March 8, 2019
A commentary by Zaidi Azmi
A CHANGE in prime minister was recently touted to be an effective way for Pakatan Harapan (PH) to boost its dimming popularity after the losses that it experienced in the last two by-elections.
But is it?
The call for the takeover did not come from PH’s upper echelons but from that of a grassroot leader who claimed that public trust will return once the ruling coalition appoints PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister.
No one in PH has responded to Batu Uban assemblyman, Kumaresan Aramugam’s urge for the hastening of Anwar’s succession, which, according to Anwar and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, will take place some time next year.
But is an immediate Anwar takeover a cure for PH’s bad case of a trust deficit, particularly that of the Malays?
Political analyst, Professor Dr Hoo Kee Ping, does not think so.
To trigger an early succession, Anwar needs to convince PH’s second largest component party, DAP, to initiate a vote of no-confidence against Dr Mahathir and if that happens, Hoo, remarked that it will probably make things uglier for PH.
“Now, If DAP too rejects Dr Mahathir, he can form a Malay-Bumiputera only government,” Hoo argued on Facebook.
His contention may hold water, because the result of the Cameron Highlands and Semenyih by-elections have shown that the overwhelming Malay support which PH enjoyed in last year’s May 9 general election (GE14) has greatly diminished.
In fact, the bleeding of PH’s Malay support seemed to be so bad to the point that Barisan Nasional (BN) had even managed to overturn PH’s previous 8,965 majority.
The impressive victory was seen by many as a mixture of the Malays’ dissatisfaction towards PH’s electoral promises flip-flops and the unlikely alliance of Umno and Pas.
As it is, the Umno-Pas cooperation, that was formalised at Umno headquarters, on Tuesday, has received a lot thumbs up from the Malays because many were of the opinion that PH has failed to protect the Malay interests.
Geostrategist Dr Azmi Hassan argued that the Malays felt so because they saw DAP’s dominance in PH’s decision making process given the three crucial ministerial portfolios that the party was given, namely; finance, transport and communications.
And according to him, the argument in which PH would get back its Malay support back if Anwar becomes prime minister, rings hollow, as a Mahathir ouster will only reinforce the public’s perception on DAP’s dominance in PH.
“In short no matter who is the prime minister as long as DAP is seen to exude great influence then it will be an uphill task to garner Malay support,” said Azmi
The support of the Malays is crucial for any party that aspires to govern Malaysia as 119 of the 164 parliamentary seats in the peninsular are Malay majority seats and 102 of the 119 seats have more than 60 per cent Malay voters.
While PH has made some inroads in these constituencies in the last GE14, a thorough background check revealed that almost all of 102 seats – including some of the 38 seats that PH had won- were traditionally Umno and Pas strongholds.
Whether a Mahathir ouster will happen anytime soon is anybody’s guess but prominent and close supporters of Dr Mahathir have hinted that the groundwork of such a takeover has been laid for quite some time.
However, even if a vote of no confidence is initiated, it is unlikely that Dr Mahathir’s position is in jeopardy as Umno and Pas have made it clear that they will support him when needed.
And should Anwar’s attempt to oust him fails, it is anybody’s guess how Dr Mahathir will return fire. The only surety is that the latter will not ignore it.
But if Anwar continues to wait, there is no guarantee that PH will be able to woo the Malays who have turned their back on the ruling coalition before the next GE.
Truly – damned if you do and damned if you don’t.