and need partners to form a government.

The battleground in GE15 will be the Umno heartland where its Malay majority voters will become the kingmakers of GE15. It would do well for all political parties to factor this fact into their election campaign strategies.

The Malay rural heartland is synonymous with the Umno heartland because this is where most of the Malay constituencies are found and which traditionally gave Umno its unassailable majority. Though the number of Malay voters is a minority as the majority have left their rural homes to the urban areas where they are now a majority, the number of parliamentary constituencies there remains the same and advantageous for Umno to defend and hold.

But in GE14 that Umno stronghold broke when former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was able to swing about 10% of the rural Malay vote to Pakatan Harapan (PH) which he led to form the next government. PH lost much of that vote back to Umno in byelections and due to other factors, the PH government fell.

The point, however, is that a 10% swing in rural Malay vote was possible then. Is a 10% or more swing possible in GE15? It is possible on one factor alone — former prime minister Najib Razak’s conviction and incarceration.

In Malaysia, there has been no precedent of a former prime minister being sent to jail. Now, one has and GE15 will show if there will be a fallout that results in a change in the voting patterns of Malay voters who once supported him.

GE15 will prove whether Malay voters in Umno’s traditional stronghold have been convinced of Umno’s culpability and buckle the traditional trend of blindly voting for Umno, or not.

Right up to Umno’s successes in recent elections Najib was still a free man and he could present an image of himself as being still innocent until proven guilty. But, he is now in jail and his fellow cohorts in Umno will find it difficult to sell his innocence to their Malay voter base.

Najib’s jailing and the appeal of Zahid’s recent corruption case will cast doubts on Umno’s narrative that the corruption cases are “politically-motivated”. So, Umno will suffer some loss of votes but the extent of it is what GE15 will show and will be of concern to political parties.

Where will Umno’s loss of votes go to? There are only two other parties that can offer any challenge to Umno in its stronghold, namely Bersatu and the new NGO, Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA), led by Mahathir’s new party Pejuang. Both will pick up some votes. Whatever votes GTA gets will show the level of support it has in the Malay heartland. Against Mahathir, Bersatu is unlikely to win enough votes to gain an advantage over other parties.

Bersatu and PAS, due to their association with Umno and their poor performance in government should also expect a loss of votes, which would turn out to be to GTA’s advantage.

Treating GTA as unproven and irrelevant would be a grave mistake. As events have turned out up to now, GTA is the only untainted organization that can offer Umno a good fight. Umno would want its voter base to believe Bersatu is its threat but it isn’t because against it, Umno is likely to win because it is more experienced. Against GTA, it is harder to predict now.

However, GTA is alone in the fight to defeat Umno. Even if it wins a number of seats it may not be able to form the next government unless opposition parties choose to ally with it. Opposition parties stand to gain much more if they allied with GTA than stand against it.

In the urban areas where opposition parties have solid support, diehard supporters will continue to vote for them. It is the fence-sitters who failed to support them in the recent state elections who need to be wooed. Among them are those who are dead set against any alliance with Mahathir and those who are not.

By allying with GTA, opposition parties stand to lose the support of the anti-Mahathirists but may gain the support of the rest because an alliance with GTA could mean a return to government which opposition supporters may want. The latter strategy holds greater sway over the former because a government with GTA and its allies would mean that Umno will be unable to form the next government.

The strategy for GE15 should be to ensure that Umno does not return to government. An Umno government will hold the nation to ransom to compromise national institutions so that Umno leaders get what they want for themselves as evidenced in the past.

As long as opposition parties keep a distance from GTA, they are communicating to the fence-sitters that they are leaving open the possibility of a tie-up with Umno/BN. They would then lose the support of the non-anti-Mahathirists. Whether the latter is a bigger majority than the anti-Mahathirists is left to be seen but it is a risk that should not be taken because any union with Umno/BN is detrimental to the nation and should be ruled out completely.

A loose tie-up with GTA as an ally, on the other hand, will send a clear signal to voters nationwide that opposition parties are keen to form the next government without the Umno/BN baggage and will present a united front to achieve that objective. That message may appeal to the majority again, including urban and rural voters.

It will certainly give rural Malay voters who wish to abandon Umno the hope that their votes won’t go to waste. That would definitely break Umno’s stronghold in the Malay heartland.

For that to happen, PH must be prepared to give up PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as the next prime minister. Whether with Umno or GTA, Anwar will not be prime minister, that is certain.

In a government with GTA, in the absence of experienced candidates for the prime ministership, Mahathir may be needed, preferably, in an advisory capacity with a prime minister-designate he can work with. Opposition parties need to work that out among themselves.

The conclusion is simply this: Working with GTA will give rural Malay voters a boost to consider a practical and real alternative and give hope to the rest that a non-Umno government can be formed which can only mean more votes for opposition parties. Working against GTA will leave the status quo unchanged, which means woe upon Malaysia!

The power is in the people

If Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties PKR, DAP and Amanah are open to forging a pact with Umno post the 15th general elections (GE15), they should come out in the open and say so. They should not make non-committal statements and then after GE15 declare that they have no choice but to join forces with Umno. That would be deceiving the people!

DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke recently said that DAP may have to be open to working with Umno in order to form a majority government to save Malaysia. This was followed by a statement by PKR president Anwar Ibrahim who said that any alliance with Umno would only be a “worst-case” scenario.

