Commentary Politics

Everything else irrelevant as Muhyiddin chosen to be 8th PM

A big wave from Malaysia's next PM.

Written by Aziz Hassan

February 29, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

THE longest week in Malaysian political history since 1957 has come to an end with the statement from the national palace today that Muhyiddin Yassin will be sworn in as the eight prime minister on Sunday morning.

The Pakatan Harapan coalition which governed until last Sunday appears to not respect this announcement by insisting that it has the majority support for Mahathir Mohamad instead and that Istana Negara, the palace, will compile the numbers. The fact though is the palace’s announcement on Muhyiddin’s appointment was made after the Agong had given the opportunity to all party leaders to put forward their case by proving the support for the candidates they favoured.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim was to claim that Pakatan had more than 95 MPs supporting Mahathir’s candidacy. “I cannot divulge the numbers. The palace will compile it,” was how Star Online quoted Anwar.

Anwar, more than 95 is fine but the magic number is at least 112 – the simplest of majorities in our Dewan Rakyat. On the other hand the sessions the Agong had with the party leaders today were meant for them to put forward and prove their claims of support for their candidate. Even if subsequent to this one party somehow has some extra support, the palace cannot be expected to be going back and forth to entertain any claim beyond what was submitted during the sessions.

There has to be closure to the crisis within a certain time frame, especially when this crisis was testing the patience of ordinary Malaysians to the limits. It is also a crisis which has exposed the worst in our politicians, people who call themselves leaders aspiring to lead 30 million plus Malaysians supposedly to a better life in a country that can be proud of its image and reputation. One who until the beginning of this week was a minister was seen on television news this afternoon about bringing back dignity to the people. This after he and his cohorts were in fact responsible for turning Malaysia into a laughing stock by the world in just one week.

This has also been a week when netizens posted stories at Facebook or circulated them via WhatsApp on countries that have done reasonably alright and without turmoil despite not having a government for a few years. Northern Ireland was one and Belgium another. It would be nice if Malaysia could be another one…..

Mahathir finally outwitted himself

After scrutinising all the circumstances, one is left with little doubt that Pakatan brought this mess onto itself, with a friend saying that the coalition’s former chairman and interim prime minister Mahathir had finally outwitted even himself.

Yes, Mahathir stretched his luck too far this time, to the extent of earning the displeasure of the Agong, we were told, via his statement about the now off special Parliamentary sitting.

What he did and also what those in Pakatan did added more confusion to an already confused situation, all of which didn’t do anything to bring confidence among Malaysians of the government they had and the politicians leading it.

First it was Mahathir as Pakatan’s nominee to be the eight PM, then Anwar, and back to Mahathir.

First Mahathir was no longer Pakatan chairman and yet was invited to chair its presidential council meeting, which he rightly turned down, then he was invited yet again to chair the same council.

And a Mahathir whose next birthday in a few months will be his 95th still wanting to be considered for PM8 only goes to show that where he is concerned, there is simply no other Malaysian capable of leading the country.

Public perception of Mahathir now in stark contrast to the euphoria two years ago

May 9, 2018, was different, although at 92 he was going to be the world’s oldest government leader if Pakatan won. And it did. There was much euphoria because many voters accepted the fact that Mahathir was seen as the only one who could bring together a band of strange bedfellows, all in the determined quest to oust a Barisan Nasional led by an Umno most believed to be corrupt and had overstayed its welcome. Old adversaries and vocal critics decided to forgive and forget to the point of embracing him.

But nearly two years down the line the environment has changed drastically, with more and more losing faith in him and his coalition, notably for Pakatan’s failure to deliver most of the crucial promises, especially on institutional reforms. In many instances Barisan was cited as the reason for many of the problems plaguing the country but the general feeling was that Pakatan already had enough time since the elections to put things right.

So if indeed Mahathir was seen as the saviour in 2018, he no longer is perceived as one now. On the contrary there is the general feeling that not much has changed in Mahathir’s way of doing things.

Much has been made of his refusal to accept Umno en block into his coalition, the reason being the nonsense believed to have been committed by Umno kleptocrats. No arguments there but agreeing to form an alliance prior to the elections with his old arch enemies in the DAP, PKR and Amanah is no different from a possible pact with Umno now. But in true Mahathir style, he wanted the cake and eat it as well and that put a stop to a cooperation that would have kept him in power, while also keeping Anwar on the sideline for a little bit longer.



About the author


Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.