‘Trust within coalition is a must’

PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim may have made history as the first leader to helm a unity government in Malaysia, but what follows next will be crucial for the veteran politician, say analysts.

The top priority will be to quickly build trust and find common ground among the coalition partners in order for his unity government to go the distance, they said.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, explained that the Anwar administration was more of a unity government in line with the wishes of the King than a minority government.

“The new unity government appears to command a two-thirds majority in Parliament. It could be argued that the present government is unlike the two previous administrations that followed the Sheraton Move in 2020, which could be described as minority governments as they never proved themselves with a confidence vote,” he said.

Oh said a confidence and supply agreement (CSA) with Perikatan Nasional may not be necessary as the latter represented a clear and formidable Opposition bloc in Parliament.

Saying there were examples of successful minority governments in the world, such as in Canada, Oh said the big challenge facing Anwar was keeping his unity government intact over the next five years.

“The situation can change overnight as some of the coalition parties may pull out, just like during the Sheraton Move. This is because the anti-hopping law does not prevent en bloc crossovers or even individuals declaring support for other leaders while remaining in the party,” he pointed out.

Anwar was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister on Nov 24 after securing majority support from several coalitions to form a unity government.

In GE15, Pakatan Harapan won 82 seats, Perikatan 73, Barisan Nasional 30, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) 23, Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) six, Warisan three, and Independents two, while Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM) and Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (KDM) secured a seat each.

No party or coalition secured the 112 seats needed to form a simple majority government.

Anwar, the Pakatan chairman and PKR president, took the top job with the Barisan, GPS, GRS, Warisan, Independents, PBM and KDM parties backing him.

He has since pledged to call for a vote of confidence in him when Parliament convenes on Dec 19 to cement the legitimacy of his government.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political expert Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said a unity government was a new concept for Malaysia, unlike the unity coalition governments in the United Kingdom and Ireland and the minority government in Canada.

“These countries were successfully governed by minority governments, owing to their high level of mature politics. The unity government here is something new to us, and it is just at the beginning stages,” he said.

As such, he said it was crucial for Anwar to build trust among the coalitions under his unity government for it to be a workable administration.

“The coalitions have to put aside their political differences, and Anwar has to be seen as prime minister for the nation and not for Pakatan or an affiliated party.

“That is why it is important for him to bring all the coalitions together under one administration,” he said.

Ilham Centre executive director Hisomuddin Bakar said although the current government is made up of several coalitions, it is stable and strong due to a two-thirds majority support.

“When the government is stable, the focus of the prime minister and his Cabinet can be on formulating policies to restore the national economy and put it on the right track again,” he said.

He said Anwar will face the challenge of harmonising the respective coalition manifestos under his unity government, adding that he must find common ground among all the manifestos.

The National Professors Council senior fellow Datuk Dr Jeniri Amir said the coalitions under the unity government must be willing to come together on key issues if it is to be a success.

“They must make compromises for the government to implement pragmatic, practical pledges for the good of the people,” he said.

Jeniri said it was also crucial that the coalition does not put pressure on Anwar over the naming of his Cabinet.

“He (Anwar) should not be tied down with rigid political quotas. He should be given the freedom to decide on who’s best in the Cabinet,” he said.

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