No lockdown for politics

There seems to be no break from politicking as politicians continue their power games during this MCO.

POLITICALLY, the difference between the movement control order in 2020 and the Emergency rule in 2021 is that there was a political distancing during the move to flatten the Covid-19 curve last year.

This year, there’s no political lockdown even though the country is in a state of emergency.

Early last year, the Pakatan Harapan government fell and Perikatan Nasional rose when Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed the Prime Minister.

To flatten the pandemic, the Perikatan government declared MCO soon after, on March 18,2020. During the MCO, there was not much political noise even though Pakatan Plus politicians felt that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should be Prime Minister for the second time as he had the numbers.

Politicians had stopped politicking.

For example, an MP, who was supposed to be with Perikatan government, was supposed to call for a press conference to declare that he supported Dr Mahathir, cancelled the event when MCO was enforced.

In another instance, the opposition roadshows to protests against the Perikatan administration were halted.

Fast forward to the emergency rule, which was proclaimed on Tuesday.

The next day after it was declared, Umno’s Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz withdrew his support for the Prime Minister, leaving the Perikatan government with 110 MPs out of the 220 MPs in Parliament.

On Thursday, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim urged MPs to send a memorandum to the King to call off the Emergency proclamation.

On Friday, Dr Mahathir launched an attack on Muhyiddin for resorting to an Emergency rule.

Why was there political distancing during MCO 2020 but not in the state of emergency 2021?

According to political analyst Azmi Omar, in March 2020, opposition politicians were caught off guard.

“Pakatan had just lost their power, and suddenly Muhyiddin declared the MCO, ” he said.

He argued that they complied to the new political norm (political distancing) as they believed the MCO was a genuine effort to combat the invisible enemy.

“But this time, they think that it is a political emergency rule. They believe the government can control the Covid-19 infection without using the state of emergency, ” he said.

Universiti Malaya political analyst Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali contended that during the first MCO, politicians also did not have any idea of the real nature of Covid-19. He added the opposition was also in trauma since Dr Mahathir suddenly exited as prime minister.

“Now, the opposition not only knows the nature of Covid-19, but they can also see that Muhyiddin is losing his majority in Parliament. For them, Muhyiddin must resign and dissolve the Parliament instead of declaring an emergency, ” he said.

Muhammad Asri noted that most Malaysians realise that whoever is in charge must prioritise stopping the spread of Covid-19.

“We have plenty of time to change the government. The Malay proverb for this is ‘tak lari gunung dikejar” (mountains do not run when chased). The government has to use Emergency law because the MCO is not enough, ” he said.

Azmi pointed out that politicking was still ongoing as the politicians think that the Perikatan government would not have the majority when the Emergency rule ended. Perhaps, he said, there would be more Umno MPs who would follow the move of Nazri and Machang MP Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakob to cease backing Muhyiddin.

“The moment Parliament is in session; they will go for a no-confidence vote. So political manoeuvring is geared towards that. When the emergency ends, they are going for a general election, ” he said.

Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali observed that there is no political lockdown during the emergency for both sides of the political divide. Political discourse would not take a break, he said, for example, some politicians are questioning whether Parliament should be suspended or expressing their dissatisfaction with the Emergency proclamation.

“We are living in an interesting time – comments and suggestions in social media, for example, cannot be stopped. In fact, this medium is getting widely used as a platform for citizens and leaders to express their opinion on political matters, ” he said.

Is it game over for the faction in Umno which is pushing for the party’s MPs to withdraw their backing for the Prime Minister?

According to Azmi, when Muhyiddin announced the emergency rule on Tuesday, the Prime Minister emphasised twice that he would not interfere in the business of the court.

“The moment Umno is clear of the kluster makhamah (court cases cluster) they can look for new leaders, ” he said.

He argued that if the head was chopped, the kluster makhamah would lose its link to the party’s leadership.

“The Umno mentality is that once you use power and money, they will start looking for other leaders, ” he said.

However, Muhammad Asri believes it is too premature to declare game over for the kluster makhamah.

“The court cluster will continue their trial, and some of them maybe will survive as even though they are found guilty because the culture of ‘resign’ is almost non-existent in Umno, ” he said.

The emergency rule will flatten the Covid-19 curve but not the politicking curve.

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