Umno’s ‘Deal of the Century’?


  • It's Just Politics
  • Sunday, 09 Feb 2020

‘Keep your enemies closer’: Lokman (centre) claimed that a deal is in the works between Pakatan Harapan, Barisan Nasional and PAS.

The latest turns and twists of the Malaysian political game point at a clandestine coalition: Pakatan Nasional.

THE Rubik’s Cube of coalition politics in Malaysia is spinning, again.

According to Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam in a sensational revelation on Facebook Live on the night of Feb 1, there’s a Pakatan Nasional in the offing.

Almost everybody, claimed Lokman, is onboard except for DAP, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (and MPs remaining loyal to the PKR president) and Datuk Seri Najib Razak (and Umno MPs aligned with the former Prime Minister).

He claimed that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad would be Prime Minister in the new ruling coalition and Umno’s Sembrong MP Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein will be Deputy Prime Minister. He also claimed that Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was in favour of the Pakatan Nasional deal.

Those who perceive Lokman as a muckraker who mixes half-truth with half-lies scoffed at his claim. But a day later his allegation gained credence when he released an alleged recording of Zahid seemingly espousing the merits of the supporting Prime Minister Dr Mahathir.

Can the Pakatan Nasional government happen?

It depends on who you speak to. The pro-Mahathir politicians and political analysts think it will. But not those in Team Anwar and Team Najib.

So far, according to some politicians and political analysts, it is not easy to form Pakatan Nasional as there are hurdles such as: Zahid needs Umno to support the move; they need the support of PAS; they need the support of Gabungan Parti Sarawak; and they need the pro-Mahathir, anti-Anwar PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali to have substantial number of MPs with him.

The hidden hands behind Pakatan Nasional need carrots and sticks to persuade Umno leaders to make it happen.

A carrot can be that Umno will be back in government and “for the sake of race and religion”, some of its leaders have to be ministers and deputy ministers. A stick can be a threat of corruption or income tax investigation.

However, there are leaders in the party who are not interested in the “Umno back in power” carrot, which they see as a short-term reward with long-term negative consequences.

They might be in government for three years at the most, and then they will have to face the rakyat in GE15. The voters might punish or reward them for being part of Pakatan Nasional.

PAS leaders often give vague statements. On Friday, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said he was in favour of a new coalition that would ensure the government is in the hands of Muslims. He, however, said the Islamist party had not made any decision yet.

GPS rules Sarawak and has 18 MPs (it used to have 19, but a Parti Rakyat Sarawak MP joined Parti Sarawak Bersatu, which is no longer GPS-friendly). It is not a solid block – some of the MPs of its four component parties are with Team Mahathir, Team Anwar or “Team let Malay politicians fight among themselves and what we care is Sarawak”.

GPS leaders are more concerned about keeping the crown jewel (the Sarawak polls, which have to be held by next year) than getting two or three or four federal minister posts in a Pakatan Nasional government.

How many MPs does Azmin have in his camp?

Judging by the signatures of PKR MPs who signed a letter supporting Azmin’s right-hand man Zuraida Kamaruddin, who is facing the party disciplinary board, there are 14 (minus Lubok Antu member of Parliament Jugah Muyang who denied he supported it). But if Zuraida, who voluntarily took leave from her PKR vice-president post, is sacked will Azmin and these MPs follow her out of PKR?

On Friday night, Umno Supreme Council members met. What happened during the meeting was opaque. What was clear is that the Umno Supreme Council had either sacked Lokman as a party member over the leaked audio recording implicating Zahid or referred him to the disciplinary board.

Was the Pakatan Nasional deal discussed?

Zahid told the media that the matter was not discussed. He also dismissed claims that Umno was getting in bed with its enemy, Bersatu. However, Umno insiders told me it was discussed, and the discussion was heated and inconclusive. They told me the matter was not settled yet (as leaders wanted to know the mechanism behind the deal). They also said things are fluid in Umno with the possibility the side, wanting to collaborate with the Prime Minister, might win.

“One of the hurdles, Lokman, has been removed, ” said an Umno source. Another source said Lokman’s sensational claims had scuttled – temporarily – the Pakatan Nasional deal.

What’s next?

Yesterday, PAS had a high-level meeting. It was speculated that it would discuss the Pakatan Nasional offer.

Tomorrow, Muafakat Nasional (the Umno and PAS coalition) will meet. On the agenda, might be the new ruling coalition.

If the Pakatan Nasional plot fails, what is the Plan C or Plan D or Plan E that those bent on denying Anwar his Prime Minister destiny have? A juicier carrot dangled? A bigger stick brandished?

On Friday night, an editor of a news portal and I had a heated discussion over the phone about the Umno Supreme Council meeting.

“But Phil, with all this happening, what about the rakyat? They put so much hope on Pakatan Harapan. What will happen if there’s a Pakatan Nasional?” he argued.

Since he’s a good friend, I told him bluntly: “No point of talking about the rakyat. This is a political game played by the political elites. Do you think they are doing this for the sake of race and religion?”

Disillusioned, he pragmatically conceded. And we continued our discussion of realpolitik.

Whether the Rubik’s Cube will spin to a Pakatan Nasional combination or not, I’m interested to know what the Pakatan Harapan leaders, who are not part of the new power equation, are thinking.

Are they in denial? Are they plotting a counter strike? Are they confident that Pakatan Harapan won’t collapse?

Whatever it is, with Pakatan Harapan friends (who are planning a Pakatan Nasional) like these, who needs enemies?


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