Both these leaders’ statements clearly reveal that they are willing to work with Umno in the event no party or coalition wins a clear majority to form a government.

That should not be the case. Umno should not be allowed to form a government by itself or by leading a coalition of parties simply because it will see the return of money politics as has been revealed by the ongoing court cases. And only Opposition MPs can stop them by resisting them — not joining them!

If for whatever reason PH parties are open to forming an alliance with Umno, they should make their intentions clear to their voters before the latter goes to vote! If the voters still vote for them, then, of course, the parties are free to go ahead with any alliance with Umno.

The fact that they have not firmly declared their intention seems to imply that PH parties are not confident their voters will accept their reasoning if they expressed it, which can only suggest that PH parties are playing a game with the voters by not clearly stating their stand on this issue.

Don’t deceive the voters. PH parties are already facing a credibility gap judging by the fact that they have lost most of the seats they held in the recent state elections, which means their voters are unsure of the credibility of their leaders.

If PH parties want to restore their credibility in the eyes of the voters, tell them the truth and explain the difficult position their parties are in and trust the judgment of the voters.

PH parties need to understand that there is no such thing as a “worst-case scenario”, as if they have no choice. The truth is that they have a choice but they don’t want to take it.

The choice is in two areas. Firstly, they have to work with other opposition parties not necessarily in a coalition but in a loose collaboration where opposition parties do not undermine each other. As a result, should the election results favour them, it would be easier to form a coalition government.

Even if Umno turns out to be the Malay-based party with the largest number of seats (considering the negative publicity created by the court cases of its leaders, the figure may be less than the 39 seats Umno currently holds), and if no party joins it, Umno will be unable to form a government.

However, the combined number of Malay seats and non-Malay seats won by Opposition parties will be sufficient to form a government. In other words, Umno can be ignored and should be!

Secondly, Anwar has to rethink his ambition to become prime minister. If after an honest explanation to the voters, PKR wins more seats, Anwar will be in a commanding position to negotiate with fellow Opposition parties, including regarding his candidature as PM.

If, however, he fails to win enough seats he will have to accept the fact that he has lost leverage to negotiate and go along with other nominations for the premiership.

The confidence to negotiate comes from the support MPs get from the grassroots. Malaysian politicians need to understand that their confidence comes not from government positions or who they know or pacts and alliances but from their voter base.

There is no point in holding government positions and making a mess of governance as we have witnessed in the past two years. And, there’s no point in submitting memorandums to the king to call for a royal commission of inquiry as Bersatu and Amanah politicians did with regard to the RM6 billion spent on ships that were not delivered. What can the king do aside from making a comment like he did regarding the Smoking and Tobacco Control Act where he added that it was up to Parliament to resolve the issue?

The king knows what Malaysian politicians don’t seem to understand: that the latter has been vested with authority by the constitution to resolve such issues in Parliament. The fact that Malaysian politicians immediately seek the king’s or China’s or the US’s help simply reflects their own lack of confidence to navigate the authority bestowed on them to solve political issues. If they can’t solve problems, how on earth can they govern and, therefore, why elect them?

Confidence comes from the support of the voter base. So, it is to them that politicians must first go to get support. Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad understands this very well and that is the reason why he has got small parties, including his own, Pejuang, to form Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) which plans to contest in Umno-held seats.

GTA may lose all the seats it contests in GE15 or it may win a few which would dent Umno’s count of MPs. GTA should not be written off. If it wins some seats from Umno, it may be a game changer in GE15 because it means a loss of support for Umno from its very own voter base. That may trigger a domino effect and swing support to GTA.

This happened to some extent in GE14. GTA is new and with little support. That support may pick up in the near future. Until then it is hard to predict if GTA will lose all or win some in GE15. But the strategy of going to the people is commendable. GTA just needs more believers to follow it.

Take a leaf out of the UK’s book to choose a PM

The United Kingdom is in the midst of a race to elect the next prime minister after incumbent prime minister Boris Johnson resigned on July 7. What makes it an event to take note of here in Malaysia is that — unlike in Malaysia — the prime minister’s resignation was NOT followed by a period of political instability.

Johnson resigned as a result of a wave of resignations from his Cabinet and government which triggered a series of events that led to the loss of support of his party for his premiership. Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also resigned when he realised that he had lost the support of his then party, Bersatu, which had engineered an alliance that included Umno leaders Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Najib Razak who are facing corruption charges in court.

When a prime minister loses the support of his party or the voters who elected him/her, he/she should resign. That is democracy.

The political instability that followed Tun Mahathir’s resignation is still reverberating through the country while the UK is going through its change of prime minister calmly through an organised, orderly process of electing the next prime minister. That begs the question as to why Malaysian politicians failed to ensure political stability when a prime minister resigned.

There are several factors to take note of to explain this dismal failure in political accountability. Firstly, in the UK government, there wasn’t any predator politician or a cohort of them waiting in the wings to seize the opportunity offered by the resignation of a prime minister to advance their own agendas.

The prime minister resigned but his party or coalition remains the elected government. When Johnson resigned, his Cabinet fell as well but he and his Cabinet remain in government until a new prime minister is elected. That is the democratic convention in a parliamentary democracy-cum-constitutional monarchy.

Johnson’s party, the Conservative Party, is recognised as the elected government and no one attempts to seize the opportunity the instability of a transition offered to force himself or herself and his or her team into government; that’s a coup. The mandate of the people is respected and left untouched while the resigning prime minister’s party undertakes the responsibility of electing the next prime minister.

