PETALING JAYA: Political anxiety continues to grip the nation as Pakatan Harapan is on the brink of collapse.
Events over the past 24 hours, and more importantly what will unfold today, is likely to spell doom for the 21-month-old ruling coalition.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, Umno, PAS and Sabah and Sarawak’s leaders gathered at Istana Negara yesterday, fuelling speculation that the Pakatan government has collapsed.
Talk was rife that Bersatu has decided to pull out of the ruling coalition along with a group of PKR MPs aligned to party deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.
In addition, an unspecified number of Umno lawmakers along with those from PAS, Parti Warisan Sabah and the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition are also said to be throwing their support behind Prime Minister and Bersatu chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to remain in power.
Should this happen, Pakatan would be left without a simple majority of at least 112 seats in Parliament, raising questions as to whether a new alliance will take over or whether a snap general election will be called.
The dramatic developments yesterday came less than 48 hours after a Pakatan presidential council meeting which gave Dr Mahathir the mandate on when to step down from the premiership after November’s Apec Summit in Kuala Lumpur.
Of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, Pakatan now comprises PKR (50 seats), DAP (42), Bersatu (26) and Amanah (11).
In addition to Pakatan’s 129 seats, the ruling coalition counts as its partner Parti Warisan Sabah which has nine seats and Upko – another Sabah party – which has a single parliamentary seat.
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.
Kedah – currently led by Bersatu deputy president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as Mentri Besar – would also cease to be led by Pakatan. The state would fall under the new alliance instead.
In Peninsular Malaysia, Pakatan also helms the state governments of Negri Sembilan, Selangor and Penang.
Various political leaders were seen entering the palace yesterday following a series of meetings held by Bersatu, Umno and Azmin’s PKR faction.
Five party presidents and Azmin were seen entering Istana Negara.
They were Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg and Warisan’s Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.
None of them were willing to speak to the media who converged outside the palace gates, further adding fuel to talk that they were there to seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to inform the King that Pakatan had lost its majority in Parliament.
As at press time, attempts to seek comments from PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP and Amanah over the latest developments were unsuccessful.
Earlier in the day, Bersatu held its supreme council meeting at the party’s headquarters in Yayasan Selangor, Petaling Jaya.
Mukhriz, when met by reporters after the four-hour meeting, brushed off speculation that the party was pulling out of the ruling coalition.
A stone’s throw away at a nearby hotel, Azmin was said to have attended a meeting with a dozen ministers and MPs from PKR.
Several MPs, including Bersatu MP Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin and PKR’s Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, were seen walking into the meeting at the hotel.
Umno, on the other side, held its supreme council meeting at the party headquarters located at Menara Dato’ Onn in PWTC.
In Ipoh, a political observer, who declined to be named said there would be enough assemblymen in Perak to form a new state government if the new coalition led by Dr Mahathir took shape.
He said the key players were Bersatu’s two assemblymen, namely Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu (Chenderiang) and Datuk Zainol Fadzi Paharudin (Sungai Manik).
Should both leave Pakatan, it will leave them with 29 seats.
“Umno has 25 seats while PAS has three. Add Faizal and Zainol Fadzi, it will be enough for a simple majority of 30 seats to form the state government, ” he said.
He said that former Umno member-turned-independent Tualang Sekah assemblyman Datuk Nolee Ashikin Mohd Radzi, could also make the switch, further strengthening the new coalition.
He said of the four PKR assemblymen, one was aligned with Azmin.
“If the PKR assemblyman and Nolee Ashikin join the new coalition, it will then leave the state Pakatan with 27 state representatives, ” he said, adding that the new coalition would then have 32 seats.
PKR’s four state assemblymen are state executive councillors Tan Kar Hing (Simpang Pulai), Abdul Yunus Jamahri (Kuala Kurau), Muhammad Arafat Varisai Muhamad (Hulu Kinta) and Sandrea Ng Shy Ching (Teja).
Johor, meanwhile, would see a hung assembly if Bersatu pulls out from the present Pakatan-led state government.
Presently, the Pakatan state government has a two-thirds majority, with 39 assemblymen while the Opposition has 17 assemblymen.
A local politican said that Bersatu’s 11 assemblymen along with Barisan Nasional’s 16 assemblymen and PAS’ one would only total 28 assemblymen.
Johor has 56 state assemblymen.
“If that happens, we expect either one or two assemblyman from PKR, DAP or Amanah to cross over to enable us to form a government with a simple majority, ” the politician said, adding that the next Mentri Besar could possibly be from Umno.
Johor has 26 MPs, including 18 from Pakatan.
In Melaka, the Pakatan state government which has 15 assemblymen could fall under the new alliance.
This is because from the 15, two from PKR are said to be aligned to Azmin while another two are from Bersatu.
Melaka’s state assembly has 28 seats, with Barisan currently holding 13 seats.
The Negri Sembilan Pakatan government will likely survive and remain in power if Bersatu and several PKR MPs were to leave the coalition.
This is because Bersatu does not have any representative in the 36-member state assembly.
In GE14, Pakatan won 20 seats against Barisan’s 16.
Of the 20 seats, the DAP made a clean sweep of the 11 seats it contested while PKR won six and Amanah three.
Bersatu contested and lost in six state seats.
All six PKR assemblymen, including Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Aminuddin Harun, Deputy Speaker and Seri Tanjung assemblyman Datuk M. Ravi, Chuah assemblyman Michael Yek and Pilah assemblyman Datuk Mohamad Nazaruddin Sabtu are all known to be Anwar’s men.
A local political observer said with Ravi and Yek’s constituencies falling under Anwar’s Port Dickson parliamentary constituency, they would continue to work together to develop the resort town.
“I see absolutely no reason for them to betray Anwar, ” he said.
He said Ampangan assemblyman Datuk Dr Mohamad Rafie Ab Malek would also not abandon ship as he was already a state exco member who was instrumental in setting up Keadilan back in the late 1990s.
“Similarly, Labu assemblyman Datuk Ismail Ahmad will also likely remain loyal to PKR’s struggles and will have no reason to leave, ” he said, adding that there was also no reason for the duo to leave as both were already holding positions in the state exco.
On Mohamad Rafie being seen as an Azmin “sympathiser”, he said this could be but the politician was first a PKR loyalist.
“Whatever the outcome at the federal level, we expect Negri Sembilan to remain under Pakatan for now, ” he added.