Mini power struggle in Kedah

  • Analysis
  • Sunday, 17 May 2020

In and out: Muhammad Sanusi will be replacing Mukhriz as Kedah Mentri Besar.

THE olive branch that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin held out to his predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has finally snapped.

The continuity of the Kedah state government was Muhyiddin’s peace offering to the Mahathir faction of Bersatu but it was spurned.

As a result, the Pakatan Harapan government has collapsed and Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir will be out as Kedah Mentri Besar for the second time in his political career.

Mukhriz has referred to what is happening as “musim pengkhianatan” (season of treachery) after six assemblymen from his government jumped ship.

He is expected to concede that he has lost the majority to lead the state today.

His replacement, Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, the PAS assemblyman for Jeneri, is scheduled to be sworn in today. Sanusi is close to PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang whom he calls “ayah chik”, an affectionate term used by the inner circle of Hadi.

The fact that four Bersatu assemblymen abandoned Mukhriz for Perikatan has been a blow to his prestige as Bersatu deputy president.

Moreover, one of them is Juhari Bulat, a diehard supporter of Dr Mahathir and whose Ayer Hangat seat is one of two state constituencies in Langkawi.

Juhari is said to have lost faith in Pakatan after his constituents were evicted from state government land in Langkawi last year without adequate compensation and he had openly shed tears over the issue.

The strange part about the Kedah coup is the disinterest among the local folk.

Public opinion this time around has been in stark contrast to Mukhriz’s first sacking in 2016 when many Kedahans, especially the younger set, were outraged and took to social media to express their sympathy.

At the height of the current takeover bid, a journalist who stopped by a popular coffeeshop in downtown Alor Setar found that few were interested in the change of government but seemed more concerned about the price of durians.

Back in 2016, every other table in the coffeeshop would be scolding Umno for ousting Mukhriz and singing praises of him.

The northern state has not been spared the political fatigue seen elsewhere in the country. Everyone is suffering from an overdose of politics.

There is also the fact that Mukhriz had two opportunities to lead Kedah and has quite little to show for it.

It is also not uncommon to hear Kedahans joke about how their Mentri Besar “flies to work” because Mukhriz is known to spend more time in Kuala Lumpur, where his family is, than in Kedah.

The state government, said Sungai Tiang assemblywoman Datuk Suraya Yaakob, would have fallen much earlier if not for what she called “the pact” between Mukhriz and Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

Mukhriz managed to get Azmin’s cooperation to leave Kedah alone after Pakatan Harapan lost Putrajaya.

It is understood that the move to replace Mukhriz was accelerated following Dr Mahathir’s attempt to move a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin in Parliament.

The gloves came off when the Muhyiddin camp realised there was zero chance of a reconciliation with Dr Mahathir and that it was time for Mukhriz to go.

However, there was also a mini power struggle within Perikatan Nasional over the Mentri Besar’s post.

PAS, with 15 assemblymen, had early on laid claim to the post. Umno, which has only two assemblymen, supported PAS for the top job.

However, Bersatu was also eyeing it. All the assemblymen were supposed to have signed statutory declarations to support Sanusi last Sunday.

But the Bersatu side urged that two names be presented to the palace. The party was keen to propose their assemblyman for Guar Chempedak Datuk Dr Ku Abdul Rahman Ku Ismail for the job.

But this is a numbers game and Bersatu did not have the numbers. Bersatu finally gave in and their four assemblymen were the last to sign the statutory declarations.

“There have been too many ‘halfway MBs’ in Kedah. The state has been unable to progress and the people are losing out,” said Kedah Amanah chief Datuk Phahrolrazi Mohd Zawawi, referring to the fact that a total of four mentris besar have been replaced mid-term.

Phahrolrazi, who is also Alor Mengkudu assemblyman, said there should be an anti-hopping law to to prevent elected representative from switching sides.

“People are disappointed, they think politicians treat this as a political game,” he said.

To date, Johor, Perak and Melaka have changed hands from Pakatan to Perikatan and rumours have been swirling that the domino effect will affect Negri Sembilan, Sabah and even Selangor.

Kota Anggerik assemblyman Najwan Halimi from PKR said speculation about Selangor falling is absurd because Pakatan has an iron-clad majority of more than 30 seats.

Moreover, on Saturday, four assemblymen who were aligned to Azmin met Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to inform him that they are staying put in PKR.

“It is not possible for Perikatan to take over Selangor,” he said.

A lot of the speculation is said to be psywar, a powerful tool that both sides of the political divide have used against each other.

But in the case of Kedah, it was a real political war with real casualties.

The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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