But, did that happen in Malaysia? No, Malaysian politicians disrespected the mandate of the people and installed themselves as the government as if it were their right, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they were not following democratic conventions and that that is not the rule of law!

Secondly, how did Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin become prime minister? Did his party nominate him? What was the process according to the party’s constitution? Was the process of nominating a prime minister described in the party’s constitution? Or, did he assume as party president that position was automatically his, and his supporters in the party went along with it? Perhaps, it was decided at a meeting of his top party leaders but was there a proper nomination and election process?

UK’s Conservative Party has a clear and orderly process with a committee that oversees the election of a prime minister when the incumbent resigns. They go through rounds of election by the party’s elected MPs until the candidate with the highest vote in the final round emerges as the prime minister-elect, which, in the current situation, is expected to be announced in early September. It’s a long and tedious process and no one rushes it, with the interim prime minister and his Cabinet running the government until then.

In Malaysia, prospective prime ministers unilaterally announced they are the chosen candidates of their parties. Muhyiddin never claimed it but through a series of political pacts, he became prime minister. Without following democratic conventions he named Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob as prime minister and Muhyiddin’s legacy of an illegitimate government continues.

Tun Mahathir has said his party wants him to be the next prime minister if his new party, Pejuang, wins the next general election. PKR president has announced that he would reduce petrol prices if he becomes PM. It’s a political party’s right to name its candidate for the premiership. But is it an arbitrary decision or a name that emerges at the end of a nomination or election process?

Political parties need to spell out clearly in their constitutions the process of how to choose a prime minister. It then becomes clear to the public that the majority in the party chose the candidate and it is a choice that must be respected.

The only party that has a clear nomination and election process is Umno. It is Umno’s tradition that the president becomes the prime minister if Umno or an Umno-led coalition wins. How Sabri became the prime minister is a break from tradition. Again it was an arbitrary decision made by Muhyiddin and the country — like everything after the Sheraton Moves — was stuck with an unelected choice!

While the UK’s Conservative Party is choosing its next prime minister, Parliament gets ready for a vote of confidence. Again this is the democratic convention. A government must prove to the people it has a majority and the only way to show it is through a vote of confidence/no-confidence. This is not a negotiable issue and the British Parliament practices it without debate.

Did the Malay-majority government led by Muhyiddin follow this fundamental principle of the rule by a majority which is the basis of any democracy? Definitely no. What followed was simply to use their positions and pacts to ensure they remained in government. The current so-called “Malay-majority” government needs to ask itself if it followed the rule of law or bent it to keep itself in government.

A third factor to note is the role of the Queen. The Queen has not breathed a word about the political changes taking place in her realm. She does not intervene but leaves it to the politicians to resolve the issues on their own. The politicians know their role. They don’t involve the Queen. According to a recent BBC report, once the Conservative Party has chosen the next prime minister, he/she will be invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen who — on the advice of the ruling party — appoints a new prime minister.

Did we follow a similar process? No. Instead, our politicians went racing to the palace to show proof of majority, and, somehow, Muhyiddin, got installed as prime minister although he didn’t prove he had the numbers.

The point is that the party chooses the prime ministerial candidate who then goes to Parliament — not to the king or the royals — to face a confidence vote to prove that the candidate has the support of the majority of the House. When that is demonstrated for the public to see, the invitation comes from Buckingham Palace to meet the Parliament-approved candidate who is then appointed prime minister on the advice of the party.

Malaysian politicians need to understand that all political issues involving the people must be resolved among themselves and finalised in Parliament. They should have enough confidence in themselves to resolve all political crises by themselves without seeking the help of the king or sultans. Then, we won’t have a case of an unmandated menteri besar or one who receives fancy shoes from royals!

Malaysian politicians have to understand how parliamentary democracy-cum-constitutional monarchy works and there is no better example to consider than the people who first set it up — the British.

Hopefully, Malaysian politicians are following the UK PM race and learning how to conduct themselves as responsible self-respecting politicians. If they can’t learn and correct themselves, then, it is crystal clear that they should not be reelected.

Just consider what happened in the past two years: abuse of power through double standards, intimidating political policing, an Attorney-General’s Chambers that allowed out-of-court settlements involving politicians, a Dewan Rakyat Speaker who has failed to understand that his overriding responsibility is to ensure the independence of the House and not to protect the government, poor governance, weak efforts at recovery and bungling incompetence. Only the judiciary remains an uncompromised institution.

The country can’t afford further decline at the hands of this batch of leaders. Only the people can stop them by voting them out and voting in leaders who know what the rule of law is and uphold it. Otherwise, we will be freely offering garlands to monkeys.

A compromise …

Pejuang has declared that if it wins the 15th General Elections (GE15) it wants its chairman, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as prime minister. The party is riding on the stature and support that Tun is still able to command from the people. The question, however, is if these factors are enough to put Pejuang candidates in Parliament to form the next government.

Tun, no doubt, has considerable support from the people as evidenced in the Johor state elections. Although the party lost in all the constituencies it contested, it garnered 1.8% or 18,000 of the total votes. However, the votes were distributed over the state. There was no evidence in the Johor state elections that there was a significant concentration of support for Pejuang in any one of the constituencies to effectively change the outcome of the results.

In other words, Tun’s support is spread all over the country but not necessarily concentrated in any particular constituency where it can win. So, Pejuang needs to think carefully as to the wisdom of going it alone in the GE15 in the hope it can form the next government on Tun’s support.

