Commentary Politics

Mahathir’s coup de grace would be to advise the Agong to allow for fresh polls

The best option would be for Mahathir to advise the Agong to allow for fresh polls but this could mean the end of his political career at the top.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

February 27, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

HE was triumphant in most of his political battles but this time around Dr. Mahathir Mohamad may have rolled the dice once too often and with it goes his idea of wanting to form a unity government that would have included an Umno-dominated Barisan Nasional and PAS. Also not in favour is the DAP but while the idea looks sound, it is something alien to the Malaysian political environment and system where Cabinet appointments are for the most part based on the number of seats parties win in an election.

Last week drew to a close as per normal, although Friday night’s Pakatan Harapan presidential council meeting was reportedly tense. Flanked by senior coalition leaders, Mahathir tersely declared that the council had unanimously agreed he would have the leeway to decide when he would retire. Everything looked alright up to that point, only for reports to emerge that a meeting of Mahathir’s party, Pribumi Bersatu, on Sunday that lasted about five hours was anything but normal.

The real story was officially known the next day when party president Muhyiddin Yassin announced that Pribumi Bersatu was quitting the Pakatan coalition and would continue to support Mahathir as prime minister while Mahathir said he was quitting as its chairman and also as Malaysia’s seventh PM.

The goings-on on Sunday triggered what is arguably now the country’s messiest and worst political crisis, with no solution in sight five days later. On the contrary, Malaysians already weary and impatient with the political shenanigans and hocus-pocus saw more intrigues which have not helped make the murky situation clearer.

So far no one has offered to tell what was it that came out of the Pakatan meeting that led to the Pribumi Bersatu meeting ending into one that created a “one thing led to another” situation.

Flip-flops everywhere as to who the parties want as the next PM

Immediately the Umno-PAS pact reacted to declare support for Mahathir but decided two days later that this no longer applied when Mahathir wanted to pick and choose who from Umno could join him and insisted on including the DAP in his government. The latest flip-flop comes from the three parties remaining in Pakatan that switched their support for Mahathir to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as the man to be considered to be the next PM.

It is easy to understand why Mahathir doesn’t want to accept Umno en bloc and who can blame him but by convention that’s not how political cooperation works in most parts of the world. But the problem is Mahathir is often known to defy convention and that’s the crux of the problem.

As far as was known Mahathir’s hold on the coalition and thus the government was never under serious threat and that being the case, how could the scenario change so drastically all in a space of a few days?

Advising the Agong to allow for a fresh election could turn out to be Mahathir’s coup de grace

The Agong has reappointed Mahathir interim prime minister but the brief interviews the King had on Tuesday and Wednesday with all MPs to determine who had the majority support of MPs to be PM and also if they thought fresh polls should be held will end this unwanted impasse that is mentally draining, not just on the main political cast, but also lay Malaysians.

As a result of the most recent developments, there have been more calls from those outside Pakatan for fresh polls that would allow the people to again give their mandate on who they want as their government. In fact all decent democracies in the world would automatically and immediately dissolve Parliament every time a government collapses but in Malaysia, the immediate move is to try and salvage that government by enticing cross-overs from those in the opposition.

So far only one person is known to think that a fresh election is unnecessary and in stating his stand, Amanah communications director Khalid Samad sounded extremely confident the coalition will get the numbers required to get it back on its feet as the federal government.

What Khalid said after the Pakatan presidential council meeting on Tuesday:

“Why should we waste money on fresh polls when we can get a clear (majority)?”

Despite the recent exit of 37 MPs from Pakatan, Khalid insisted that the coalition had a sufficient number of MPs to form the government. Where they would appear from Khalid didn’t say and no one asked either.

Pakatan now has 102 MPs, following the exit of Bersatu (26 MPs) and 11 PKR MPs aligned with former deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali but 10 of the 102 are from two Pakatan-friendly parties.

How long a country like Malaysia can go on without a government has never been tested but the experience of a few countries in Europe doesn’t show too many problems.

There is something though that Mahathir can do if he sincerely has the people’s interests at heart, although this could mean the end of his political career at the top. Judging from the voices reported by several news outlets and views on social media, a fresh election is what the country wants. This could turn out to be another checkmate against Anwar’s long-held ambition to be PM, if this is indeed what Mahathir wishes, and his advising the Agong to allow this to happen could be the coup de grace many will remember Mahathir for.    

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About the author

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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.