Shafie missing the X-factor

  • Analysis
  • Saturday, 04 Jul 2020

Pakatan Harapan's credibility spirals downwards as the discord over who should be their prime minister candidate continues to play out like an unending soap opera.

GOOD fortune and disaster can sometimes strike at the same time and that was what happened to Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal recently.

Barely hours after his mentor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad named him as the prime minister (PM) candidate for Pakatan Harapan, the heavens opened, the rain poured down and many parts of Sabah were inundated by the worst floods in years.

Shafie did not have time to savour the euphoria of the moment and instead spent the next few days monitoring the flood relief efforts.

On the surface of it, Shafie seems to be a star on the rise.

The Parti Warisan Sabah president was initially proposed - also by Dr Mahathir - as a deputy prime minister (DPM) candidate which he quickly declined.

Shafie has yet to say yes or not to the PM post even though he is now referred to as "PM9" when he moves around the state.

But the PM post is like a temptress calling out to ambitious politicians and Shafie must be quite thrilled to be in the running.

The problem is that there is still no consensus in Pakatan over who should be the PM candidate.

The DAP leadership has met to endorse Shafie but there is still no word from Parti Amanah Negara which is said to be split between Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Shafie.

PKR's stand, said Selayang MP William Leong, has been clear from the start.

"We stand by the transition agreement, that after Mahathir, it is Anwar. This is part of the people's mandate that we talk about," said Leong.

The discord over the PM candidate has consumed Pakatan leaders in the months since they lost the government.

Worse, it has become a parody of what Pakatan's politics seems to be about.

Cultural activist Eddin Khoo said the credibility factor of Pakatan is going down with every passing day.

"I think they are still not over the shock of falling from power. There have been no economic ideas at all from Pakatan about how to deal with the post-Covid19 scenario.

"It has damaged their credibility and it raises the question - what is their politics about? Is it about power at all cost?" said Khoo.

A consensus on the PM issue is crucial to Pakatan's determination to retake Putrajaya before the next general election.

Pakatan leaders believe that they need to name a credible candidate and only then can they start negotiating and securing the numbers needed to challenge Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's hold on power.

They also believe, and rightly so, that it will be easier to face the general election as the ruling coalition than as the opposition.

Khoo is actually quite open to the idea of a PM from Sabah.

"Such a person could be a point for reconciliation given the fractured racial and religious divide of today," he said.

But it has also been pointed out that Shafie represents a regional party rather than a party with national status.

There are doubts that he will have the X-factor needed to build a political momentum from beyond the Sabah shores.

Moreover, Shafie's candidature comes at a time when Malaysians are exhausted, even disillusioned, about politics.

The perception is that Dr Mahathir and Pakatan are playing musical chairs at a time when people are losing their jobs and companies are struggling to stay afloat.

Politics no longer excites or inspires people the way it did in the run-up to the last general election.

Pakatan leaders were so distracted by their internal politics that they were caught completely off guard when Muhyiddin filed a motion to change the Dewan Rakyat Speaker 10 minutes before the deadline last week.

Columnist Jeff Ooi wrote in Kwong Wah Yit Poh recently that he could not understand why Pakatan leaders, with their experience and wisdom, are being dictated by a man with no party and who has only five MPs in total.

According to Khoo, there are many younger leaders in Pakatan who are impressive as individuals but are unable to influence their party.

"They have turned into yes-men to all the old guys in their party, you see them going 'yes sir, yes sir, three bags full'," said Khoo.

In short, the people who came to power in 2018 advocating new politics are still stuck in yesterday's politics.

The naming of Shafie for the top job suggests that Dr Mahathir is running out of cards.

It is also the ultimate proof that the elder man never intended to hand over to Anwar.

When Dr Mahathir insisted at the Pakatan Harapan Plus meeting that he had to be the PM for six months, he argued that Anwar would not be well accepted because he leads a multi-racial party.

Anwar had shot back: "So six months later, you will pass to me. But I will still be the leader of a multi-racial party."

What hurts most for the PKR rank-and-file is the betrayal by their long-time partners.

Despite all that has gone on, Anwar does not want to see Pakatan broken up and his priority is to hold the coalition together.

But how is Anwar going to deal with the old tiger who seems to have clawed his way into Pakatan politics?

The view expressed here are entirely the writer's own.

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