On the other hand, if Pejuang joined a coalition, Tun’s widely-distributed support can be significant in giving the edge to the coalition candidate, enabling the coalition to win the election and form the next government. Pejuang’s survival, perhaps, lies in working with the opposition coalition rather than going it alone.

In fact, all the opposition parties stand to lose rather than win if each goes it alone in the GE15. The outcomes of their contests may be no different from the results they obtained in the Malacca and Johor state elections where they were wiped out losing the seats they held and winning only a handful!

The “Big Tent” strategy is the best course of action for all the opposition parties if the overriding priority in GE15 is to prevent Umno from returning to power.

Should Pejuang win a sufficient number of seats while going it alone and then decides to form a coalition with allies with Tun as prime minister, Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties may not oblige. The consequence could be a hung Parliament — again!

Opposition leader and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has already made it clear in a recent media statement that his grassroots are not open to Tun Dr Mahathir being prime minister again and that it would be difficult for him to convince them to agree with Pejuang’s plan.

PKR grassroots and PH may want Anwar to become the next prime minister although it is unlikely that either he or Tun will assume the post if their parties go it alone in the GE15!

The candidacy for the premiership may become a divisive factor in preventing a formidable alternative opposition coalition from being formed. The solution, perhaps, is for neither to become prime minister.

Let the opposition parties choose a candidate for the premiership that both senior leaders can work with and accept, and all coalition partners back the nomination. This will remove the block to the formation of a strong and viable opposition coalition to challenge Umno/Barisan Nasional.

Such a compromise is needed for the formation of an opposition alliance that has a chance of winning the GE15.

A dangerous scenario

What is wrong with this picture: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim debating with convicted former prime minister Najib Razak before a 400-seat, capacity-full hall with opposition leaders seated in the front row? Is anything wrong at all with this picture?

To Najib’s supporters, this is another successful PR campaign legitimising Najib’s comeback to politics and they will see nothing wrong with their Bossku exchanging ideas with another politician. It affirms their Bossku’s credibility.

But, what do discerning voters see? Firstly, they see opposition leaders — Anwar and the others who attended the event — as thumping their noses at the judiciary which convicted Najib. It is the same message sent at the Hari Raya event at the Istana where Najib was seated at the high table with the Agong.

Some people may argue that Anwar is in a similar position to Najib. After all, he was pardoned by the Agong and Najib may want a similar pardon. There is, however, a huge difference between the two. Anwar didn’t mess with government money; Najib did. So, how can we trust the words of a convicted criminal? And, why is Anwar giving credence to Najib’s words when the latter’s actions are questionable?

Very clearly, both and those who attended the debate are disrespecting the judiciary. Should we support such leaders?

Secondly, the presence of Najib’s supporters at the debate is expected. They follow him wherever he goes to provide the carnival feel to his presence and removes the guilt of his conviction and makes him more endearing to his support base.

The presence of opposition leaders at the function, however, indicates that Anwar has their support but to do what? That is the other disturbing message that this picture sends. Opposition leaders are willing to go along with Anwar even if what he is doing is objectionable.

It appears, too, that the media is going along with this clear breach of principles. They played up the debate when nothing new was stated by either participant. The fact that Najib is a convicted criminal is downplayed. Even when he sneezes, it gets media space. The criticisms against Anwar are few and so protectively mild.

There should be much greater objective investigation in the media of Anwar’s antics than has been demonstrated so far, and Najib should be ignored. This is extremely important because Anwar’s current course of action very clearly facilitates the return of Najib/Umno to head the government with Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties on its coattails!

Why else would Anwar sign a Memorandum of Understanding with an Umno prime minister and engage in a pointless debate with a convicted former Umno prime minister?

To the discerning voter, it appears as if Anwar is playing a double game. If PH can form an alliance with other parties that would be considered. But, apparently, Anwar is doubtful that would happen especially since PKR and DAP, both in PH, have been losing their seats in all the recent elections. Hence, his openness to negotiating with Umno.

If Umno wins enough seats in a general election and if PH joins it to form a majority even with fewer seats, PH gets to be in government. The price for it is Najib’s political legitimacy!

That is the reason why I have painted the above picture as it sends a very dangerous message — Najib’s comeback is being facilitated by PH knowingly or unknowingly. Urban voters who form the vast bulk of support for PH now have to be very careful to think whether to vote for PH.

We don’t know what Anwar is up to because we can’t rely on the media which tends not to investigate him. But if the MoU and the recent debate are anything to go by, voters need to be extremely wary of PH parties.

More than ever now there’s a need to form a new coalition in which PH is no longer central to provide the alternative to an Umno-centred coalition. Until such a coalition emerges, a general election may be detrimental to Malaysia as it may bring Najib back with the help of opposition parties.

The kind of leaders not to elect

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim is going ahead with the debate with Umno adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak which is scheduled for May 12. Once again he went along with Najib’s request to hold the debate after the fasting month although Anwar’s side had no issue with having it during the fasting month.

The bigger issue is: Why is Anwar having a debate with a convicted prime minister on the national political stage? According to his recent statements, he explains it as being nice in accordance with his religious beliefs. That is understandable but is it ethical professionally?

