Shafie’s choice: PM, or CM, or nothing?

  • It's Just Politics
  • Sunday, 05 Jul 2020

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal - Filepic ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / THE STAR

“SOPHIE’S choice”, according to, is an extremely difficult decision a person has to make.

“It describes a situation where no outcome is preferable over the other. This can be either because both outcomes are equally desirable or both are equally undesirable, ” explains the digital dictionary.

Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal is facing Shafie’s choice. There are two versions of Shafie’s choice, depending on your political affiliation.

If you are with the Opposition but not PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, both outcomes of Shafie’s choice are desirable. The Parti Warisan Sabah president either remains Chief Minister or is elevated to be Prime Minister.

If you are with the Perikatan Nasional government, both outcomes for the Semporna MP and Senallang assemblyman are equally undesirable. Shafie, in pursuing the prime ministership, might lose his chief ministership.

On June 27, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that Pakatan Harapan Plus had agreed to endorse Shafie as Prime Minister with Anwar as first deputy prime minister and Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as the second deputy prime minister.

PKR contradicted Dr Mahathir, denying that it had accepted the deal. DAP and Amanah issued a statement, saying that the Pakatan Harapan presidential council would decide whether Shafie will be the Opposition’s Prime Minister nominee.

What is the likelihood of Shafie creating history as the first from Borneo to be PM?

Looking at the political situation in the country, Warisan permanent chairman Datuk VK Liew believes it is possible.

The Batu Sapi MP explained that if the government’s motion to replace the Dewan Rakyat Speaker on July 13 is defeated, there is a possibility that the Perikatan government would collapse as it would be akin to a no-confidence vote.

“If it is defeated, it means the present speaker (Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof) remains and he is likely to proceed with the no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) which he approved and accepted in May, ” he said.

“The no-confidence vote is then likely to succeed if Muhyiddin’s motion to replace the Speaker and his deputy is defeated.”

Liew said the possibility the Opposition would take over from Perikatan with Shafie as the new Prime Minister exists.

The Perikatan government has 114 MPs: Umno 39, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia 32, Gabungan Parti Sarawak 18, PAS 18, MCA two, MIC one, Sabah STAR one, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah one, Parti Bersatu Sabah one and Lubok Antu MP one.

The Opposition has 108 MPs: Pakatan 91 (DAP 42, PKR 38 and Amanah 11), Warisan nine, Team Dr Mahathir five, Parti Sarawak Bersatu two and Upko one.

The Opposition is not a solid block. Anwar, with 38 PKR MPs, is not supporting Dr Mahathir’s proposal for Shafie to be the Opposition’s pick to be PM.

Liew believes that many of the PKR MPs would support Shafie as PM, as not supporting the Opposition’s choice would mean that they would be supporting Muhyiddin.

Two Opposition leaders in Sabah dismissed Shafie’s chances of becoming Prime Minister.

SAPP president Datuk Yong Teck Lee believes the naming of Shafie as a Prime Minister candidate is a side-show to the ongoing tussle between Dr Mahathir and Anwar to be the Opposition’s PM-in-waiting.

“Despite the steroid-type excitement in Warisan, the proposal to have its president as PM remains a game by Dr Mahathir to stop Anwar from becoming the candidate for PM, ” he said.

Parti Kerjasama Anak Negeri’s Datuk Henrynus Amin agreed.

“Dr Mahathir’s proposal to make Shafie the next Prime Minister is nothing but a political ploy to discredit Anwar.

“Or at best, Dr Mahathir’s antics are a pathetic attempt to distract public attention from his failure to be nominated by PH (Pakatan) as Prime Minister, ” he said.

Henrynus said Sabahans should not be excited nor take the proposal seriously as, without the necessary consensus within Pakatan, Shafie has no realistic chance to be the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Those opposing Shafie in Sabah told me that instead of him focusing on the impossible dream of becoming PM, he should concentrate on his CM post, which he might lose if his state government collapses.

Liew contended that the likelihood of the Sabah government falling is zero.

Not likely, he said, as the Warisan-led government has 45 assemblymen and nominated assemblymen in the 65-seat state assembly.

“That is two-thirds majority in the House. It is therefore nonsensical for opponents to make such a claim, ” he said.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department under the Pakatan government also said that any state government assemblyman who is thinking of defecting needs to take into consideration that the Perikatan government might collapse overnight.

“If the central government falls, the frogs who are jumping might get caught in the act.

“I don’t think, given the maturity and experience of these jumping frogs, that they want to make such a hasty decision (and will wait) until and unless there is certainty that Muhyiddin has a comfortable majority.

“And now we also have the Prime Minister material coming from Sabah, so do they still want to jump?” he said.

Yong, the former Likas assemblyman and Gaya MP, said the Warisan-led government has turned Sabah into an enemy state, not only an Opposition state.

“It has lost all hopes of an economic recovery for the state. Therefore, the stage is set for the collapse of the Warisan state government. The rakyat generally expects that the Warisan-led government will fall. Not if, but when, ” he said.

However, Henrynus did not think that the Sabah government would fall in the immediate future as the Warisan-led state coalition still had a solid 45 assemblymen against 20 from Perikatan.

“Very few truly believe PN (Perikatan) plus PBS, Sabah STAR and PBRS can get 15 assemblymen to simultaneously ditch the Warisan-led government to form a new PN (Perikatan) Sabah government, ” said the former Kinabalu MP.

So far only two assemblymen from Upko, which is in the Warisan-led government, have jumped. The expected exodus of state government assemblymen did not happen.

I asked a political operative what was going on. He told me things were moving discreetly: “We are waiting for some KL leaders to come over. They were due last week but got delayed, ” he said.

The political operative said there is a hitch on who would be the chief minister if a Perikatan Sabah government is formed.

“There are government and Opposition assemblymen who do not want Tan Sri Musa Aman to return as chief minister. They had enough of him as CM for 15 years, ” he said.

He said Sabah Bersatu chief Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, Sabah Bersatu deputy chief Datuk Masidi Manjun and Warisan information chief Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob are possible CM candidates.

“Once they sort out who will be CM, the Sabah government will fall. It also depends on what Musa will do, ” he said.

Musa’s choice might be to be CM or TYT (Yang di-Pertua Negeri).

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