Commentary Politics

Pakatan succession plan far from being a done deal

The road ahead for Anwar is bumpy.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

February 17, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

IT was the kind of statement that made good news copy but in this case, more for the wrong reasons. If that was not enough, it also left the man who could have gained some mileage from it bewildered.

The Islamist party PAS recently had many talking following the statement that it was planning a motion on a vote of confidence for Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister but while the intention is noble, the idea would serve no purpose since Mahathir’s position has never appeared to be under threat since he became PM7 after the national elections in May 2018.

No doubt Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan coalition doesn’t have a big majority in Parliament but aside from the leadership issue plaguing coalition partner PKR, both Mahathir and Pakatan look stable and with the office of the prime minister as powerful as ever.

Then there is the fact that PAS is in the opposition and it is unheard of anywhere in the world, either in the Commonwealth jurisdictions similar to Malaysia’s system and government, or in a different jurisdiction like in the United States or in Europe.

The reasoning given by PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man also doesn’t hold water because that vote is not going to stop whatever bickering there is in PKR that some find distracting because it has dragged on for months. News reports before a meeting by PAS and its Muafakat Nasional (National Solidarity) partner Umno last Monday said that the plan by PAS was on the table but nothing has been officially mentioned by either or both parties post-meeting.

Maybe, just maybe, the parties would like to gauge public reactions more before making a final decision in time for the next Parliament session starting March 9 but so far most people quoted by the press were not impressed with the idea of an opposition party propping up a sitting prime minister, if the speaker of the house agrees to the motion that is.

The vote of confidence being planned by PAS could be just symbolic, to re-emphasise its earlier declaration of support for Mahathir as PM

But a closer, more calculated look will tell you that this plan by PAS is no more than an extension of its statement that the party wants Mahathir to continue serving while simultaneously not in favour of Anwar Ibrahim as his anointed successor. The top echelon PAS leaders cannot be so ignorant of what the rest of the country thinks of its plan and in secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan it has someone qualified in law and thus someone who can be expected to give sound advice from a legal perspective and Westminster Parliamentary traditions and conventions.

The more recent development to all this is the gossip that 138 of 222 MPs are ready to sign a statutory declaration supporting Mahathir, which again is another way of telling the world that Anwar will not have the majority support to get beyond the nomination stage in Parliament to be considered for appointment by the Agong. The total may not be correct but it would be wise for the Anwar camp to ponder about what might happen if he does get nominated for the job. It is a sign that the support within the ruling Pakatan Harapan for him is not unanimous, which means he will need the help of other MPs if he is going to succeed Mahathir.

The road ahead for Anwar will be bumpy

Mahathir and Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin, one of Anwar’s main adversaries in PKR, have both denied any knowledge or involvement in the SD plan but which person, politician or otherwise, who is actually involved in such a scheme will publicly admit it? Only the most naïve of people would believe such a statement at face value.

So despite yet again another statement by Mahathir (and Anwar) about the former’s commitment to the succession plan as agreed to by the Pakatan presidential council, there appears to be nothing that can stop even MPs in Pakatan from derailing the succession. And what if some Pakatan MPs do decide to not support Anwar’s nomination? Is there a clause anywhere in the coalition’s rules and regulations that says they have no choice but to support?

Whatever the future holds for Anwar, surely he is experienced enough in politics to be aware that he must first put his house, the PKR he leads, in order because politics in Malaysia has shown how messy the situation can become if a prime minister faces a major revolt within his party. In the case of Pakatan, the damage may be worse than that inflicted upon Umno in 1987 because of the delicate majority it now has in Parliament, one that is bolstered by support from a friendly Sabah party and defections by some MPs who won when contesting the 2018 elections under Barisan Nasional.

Anwar may sound confident that he will eventually succeed Mahathir but he must know that the road ahead can be bumpy and that the plan is not yet a done deal.

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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.