Let’s say if one was a head of department in an organization where it’s CEO has been found guilty of embezzling funds from the company and is removed and one then becomes vice-president and meets with the previous CEO at some function, of course, one needs to be nice to him. But would the new VP in his right mind ever engage the convicted CEO in any official capacity when that could open up the possibility of bringing the latter back into the company in any influential position? If the vice president did that it is very likely that he would get demoted if not fired!

Being nice should not be confused with justifying the bending of the rules especially when it involves someone in or vying for public office.

Unfortunately, that is what we have been seeing since Najib’s time. Najib, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin, current prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and now Anwar all seem to have bent the rules in the name of Malay dominance, unity and religion. None seem able to recognize that what they have done or are doing is wrong. Najib is in denial of his responsibility in the 1MDB scandal; Muhyiddin and Sabri do not see anything wrong in seizing the premiership without proving their majority; Anwar is ready to engage with a convicted criminal in a debate that will turn out to be a PR opportunity in Najib’s favour.

Did Anwar get the go-ahead from his party and his partners in Pakatan Harapan to engage with Najib and the court cluster leading Umno? Is this ethical?

How can the people trust such leaders? By their own actions, these leaders have disqualified themselves from any position in public office, much less the position of a prime minister. What is there to say they will not bend the rules again for their convenience in order to remain in power?

The people need to be wary of such leaders. In the next general election, we should not elect them or their parties. We really should give other leaders a chance to emerge and lead the nation according to the rule of law — not according to political, religious and personal expediency, which, in effect, means doing as you please and getting away with it!

Debate and anti-hopping bill favour Najib

It is very likely — if the events subsequent to the famous Sheraton moves are anything to go by — that the scheduled debate between former prime minister and now Umno adviser Najib Razak and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and vice-president Rafizi Ramli will turn to Najib’s advantage.

Rafizi threw Najib a dare to debate the financially-troubled Sapura Energy Berhad after the latter suggested a government bailout of the company. Najib took up the dare on the condition that the debate was with Anwar with Rafizi alongside.

In doing so, Najib framed the debate as one between equals, a former prime minister and the current Opposition leader. It lends credibility to his position as a force of influence and diminishes his conviction for criminal charges in the eyes of his supporters which, precisely, is his objective.

In addition, he is turning the debate into a major public relations exercise as he wants to live stream the debate. Najib sees the debate as a chance to “rock it!” Live-streamed and rocking it as he engages with an equal, his credibility enhances in the eyes of his voter base. His voters will see him as having an intelligent discussion with opposition politicians and will be impressed, seeing him as a capable leader holding his own.

Even if he loses the debate in that Anwar and Rafizi may succeed in rebutting him, he will still come out smelling like a rose because he framed the debate as one between friends on opposing sides of an issue who are simply “rocking it”! So, in gentlemanly fashion, he would graciously accept defeat, offering a handshake to the winners as they are still friends. His target voter base will be warmed to know the debate between the Malay leaders was so amicable even if Najib lost. Another of Najib’s public relations exercises which will bring about the desired payoff. More votes for his side — Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN)!

But, what will PKR get?

PKR is probably hoping that their attempt at an expose will undermine Najib’s appeal. Will it work against his PR campaigns? So far it hasn’t. PKR was thrashed in all the recent elections in Malacca, Sarawak and Johor while Najib successfully worked the crowds and won without discussing issues and simply humbly smiling a lot and identifying with the base.

(Of course, there’s that other issue of alleged cash incentives that follow his campaign trail. That’s just the icing on the cake. They come together, the voters know!)

Can PKR match it? Or will the issues Anwar and Rafizi raise fall like water off a duck’s back?

If PKR is hoping to lure the fence-sitters, Anwar and Rafizi, perhaps have not fully understood that the fence-sitters don’t need convincing. They are already convinced about who Najib is and voted for Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the 2018 general elections to get rid of him only to be disappointed by PH by the subsequent decisions it made which have brought him back to a position of influence.

So, engaging Najib in any form whether through a debate or a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with his party is just playing into his hands. He benefits at the expense of the other side.

Besides, the Sapura Energy issue is of national importance as it involves taxpayers’ money and should be discussed in the Dewan Rakyat which will expose the issue to a wider national audience.

With regard to the MoU, is it also another chance to play into Najib’s hands? Apparently, Bersatu is not keen on passing the anti-hopping bill — a condition of the MoU — which means the government is not confident the bill will be passed with a two-thirds majority, which is the requirement for the bill to be passed.

PH parties want the bill passed and have declared they will support it. Other opposition parties have not made their stand.

In the current political scenario, which party stands to gain the most from passing the anti-hopping bill? Umno, because if some of their MPs leave to join other parties, Umno will be unable to form a majority government. So, it serves Umno’s purpose for the anti-hopping bill to be passed.

The Umno-led government has deferred the introduction of the bill to a special Dewan Rakyat sitting next Monday but as of yesterday it was announced that the bill will not be introduced but an amendment to the federal constitution will be introduced instead which must be passed with a two-thirds majority to “facilitate” the future passing of the bill.

If the bill can’t be passed now with a two-thirds majority, what needs to “facilitate” the passing of the bill in the future? It can only mean one thing: The introduction of the amendment to the federal constitution is meant to allow for the passing of the anti-hopping bill later with a simple majority and not a two-thirds majority.

That may be possible even if Bersatu MPs oppose the bill. If that’s the case, MPs must be allowed to vote according to their conscience. If the anti-hopping bill can not get a two-thirds majority of support from the MPs, it should be shelved. This bill is too significant to be passed with only half the house supporting it.

