Commentary Politics

Only personal interests will seek to block Muhyiddin’s administration

While the Agong appointed Muhyiddin (right) based on the federal Constitution, former PM Mahathir (left) was left dissatisfied to the point of questioning the decision.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

March 4, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

THESE next few weeks are not going to be a breeze for newly appointed prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, especially when there’s a faction that insists it has more MPs than the number supporting Muhyiddin, although that for now is not about to affect his position.

There is so much good a head of government can do for his country and whether or not Muhyiddin wants to leave his mark in a positive way depends entirely on what he does, beginning with the people he chooses to be in his Cabinet.

As someone who’s been active in politics for over 30 years and has been through a few upheavals, Muhyiddin is surely aware of the perception regarding his ascension as the country’s CEO, now that he has among his allies those from his former party Umno, tainted no doubt by the court cases involving its former and current presidents. If that’s not bad enough, also in court is the party’s former secretary-general.

There’s a news report that talked about how current Umno president Zahid Hamidi had tried but failed to cut a deal with Mahathir Mohamad last week, when a few parties were in intense discussions to form a government to replace the Pakatan Harapan coalition that collapsed after Pribumi Bersatu, Mahathir’s party, had quit the group. Some call it not a unity government but a backdoor government since this denies the people the right to choose a new government of their choice.

Umno knows that it has an image problem and thus must show the commitment to clean up

Current Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa has stated that Muhyiddin’s Cabinet should not include those facing trial and that’s a most sensible position that should be reassuring to the many who remain unexcited about any government that includes Umno, especially since the party was part of the Barisan Nasional government that was beaten in the May 2018 national elections.

The other concern is on the many promises in its 2018 manifesto that the Pakatan government had failed to honour and although Muhyiddin now heads a different government, the expectations of the people basically remain unchanged. Pakatan did very little to fulfill its promises on institutional reforms and Muhyiddin should not stray away from these promises.

Do the right things and Malaysians will never forget Muhyiddin for all the right reasons but show little commitment to these virtues while also appointing those perceived to be corrupt and Muhyiddin’s government cannot expect to last beyond the next elections that must be held no later than a little over three years from now. For that matter it may not last beyond this year.

If his legacy is to be remembered fondly, Muhyiddin will have to do all the above and more. He has to look to the future.

But looking to the future is not what one disgruntled senior politician and statesman has been doing since losing his hold on the government and especially since the time it was known that the Agong had last Saturday decided on Muhyiddin as the country’s eight prime minister.

Mahathir there’s no ifs and buts; he thinks favourably of you only when you give him unequivocal support

For Mahathir it has since last week been all about talking history and what he considers a betrayal of the worst kind by Muhyiddin. He also didn’t sound complimentary about Azmin Ali, who at one time looked like his favourite son, and was critical of the ambitions of Anwar Ibrahim which Mahathir thought was the spoiler that denied him another go at being PM.

Granted they all had their shortcomings and interests but the same can be said of every politician, including Mahathir, whose decision before GE14 to work together with people who were nasty to him previously was an agenda by itself. His discussions early last week with Umno and PAS to form a government were no different from what Muhyiddin did some hours later but Mahathir found fault with these people who he worked with closely almost till the end only after he had been out-manouevred.

If he sincerely wanted to hand back the power to choose a government to the people Mahathir could have advised the Agong to allow for fresh elections after the Pakatan government collapsed but instead he opted to try and form a new government, most likely knowing that snap polls would be disadvantageous to Pakatan and thus to him.

Mahathir had no doubt done a lot of good from the time he became PM the first time for 22 years since 1981 but shift your support and believe in him and he can get very grouchy and unforgiving.

This is the Mahathir we have been seeing lately, blaming just about everyone he thinks had a hand directly or indirectly in him being sidelined and subsequently denied the chance to be PM a third time to set yet another world record.

He went to the extent of claiming that Muhyiddin was not the rightful PM, which ignores the power of the Agong as clearly spelt out in Article 43 (2)(a) of the federal Constitution on the appointment of the PM. Adopting this view means also questioning the wisdom of His Majesty, apart from actually challenging his authority and sovereignty.

Mahathir also lost goodwill with the national palace when he preempted a statement on a special Parliamentary sitting which was later confirmed to be against procedures and on a matter the Agong disagreed with.

It must be said again that the endless groans heard from Mahathir are a sure enough indication that even at the old age of 94 he is simply the kind of politician who is not prepared to let ago because he thinks there’s no other Malaysian who’s better than him at managing the country.

And if when Parliament convenes its next session on May 18 and Mahathir’s group attempts to pass a vote of no confidence in Muhyiddin’s premiership, it would mean that Mahathir only has his own interests at heart, not the country’s.

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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.