Possible revamp on the horizon


  • Analysis
  • Thursday, 06 Feb 2020

Political speculation is growing that the Prime Minister is planning to shake up his government in a way never seen or done before and it will rock the country if it actually happens.

THE political chatter surrounding what some have termed as a “reshuffle of the government” is growing louder.

Incredible as it may sound, speculation that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is contemplating a shake-up of his government has intensified and that it may happen before the next sitting of Parliament.

Accounts of the Prime Minister’s perceived intention began several months ago but few people took it seriously back then.

The reason was that the notion of a democratically elected government drawing input from the Opposition to change the current composition seemed too complex and outrageous for most people to wrap their heads around.

But the narrative has gathered strength with senior figures from both sides of the political divide affirming that plans are afoot and that moves are going on behind the scenes.

The narrative varies depending on the person one speaks to.

The less radical version has the Muafakat Nasional partners, PAS and Umno, formally supporting Dr Mahathir to give his government the Malay legitimacy that Pakatan needs.

Advocates of this version claim that a total of 79 MPs from Umno, PAS and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) have signed a statutory declaration to give Dr Mahathir the mandate to do the necessary.

They also claim that apart from 27 Bersatu MPs, Dr Mahathir also has the support of eight MPs from Warisan MPs and 15 from PKR.

A political insider from Pahang indicated that Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who was once leaning towards Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has also signed up to support Dr Mahathir.

The more extreme version alleges that DAP will be out of the reshuffled government, the reason being the relationship between

Dr Mahathir and certain DAP leaders has deteriorated to the point of no return.

It is an ironic fact that DAP with its 42 MPs is the most stable group in the ruling coalition, yet its big numbers is the cause of instability for the government on the Malay ground.

Dr Mahathir is not dismissive of all DAP politicians and the above Pahang insider claimed that five MPs from DAP have also agreed to support Dr Mahathir.

But the spoke in the wheel of this extreme version is that one does not simply throw out a coalition partner without a strong reason.

DAP often behaves like it is still the Opposition and its leaders do have a habit of contradicting or appear to be telling the Prime Minister how to do his work.

For instance, the circle around Dr Mahathir was furious when Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told the media after a Cabinet meeting that there would be an acting Education Minister and that the person would be named by the Prime Minister.

But surely such episodes are not valid reasons for eviction.

When asked whether accounts of a government reshuffle ought to be taken seriously, a Pakatan minister said: “When something is not sustainable, what is the most logical thing to do?”

The implication here is that Dr Mahathir had once famously claimed that he would not have any qualms to lop off a cancerous limb.

Moreover, the unusual appearance of Dr Mahathir and Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali at Gerakan’s Chinese New Year open house was seen as beaming a message to two people in particular.

It was the elder man’s way of telling PKR’s Anwar and DAP’s Lim that he has other options when it comes to multiethnic parties.

Others pointed out that Tan Sri Johan Jaafar’s column in The Star titled “Why DAP is a liability to PH”, captured what is happening in the government and hinted that something may happen.

A senior Putrajaya official told The Star: “This (the speculated government realignment) is no longer a fantasy, it’s a political inevitability.”

The Putrajaya official said the realignment was necessary to reflect the demography of the country or else the government would continue to struggle for the stability needed to bring the country forward.

Some view all this as a complex Malay power play but the same Putrajaya official said the aim of the Prime Minister is not to exclude any ethnic group and that Dr Mahathir genuinely wants a government that reflects the demographic make-up of the country.

In the meantime, various PAS and Umno leaders have expressed support for Dr Mahathir to do what is beneficial for the country although not everyone in Umno is crazy about the prospect of working with the enemy.

A Kelantan politician said that Pakatan’s image has sunk and it would be like going out to sea on a sinking ship.

The Umno supreme council will meet on Friday while the PAS central committee will meet on Saturday.

After that the Muafakat Nasional council will meet on Monday, presumably to come to a collective decision on the issue.

Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan told Sinar Harian that Dr Mahathir has the means to act because he is the one holding “the knife and the cucumber” – in other words, Dr Mahathir is calling the shots.

However, the Rantau assemblyman also warned that come general election, the voters will be the ones holding the knife.

“There is no denying that Pakatan in its current form cannot survive beyond the next general election. That is evident from the outcome of the last five by-elections.

“It is an extremely dangerous game. The side-effects will last for generations and voters will lose trust in the political process, ”

said political commentator Khaw Veon Szu.

Dr Mahathir can read the writing on the wall. He had let slip that he is leading what could be a one-term government.

But this is a man with an indomitable will, a never-say-die politician and it looks like he is trying to make sure that his government, in whatever form it may take next, is here to stay.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of The Star.

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