It was reported that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will be holding a meeting on Sunday to inform the MPs what the amendment to the federal constitution will entail. Whatever that is, MPs must be allowed to vote according to their conscience.

It is unethical to twist the constitution to pass an amendment with the help of an MoU in order for the easy passing of an important bill that will affect every constituent in the country just so that a bill is passed with a simple majority to protect political parties — particularly Umno in the current political scenario — and bring back a leader and his cohorts to power aided and abetted by opposition parties.

Umno stands to gain but PH may see losing more ground.

That is playing into Najib’s sleight of hand!

Factors to consider in strategies for GE15

There are two distinct outcomes of the Malacca state elections to take note of seriously in preparing for the upcoming 15th General Election (GE15).

Firstly, opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) should realise by now that it would be foolhardy for it to go into an election alone. PH, led by PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, entered the election without the help of other opposition parties like Pejuang, Muda and Warisan.

Warisan is Sabah-based and could not have been much help but Pejuang and Muda, which are Peninsula-based, could have lent their election machinery or shown their solidarity with PH parties by their presence on the campaign trail. Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s statement that Anwar should consider other opposition parties in seeking cooperation is telling.

Muda had wanted to contest in the state elections under PH but apparently changed its mind when PH decided to accept the two Umno assemblymen from the four who withdrew their support for the Umno-led state government causing the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Ali Rustam to dissolve the assembly and call for fresh elections. The two were then sacked from Umno but PH coalition parties PKR accepted one and Amanah the other.

Muda apparently did not want to be associated with a coalition that accepted the defectors whose action triggered the state elections. Both Muda and PH might have had their reasons for making the decisions they did but Syed Saddiq’s point is worthy of note: PH should consider the sensitivities of its fellow opposition parties rather than choose a course of action where they go it alone.

Pejuang had previously announced it was not participating in the state elections but if PH had cordial relations with Pejuang the latter might have helped in some other ways that might have worked in PH’s favour.

Yet, Pejuang chairman helped from a distance. On the eve of polling day, Pejuang chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad asked for bloc voting (where every MP’s vote is recorded) rather than voice voting in passing Budget 2022 at the policy stage at the Dewan Rakyat. He failed in his attempt because PH MPs bound by the MoU did not vote for it. A minimum of 15 MP’s votes is required before the request is carried through.

If bloc voting was allowed and the Budget was defeated or won by a very close margin it might have affected the votes in the Malacca state elections. A strong united assault by the opposition would have suggested a possibility that it could win and swing more votes to PH.

It was a missed opportunity and we will never know how it would have affected the state elections. It just showed that PH failed to seize an opportunity that offered itself and use it to its advantage. PH demonstrated that same indifference in not voting against the previous Budget last year and in failing to do so legitimised an unconstitutional government. It did the same when former premier Muhyiddin Yassin resigned in August. PH could have approached Sarawak’s GPS to join it to gain a majority or let Warisan president Shafie Apdal take the lead in approaching GPS. That didn’t happen. So, we will never know now if PH could have succeeded on any of these three occasions.

These events were missed opportunities for PH to show it can work with and lead a multi-party coalition to win. If the PH leadership can not demonstrate the resolve to unite the opposition to face GE15, it will be unable to form the next federal government.

Secondly, the bank of votes in Malay-majority constituencies are no longer guaranteed to Umno. According to DAP’s Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, Barisan Nasional’s (BN) vote share in the Malacca state elections saw only a slight increase of 1%.

However, political analyst Bridget Welsh, who is also an honorary research associate of the University of Nottingham, in her preliminary analysis of the state elections said that while Umno got a 5% increase in votes PKR lost only a small share of the vote, from 10% to 9% in its wiped-out seat losses. In eight seats Umno won by narrow margins of less than 5%.

This suggests that with a concerted and united effort, PH may be able to win back the seats it lost and, perhaps, even win new seats.

Of all the parties that took part in the state elections, it is said that Bersatu performed beyond expectations because it was expected to be wiped out but, instead, won two seats in Sungai Udang and Bemban. Welsh attributes this to the younger voters who were looking for alternatives to Umno and found it in Bersatu.

Bersatu president Muhyiddin however may not be jumping for joy. With all the cash that he poured into the hands of the B40 group during his administration under the guise of covid-19 aid and which continues under Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Muhyiddin believed he could make a clean sweep. After all, just before he resigned he did say that “millions” supported him.

That would be a sobering fact that the support he thought he had was illusory.

The Malacca state elections reveal that the Malay-majority voters have seen through the antics of their leaders and have not fallen for it. Voter turnout was low at around 66%; cash aid didn’t tempt voters to surge out of their homes to vote. Fear of covid-19 and being fatigued by self-serving politics could be the reasons for the poor turnout. But, it can also mean that an increasing number of Malay voters are now ready to vote for candidates other than Umno.

If Umno believes its performance in the Malacca polls will be repeated in GE15, it is going to be disappointed. Malay-majority seats will become the battlegrounds in GE15 and it will be fought hard by multiple parties in multi-cornered fights.

Umno, Bersatu, PAS, Amanah and PKR in some cases, and Pejuang will be contesting in the Malay-majority seats. Pejuang has already announced that it intends to contest in 120 of the traditionally Malay seats held by Umno.

