Between the devil and deep blue sea lies ‘third force’

Riddled with infighting and public spats, Pakatan Rakyat was fast losing its niche as a ”credible” alternative. On the other hand, Najib, despite being spooked by the spectre of Altantuya Shaariibuu now and then, was seen as pressing all the right buttons.

Free Malaysian Today

Come next Monday, it will be exactly two years since the March 8 tsunami which dramatically altered the Malaysian political landscape. The outcome of that elections left jaws agape on both sides of the political divide, while pundits scratched their heads wondering how their hitherto accurate predictions had veered so far off the mark.

In the opposition camp, a sense of alarm crept in when the initial euphoria subsided and the reality sank in that they had now been given the mandate to govern four additional states, apart from the traditional PAS stronghold of Kelantan. DAP had realised its dream by driving out Gerakan and seizing control of Penang, the pearl of the orient. Neigbhouring Kedah also fell while down south, the unimaginable had happened – Selangor, under the rule of the powerful Umno warlord Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, had been vanquished.

But of the five states, it would be Perak that would later hog the limelight following the political coup de’etat in February 2009, subsequent high-profile courtroom battles and the opposition openly refusing to adhere to the wishes of the state monarch.

Pakatan Rakyat, made up of strange bedfellows comprising Islamists and secularists, had also denied the mighty Barisan Nasional a two-third majority in Parliament in the 12th general election, the first deep gash suffered by the ruling front during its half-a-century reign.

Shell-shocked, Umno and BN leaders searched for a scapegoat, and found one in the form of former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi whom they accused of being incompetent and literally sleeping on the job. But soon they conceded that the problems were bigger than one man and the new prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak vowed to set the house in order.

Many however saw this as next to impossible, arguing that the death knell had sounded for the ruling coalition and there would be no stopping Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his army from laying seige on the administrative capital of Putrajaya in the next elections.

When Anwar revealed his Sept 16 ‘take over plan’ with the help of mass defections, the nation was abuzz with excitement. And while BN leaders publicly dismissed this as a gimmick, privately the panic button was hit.

Altough the threat fizzled out as a false alarm, the mere possibility of the ‘prodigal son’ helming the country left Anwar’s once father figure turned arch-nemesis Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad squirming uncomfortably in his chair. The man he had ousted from the corridors of power had returned to haunt him. The octogenarian’s former number two had survived a sodomy charge and imprisonment, and had beat all the odds to become opposition leader.