Dr. Mahathir Mohamad & Anwar Ibrahim

26 February 2020
Eleven members of parliament led by deputy president Mr Azmin Ali departed from Mr Anwar Ibrahim led Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). PKR had already sacked Azmin Ali and Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin. He is believed to be the mastermind behind the suspected bid to form a new coalition government involving his faction, Bersatu and Opposition parties.

Last Friday (21 February 2020) the ruling Pakatan Harapan’s presidential council had a meeting. After the meeting a glum Dr Mahathir said that he would remain the prime minister till after the APEC Summit scheduled for November 2020 and then would hand power over to his designated successor, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar Ibrahim himself endorsed this leeway given to Dr Mahathir and seemed satisfied that he could wait it out. There were others at that meeting who were unhappy that Dr Mahathir was coerced into agreeing to hand over power to Anwar Ibrahim. This group led by led principally by Dato Seri Azmin Ali, wanted him to stay on as Prime Minister until 2023 when the next general election is due. Mahathir too wanted this. Azmin and his 11 parliamentary supporters began a series of manoeuvres to increase their parliamentary strength by inviting more Malay-Muslim members of parliament, including from UMNO, to form a new alignment of forces. Dr Mahathir had not categorically contradicted this advocacy group.

Azmin Ali’s plan was to create an alliance that would give a simple majority to Dr Mahathir and present it to the king for allowing Mahathir to be the Prime Minister until the next election in 2023. The King approved Dr. Mahathir only as interim Prime Minister. He is now interviewing every elected parliamentarian to decide who should be the Prime Minister.

The king has no power to dissolve the parliament or call a general election. Only the Prime Minister can do this. Under the circumstances it would be better to call a snap election to resolve the issue.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as the prime minister and Bersatu chairman on Tuesday, after Monday’s high-profile political intrigue.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) has quit the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, as the political situation in the country took a dramatic turn on Monday (Feb 24) over a possible realignment. Leaders from PKR and DAP have sought to absolve Dr Mahathir of any involvement in the plot. But it would appear that Dr. Mahathir had known beforehand of this plot and did not criticize it.

Of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, Pakatan now has 129 seats. The collapse of Pakatan would affect not just the balance of power at federal level but could also lead to the collapse of the Perak and Melaka state governments and the possibility of a hung state assembly in Johor.

The issue is not about any major policy matter but about who is to be the Prime Minister. Before the last general elections when Mahathir formed an alliance with Anwar’s PKR, he promised to hand over the premiership to Anwar after two years. Now he wants to hold on to the power. Anwar supporters want Anwar to become the Prime Minister immediately.

The alignment of Azmin-led MPs with Umno and PAS will also mean aligning with individuals who face corruption charges in court. If Umno were to form part of the new government, then the party will certainly attempt to rescue their former and current leaders. Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is facing seven charges involving money laundering of over RM42 millions of SRC International funds. His wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor is on trial for allegedly soliciting RM187.5 million in bribes and receiving RM6.5 million in bribes related to a solar energy project in Sarawak.
Others facing charges include former Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor for allegedly receiving RM2 million from a property developer, as well as Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who faces 47 charges related to corruption, criminal breach of trust, and money laundering concerning funds belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi. All these people will have their trials struck off. In order to achieve this the new alliance will also attempt to change the incumbent chief justice and the head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. This will pervert the justice system in Malaysia.

Previous Najib’s government inked contracts for several mega-projects some with Chinese loans at highly inflated prices. Dr Mahathir is trying to trim these projects to a level at which Malaysia can repay the loans. This restructuring of these projects is still going on.

It is important for Mahathir to ensure that the important reform and progress already made thus far are not derailed by this political turn of events.

Anwar, Malaysia’s prime minister-in-waiting for a second time, is very disappointed. He accused the party of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and “traitors” in his own camp of planning to bring down the ruling coalition and form a new one to deny him the premiership.

Some people question Anwar’s ability to govern the country while he is not able to hold his own party together.

This political turmoil leaves Dr Mahathir as the most suitable leader. No one else has the capability and public support to lead the nation. Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) as well as a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) splinter faction led by Mr Azmin Ali and other parties – have pledged their support to Dr Mahathir. UMNO and PAS have said that they will not work with the government if Chinese dominated DAP is in the government.