Malay votes are going to be split. No one Malay party is going to get a majority to form a government on its own. It will be forced to form coalitions. The Malay parties like Umno, PAS and Bersatu may go it alone and when unable to get a majority will join forces together with Sabah and Sarawak parties, post-elections.

If, however, Pejuang emerges with a significant number of Malay seats, it would be interesting to see how the coalitions change to accommodate it. The first choice of Malay-based parties will be other Malay-based parties, which means PH will only get the leftover parties and it may not be enough to form a government.

It would be in PH’s interests to preempt that possibility by entering the elections with an already firmed-up coalition. Otherwise, it may be left in the cold on the opposition bench.

The Sarawak elections on Dec 18 will see if Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) will slice into GPS’ super majority. If it does, that is another party PH has to consider to form a PH-Plus coalition.

PH should first consider fellow opposition parties like Warisan, Pejuang, Muda and PSB to form a PH-Plus coalition. It will be the only progressive coalition that will be led by both urban and non-urban Malays and represent all the major people groups that make up Malaysia. It will be a formidable coalition that will be hard to defeat.

That is an opportunity that GE15 offers. PH should make sure that it does not become another missed opportunity. It is up to Anwar to make sure that that opportunity happens.

Where is honour among MPs?

On March 26, the White House uploaded on its website a statement announcing the list of countries whose leaders have been invited to attend a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate that US President Joe Biden will host on April 22 and 23. The countries invited included the G7 nations and China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Notably absent in the list was Malaysia.

The leading democratic nation of the world apparently has no confidence that the present leadership of Malaysia with its rich resources is a worthy partner in the worldwide effort to manage the climate which is becoming the predominant issue of the world. Malaysia used to be the leader in Asean in representing regional issues but it appears as if Indonesia and Singapore are being recognised as the leaders best able to lead this charge into the future.

But does the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition care how it is viewed by the rest of the world? If it doesn’t care how it is viewed by its own people, would that matter? Well, it may not matter now because the world is still grappling with the covid 19 pandemic. But as the world gradually opens up to rebuilding the economy, Malaysia will find limited sources of funds and may end up like former Prime Minister Najib Razak looking to China and Saudi Arabia for funds and paying a heavy price for it. How will the PN be any different from Najib’s government then?

At least, the Najib government was legitimate because it was an elected government with a proven majority. But, can the PN government claim that legal and constitutional standing?

PN needs to take a good look at itself and consider how it is being viewed and why. Then, perhaps, it will realise that it has no standing to stay in government — not even under emergency — and resign. The reason why it has left a trail of political instability is because of questions of its legitimacy. That may also affect the way the world views it. How can democratically-elected governments recognise Malaysia as a peer among them when issues of its legitimacy remain unresolved? Demonstrate able leadership by convening Parliament and face a no confidence vote or resign.

Resigning is a way of making a dignified exit when you know you have lost, but Malaysian politicians apparently know nothing about honour. Their motto: Cling on because you can to stay in power. Honour is irrelevant if you can’t stay in government.

GPS is no different

Following the recent High Court decision, when PN sent the “Allah” issue to the rulers for a deliberation, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) went into a huddle. The decision would affect the constitutional rights of 40 % of Sarawak’s population who are Christians and ethnic non-Malay bumiputeras. GPS’ alliance with PN has put the constitutional religious rights of this the largest community in Sarawak at risk. Yet, its MPs have chosen to align itself with PN and yesterday expressed their support for Muhyiddin as prime minister.

GPS has seemingly sold off the constitutional rights of its own people for federal government support. The logic behind the decision escapes me.

With Umno now having declared it will pull out of PN after Aug 1 when the emergency ends, PN is on its way out, unless PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin intends to stay on by not upholding the constitution and proving its majority in Parliament. Perhaps, GPS suspects that is what will happen and have decided to throw in their lot with Muhyiddin. Common sense, however, dictates that with Umno out, PN will have no majority and GPS will be unable to be kingmaker. Why is it allying itself with a coalition that has no standing to remain in government and which will put the constitutional rights of its own people at risk?

It would be interesting to see how its voters will react regarding this issue in the upcoming Sarawak state elections. GPS may still win but my prediction is that it will lose its comfortable majority and it will lose its position to be kingmaker.

GPS’s decision to support Muhyiddin makes no sense. GPS should resign and be independents in the Dewan Rakyat and protect the interests of its people. But, apparently, typical of Malaysian politicians, political expediency for whatever misguided reason comes before duty to your voters. No honour in that, it appears!

The Opposition that isn’t the alternative

To be fair to GPS, it faced a difficult choice. It did not have a viable alternative to join and did not have the guts to go it alone. If Muhyiddin is responsible for the continuous state of political unrest we are in, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has only itself to blame for being unable to provide an alternative.

PKR is realising that without former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH) is facing an issue of credibility. Neither PN nor Umno/BN wants to ally with PH. Without Mahathir, neither GPS nor Sabah’s Warisan will join it. PH with PKR, DAP and Amanah can together have about 88 MPs on its side. That is insufficient to form a majority coalition and it can’t lure other parties to join in.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim thought he could get the court cluster of Umno MPs facing criminal charges in court to join PH but Umno president Zahid Hamidi poured cold water on that prospect when he said at the Umno general assembly last weekend that there would be no alliance with PKR or DAP.

Umno apparently has been given a lifeline and it is resurging and feels confident it can go it alone. But like PH and PN, individually, none of these coalitions will get a majority. So, even if elections are held now, the outcome would be no different from the current political situation.

