The Pakatan Harapan wild card

  • It's Just Politics
  • Sunday, 16 Feb 2020

Battle royale: Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan flags at a by-election. Now it is no longer just a matter of winning by-elections for Pakatan, as the ruling coalition is facing serious political manoeuvring to oust it. — Filepic

Some politicians seem to be more interested in cashing in their MP chip and building their own political stakes rather than the rakyat’s future.

THE Pakatan Harapan government is like a house of cards. It is a political structure built out of playing cards – PKR, DAP, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Amanah plus its ally Parti Warisan Sabah – which are precariously balanced together. Take a card out and the coalition of hope collapses.

In a tweet on Friday, Umno secretary-general and Ketereh MP Tan Sri Annuar Musa illustrated how the Pakatan Harapan deck could fall.

He tweeted: “The vote of confidence and matter related to the transition from the seventh PM (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) to the eighth PM is the business of the Pakatan Harapan government. If PM7 decides to quit and he has said after Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in November) and DSAI (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) gets support from 112 of the 138 PH MPs, then there’s no issue. But if 26 or more MPs from PH don’t agree?”

The “if” scenario is possible.

There are Pakatan Harapan politicians – such as Anwar’s deputy president, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali – who want to shuffle the cards to scuttle Anwar’s bid to become Prime Minister. In the making is the Pakatan Nasional house of cards.

To build this coalition – its name was coined by sacked Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam – what is needed are cards from both government and Opposition parties. However, Lokman has claimed DAP (except for MPs leaving the party), Anwar and MPs loyal to the PKR president, and Datuk Seri Najib Razak and parliamentarians aligned to the former prime minister, would not be part of the proposed new government coalition.

Can a Pakatan Nasional house of cards stand?

The numbers do not stack up: 26 Bersatu MPs + 18 PAS MPs + 30 Barisan Nasional MPs + 15 Azmin-aligned PKR MPs + 9 Warisan MPs = 98 MPs. This isn’t enough, as it would take at least 112 out of 222 MPs to form the government.

Gabungan Parti Sarawak, consisting of four Sarawak-based parties with 18 MPs, could be the joker in the pack. But at a supreme council meeting on Feb 6, GPS decided it will remain neutral and not support Pakatan Nasional.

So, has the Pakatan Nasional deal folded?

Politicians and political analysts I spoke to say the Machiavellian card dealer might have an ace up his sleeve.

The dealer could raise the stakes. For example, he could offer a favourable oil and gas deal to the GPS state government.

He could shuffle and deal to collapse the house of cards in the state governments of Kedah, Melaka and Perak.

Interestingly, back in October, a Pakatan Harapan minister at a party emergency meeting had warned that “a back-door government was a real and imminent threat, starting with the possible collapses of state governments in Melaka, Perak and Kedah”.

When you put the cards – Bersatu, PAS and Umno – on the table, the three parties have enough assemblymen to form a government in these three states without Pakatan Harapan parties.

Pakatan Harapan chairman and Bersatu chairman Dr Mahathir is playing his cards close to his chest.

The Prime Minister’s political actions, according to Khairul Azwan Harun, principal advisor at the Centre for Governance and Political Studies, is very difficult to read.

Khairul pointed out that everyone knows Opposition leaders like PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi have met with Dr Mahathir and there has been talk that these leaders are aligned with him and want him to continue as Prime Minister until GE15.

“There was also talk that these leaders are going to throw their support behind Mahathir to form a new coalition govt without DAP and Anwar. However, the move to ditch DAP and Anwar isn’t that straightforward, and Mahathir has other factors to consider, such as support from his party and other PH component parties, ” said Khairul, an Umno grassroots leader who is a former Senator.

He said Pakatan is clearly divided when it comes to the power transition between Dr Mahathir and Anwar.

“Hence, Mahathir will not just decide based on the support from Hadi and Zahid. A new coalition isn’t happening now when there are other factors in play, ” he said.

However, Khairul said a new coalition is possible after GE15 – something the rakyat might not mind accepting as opposed to a back-door government (ie, Pakatan Nasional).

Lost in the political shuffle is the Malaysian economy.

A tweet from Khairul on Thursday sums up the country’s economic situation. He was responding to my article that said some Pakatan politicians have admitted that Pakatan Nasional was a “clear and present danger” and could allow PAS and Barisan Nasional to replace the ruling coalition.

Khairul, who is known as Azwan Bro, tweeted: “The clear and present danger comes from the (Pakatan) presidential council when it has failed to address economic issues, GDP growth at a 10-year low, unemployment, the rising cost of living, GE14 promises abused, U-turns continue, law enforcement a joke, etc.”

Why is our “roti canai and dhal” situation getting from bad to worse since Pakatan took over in 2018?

Because some ministers are busy politicking? They are busy securing a better tomorrow for themselves and not for the rakyat.

Because some ministers are incompetent? Some people shouldn’t be given a ministerial post just because of their position in their party. Here’s an example of why not: Last week over lunch, a diplomat told me that a Malaysian minister met a high-level official named John from his country. “Your minister said, ‘Your name is John. In my country, there’s roti John. If you come to my country, I can cook roti John for you’, ” the diplomat related. He said although it was a yummy invitation, the official was not impressed as the meeting was over a serious security matter.

The anecdote was funny. However, I wasn’t sure if the diplomat was joking or serious.

To be fair to Pakatan, there are ministers and deputy ministers (more competent that their bosses and who should be the minister) who are brilliant. Unfortunately, there are also jokers in the pack.

On Friday there’ll be a Pakatan presidential council meeting. Will any of the leaders, who were like roaring tigers when in Opposition to the Barisan Nasional government, dare to call the Pakatan Nasional bluff? Or are the cards so stacked against these cubs that they will not roar?

A new deal called Pakatan Nasional could be a bad hand for the rakyat. Do any of the MPs pushing for Pakatan Nasional care if the rakyat gets a raw deal? Nah, these politicians just want to cash in on their MP chip.

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