IF contemporary Malaysian politics was a Netflix series, we’d be in season two of Malaysia’s House of Cards.
“This is just season two. We know that meetings, negotiations and horse trading are still going on, ” said Universiti Malaya political analyst Dr Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali.
“For example, the PM (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) will not just shake his legs and allow himself to lose his position. He will try everything within his power to keep it.”
A bit of advice from Frank Underwood, the ruthless politician in Netflix’s House of Cards: “For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.”
Season one in the Malaysian series, according to Muhammad Asri, was the Sheraton Move.
As Underwood says, “If you don’t like how the table is set, overturn the table”. And that’s what happened: MPs from a faction in PKR and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia worked with the then opposition – Umno, PAS, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, MCA, MIC, PBRS, Sabah STAR and PBS – and formed Perikatan Nasional to bring down the Pakatan Harapan government.
Starting from there, Muhammad Asri explained, politicians saw a crack: the Perikatan government achieved power with a razor-thin two-MP majority. This allowed ambitious leaders like PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim an opportunity to go after the post of prime minister.
Muhamad Asri said politicians saw the crack widening in Perikatan’s coalition after the Sabah polls which saw Bersatu getting the state’s chief minister post at the expense of Umno. Action by Umno leaders, like Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, urging the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to allow a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin, also widened the crack, allowing Anwar to move against the prime minister, he said.
Malaysians, according to the analyst, are hooked by the sandiwara (theatrical drama) of Malaysia’s House of Cards because there are many conspiracies involved.
“The public wants to know whether Muhyiddin can hold on to power. They want to know who could be the next prime minister. Who is behind Tengku Razaleigh’s move to urge a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin? Will there be snap polls?” he said.
In the finale of Malaysia’s House of Cards season one, Anwar dropped the bombshell that he had a “strong, formidable and convincing” majority to form a new government.
Season two started with the King granting Anwar a 25-minute audience. However, the Opposition leader and Port Dickson MP only presented the number of MPs he claimed supported him. He did not list their names – which led to Anwar’s critics having a field day poking fun at his numbers-without-names list.
However, research firm Ilham Centre’s Prof Hamidin Abdul Hamid said it is too early to tell whether the PKR president’s move on Tuesday will be a failure or a success.
“Anwar managed to convince the palace to give him an audience. That is something. The challenge now is for him to bring in the numbers. The biggest challenge for him is: Will the numbers stay with him?
“Time is of the essence. Whatever names he had on his list will change according to time. The more time passes, the higher the chances of the number of names declining, ” he said.
“What are the chances of Anwar becoming PM?” I asked Prof Hamidin over a coffee in Kuala Lumpur together with a PKR MP who also gave his insight on the situation.
“They are lessening. It is not only the counter move by Muhyiddin but other politicians have similar interests (in becoming PM), ” Prof Hamidin said.
On whether Muhyiddin’s days as PM are numbered, Muhammad Asri said, technically, the PM has lost the support of some of the MPs in the Perikatan government. When you read statements by Tengku Razaleigh, Umno’s Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Muhyiddin seems to be losing support unless he can pacify them, he said.
“There is talk that Umno wants to pull out of the Perikatan government. If he gets another bloc to join Perikatan, then he could survive.
“But it is unlikely that DAP, Amanah or Parti Warisan Sabah will join Perikatan. Muhyiddin might have no choice but to call for snap polls, ” he said.
Here’s an apt Underwood quote to sum up Muhyiddin’s situation: “Friends make the worst enemies.”
There is talk that Tengku Razaleigh (aka Ku Li) is the dark horse to be the next PM.
“I am not saying Ku Li as Ku Li, but there is a faction that is represented by Ku Li, ” said Prof Hamidin.
The professor said this faction, which he dubbed “the old guard”, is trying to offer an alternative in the midst of this political turmoil.
“The reality is, like it or not, it is very difficult to create a stable government as conflict intra parties, inter parties, among competing personalities, and regional interests all colour the current instability, ” he said.
“Besides, it is important to bring Umno into any new alignment due to its sheer numbers in Parliament and historical weight.
“Ku Li and his faction can bring some sections of Umno with them, those who are looking for alternatives to what is available today in terms of leadership. That is why I see that faction working with Ku Li on this.”On Tengku Razaleigh’s chances of becoming PM, Prof Hamidin said: “I don’t think of Ku Li as PM yet. But to a certain extent, Ku Li and his faction have managed to slow Anwar down tremendously.”
For Muhammad Asri, the Tengku Razaleigh move is just “a sideshow”.
“He doesn’t have a strong base in Umno. Only a few MPs will follow him. If he becomes PM, he will be like Muhyiddin too. In two or three months, there will be someone who could bring him down when a bloc leaves, ” he said.
So, who is with Anwar and who is with Tengku Razaleigh? The list will no doubt keep changing as parties and individuals play the wait-and-see game.
Roughly, Anwar’s list could comprise PKR, DAP (which has two factions, pro-Anwar and pro-Tun Mahathir Mohamad), Amanah, Warisan (waiting-and-seeing) and the Umno “kluster mahkamah” (court cases cluster).
Tengku Razaleigh’s list could comprise Pejuang (Mahathir’s yet-to-be-registered party), DAP (the pro-Mahathir faction), Amanah, Warisan and the Umno Cabinet and GLC cluster (who are still with Muhyiddin but could support Ku Li if Muhyiddin’s government falls).
Politics is very messy and fluid in Malaysia.
Who will eventually end up the winner? To once again quote the useful Underwood, “Success is a mixture of preparation and luck”. So be prepared for politicians to play the game like Underwood as they wheel and deal: “Shake with your right hand but hold a rock in your left.”
“The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties, ” Underwood also says, along with “Democracy is so overrated”.
Watch out for the next episode of Malaysia’s House of Cards tomorrow in which Umno, PAS and Bersatu hold a Muafakat Nasional meeting.
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