But if PKR decides to work with Mahathir, PH could get the support of both Warisan and GPS and that would be a clear majority coalition which neither Umno/BN nor PN will be able to match. This is the rightful government of Malaysia which won the mandate to govern in GE14 in 2018.

Again, the logic escapes me as to why Anwar will not respect the GE14 mandate of the people just because he doesn’t want to work with Mahathir. Personal reasons should be set aside and the mandate of the people should be respected. If Anwar will not take the lead to restore the GE14 mandate, it is not surprising that parties like GPS and Warisan are abandoning it and finding politically expedient ways to hold on to power.

If Anwar follows the spirit and intent of the constitution and pushes for the restoration of PH Plus, he would solve the current impasse and demonstrate his ability to abide by the constitution even if it means he wouldn’t be prime minister. He will win the respect of the people and he might still become PM in the near future.

Anwar can resolve the current stalemate. The question is whether he sees honour in doing so at personal cost.

Putting the interests of voters first, over political expediency, for the good of the nation is honourable. I am waiting to see who among our MPs will demonstrate such honour. I am still waiting …. .

The need to resign and the Opposition’s primary task

In Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s address to the nation yesterday when he announced that the government will give free vaccines to innoculate 26.5 million or 80% of the population against covid-19, he also said that when the emergency is lifted he would dissolve Parliament to make way for a general election.

He, I am sure, will keep to his word but I’m a bit perplexed here. When the emergency is lifted, what is the status of the Prihatin Nasional (PN) government he leads now under emergency declared by the Agong? That government reverts to its state of not only being a minority government but one without the authority of the office to remain in government.

The term of the PN government that began when the Agong swore in Muhyiddin as the prime minister automatically ended on Jan 9 when the Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (Umno) withdrew his support for Muhyiddin and the number of MPs supporting Muhyiddin dropped to 110 of the 220 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat. That number dropped to 109 on Jan 12 when the Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz (Umno) announced his withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin, leaving the latter with a clear minority. A minority government can not continue to govern unless it has resigned and is reappointed by the Agong for an interim period until a majority government can be formed.

Since the minority PN government did not resign, when the emergency is lifted we will have a minority and illegal government, one without the authority of office to govern. So, with what authority can Muhyiddin dissolve Parliament and call for a general election? If he does, I suspect his decision — like his decision to advise the Agong to agree to an emergency — can be challenged in court on constitutional grounds.

This is common sense. Looking at all the practising democracies of the world, it is clear that there is a sequence of steps that needs to be followed to legitimize a government. Take Itay, for example. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned last week when the small Italia Viva party withdrew from the ruling coalition leaving him with a minority. Subsequently, the process began to form a government with a majority.

Why do PN leaders and their supporters feel they don’t have to follow these democratic conventions? Or, they just don’t know? This is the real reason how PN came to power — not because the previous prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, resigned.

Mahathir resigned because he lost support from his party. But, what followed was chaotic and in the swift succession of events, some constitutional steps were overlooked, either out of ignorance or political expediency. The process to form a new government with a majority begins with the resignation of the incumbent government when it has lost its majority.

It, indeed, will be interesting to see how the courts will rule on these issues and if the judiciary is able to recognize the constitutional relevance of the cases that have been brought to its attention and the urgency of the need to address them. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim, former Umno leader Khairuddin Abu Hassan and a number of NGOs have started legal proceedings against Muhyiddin and Attorney General Idrus Harun regarding the constitutional basis of their decisions/advice to the Agong.

If the courts don’t throw out these cases, and a clear decision is made, future prime ministerial candidates will know in black and white what they can and should do and can’t and shouldn’t do according to the federal constitution.

So, when the emergency is lifted the first thing Muhyiddin and his Cabinet need to do is to resign and advise the Agong to call on the leader who can muster a coalition with a majority to form the government. Instead of bickering and blaming each other,  the Opposition needs to set their differences aside and present themselves as the only united, cohesive coalition with a majority under one name as the prime minister.

The Opposition has to stop blaming Mahathir for the fall of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. It fell not because he resigned but because Muhyiddin pulled Bersatu out of PH and it lost its majority. Mahathir still got a majority after Muhyiddin was named the prime minister but he lost communication with the Palace and his majority was ignored as Muyhiddin took power.

Subsequently, there were a couple of opportunities when the Opposition could have taken control of Putrajaya but their efforts fell through and that wasn’t due to Mahathir’s doing. So, why aren’t these people being blamed? Everyone knows PKR created a ruckus over Anwar’s position. With PKR demanding a timeline for the transfer of power how could Mahathir be sure of their support?

The blame game will lead to nothing but recriminations and accusations, which means the Opposition will lose the chance to offer itself as a strong and united coalition with a majority in the event the PN coalition resigns from government.

The primary task facing the Opposition now is to reconcile, forge together in unity, agree on one name as prime minister and wait for the PN government to resign.

A general election after the emergency is lifted is bad timing because people would want to first find jobs again and start over their businesses. They wouldn’t want it to be disrupted by an election. It would be better to wait until life goes back to some semblance of normalcy before a general election is held.

A general election now would also mean that political parties as they are now — divided — will be unable to form a majority and political instability will continue unless¬†the Opposition is able to present itself as the sole alternative that has a majority.

I believe the Opposition will have a comfortable majority if they stopped attacking Mahathir and closed ranks and got ready to take over when the opportunity lends itself.

It might come sooner than we think.