While Pakatan Harapan fights within, Umno rebuilds
Philip Golingai, The Star
PAKATAN Harapan’s strange pre-GE14 arrangement may cause the fall of its government, said Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa .
“When they faced GE14, they made a strange promise where if they formed the government, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad would become the Prime Minister and after a certain number of years, he will hand over to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim,” he explained .
“You expect a person in such a position of power to simply relinquish it in one or two years and give it to another person? If you did that, right on day one, your Prime Minister is a lame duck Prime Minister.”
The Umno politician contended that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman Dr Mahathir and PKR president Anwar would not simply allow the transition of power without any political orchestrations to make themselves stronger.
On whether the strange agreement will cause the fall of the Pakatan government, Annuar said it depended on the wisdom of the two leaders. Any disagreement between them, he said, would cause Pakatan to disintegrate, and that would mean the fall of the government.
Annuar does not think that there will be a vote of no confidence during the next Parliament sitting.
Annuar, who knew Dr Mahathir as Prime Minister and Umno president and Anwar as Deputy Prime Minister and Umno deputy president in the 1990s when they were in the same cabinet and party, said he was not sure whether they would go to that direction.
“But it can easily happen because even though we are in the opposition, we are all natural allies and friends as we all come from the same party (Umno).
“There is no real difficulty for those in the opposition to work together with Anwar or Dr Mahathir because we come from the same team. It is just now we are on the opposite side of the fence,” he said.
So, if that happened, which side will Umno be with?
According to Annuar, Umno treated Pakatan problems as their problems within their courtyard and it did not want to interfere. On their part, he said, they know Umno has its own problems.
“We need to regroup, we need to put our house in order, we need to clean our image and we have to reinvent ourselves,” he said.
If Umno started thinking and dreaming of going through the back door or try to have a new government coalition partner, Annuar said it would lose focus on what it needed to do after losing the power that it had held for over 60 years since 1957.
“We want to be very focused. So, we have made a very firm decision. Number one, we don’t mind remaining as opposition. Number two, we want to perform as an opposition. At times, if it is good for the country, we will support Dr Mahathir. But, of course, we will not abandon our role to be the voice of the rakyat,” he said.
“So thirdly, we need time – maybe one or two years – to reinvent ourselves and this is also not something easy. So instead of thinking to collaborate with the government, we want to focus our collaboration among the opposition.”
Umno, said Annuar, was starting with PAS first as it wanted the Malays to be united. Once that is achieved, Umno will then discuss how it could work with other communities, he said. “It is not enough just to have Malay unity without taking into consideration of the Indians, Chinese and other races.”
“But whatever it is, Dr Mahathir and Anwar’s people have approached Umno and what is your party’s stand on this?” I asked.
“We have not made any decision. At a personal level, some Umno MPs prefer Anwar to take over as Prime Minister and some Umno MPs prefer Dr Mahathir to stay on.
“But the issue is not just a question of Anwar and Dr Mahathir, Umno cannot work together with DAP. So, DAP is a major factor. Let’s say some of us may like Anwar but if that new government coalition includes DAP, then we will not >support Anwar,” he said.
On how stable the Pakatan government is, the Umno secretary-general said it depended on Dr Mahathir because as Prime Minister, he has options.
“For example, if he wants PH to remain intact, then he can sit down with Anwar, discuss, find a solution. Probably if he feels Anwar should not be his successor, it can still be done within the PH family, given the fact that he is the father figure within the coalition. I’m sure the component parties have a lot of respect for him,” he said.
“Knowing Dr Mahathir, he is someone with a very strong conviction. If he believes in something, he will hold to it. If deep inside, he feels that Anwar cannot be his successor, he will not give that position to Anwar.
“And how he’s going to do it he has so many options. One is to work with PH to get enough support and agree that Anwar can’t be the next prime minister.”
He continued: “The other option was if Anwar, DAP and part of Amanah insist that Anwar should be the next Prime Minister but Dr Mahathir do not want to budge, then Dr Mahathir may decide to work together with the opposition to form a government led by him. “
“So, Anwar has no options?” I asked.
“Very simple. If Anwar wants to become Prime Minister, he needs to push it early. He needs to talk to the opposition.
If he fails to do that, the longer he waits, things will become even more and more difficult for him. Difficult in the sense that I don’t think Anwar will have the numbers, even to get votes from the opposition, to make up the number. I think Dr Mahathir is in a much better position to make up the number,” he said.
Dr Mahathir, Annuar said, could use his position as Prime Minister to create “another Anwar and Anwar’s standing in PKR will disintegrate and that is a lose-lose situation for Anwar.”
He added, “At the moment, Anwar does not have the numbers. Dr Mahathir has far bigger support.”
On how he saw the sex video involving Azmin and on whether Umno would take advantage of it, Annuar said it was a big setback for Azmin.
“He is a leader with a bright future. He has a very good prospect of taking a higher position but what has happened somehow – whether he likes it or not – has already affected him.
“This incident is giving problems for PKR and it has made it more divided. There is no way that this thing can reconcile (the factions in the party) and the injuries are very deep and very serious, and the impact is very big,” he said.
Was the sex video scandal an advantage for Umno?
Anything negative that happened to Pakatan would be an advantage for Umno but it would only be temporary, Annuar said. However, he said the party was not thinking of being part of a coalition government. He said he was more concerned about Umno’s long term prospect.
“Let’s say we back Anwar and we topple Dr Mahathir. But, just say the people still dislike us, come next election, they will vote us out. So back to square one.
“As far as Umno is concerned, it is more important to reinvent ourselves and make sure we are relevant, credible and we can win back the hearts and minds of the people,” he said.
Annuar has heard of talk that there might be a vote of no confidence during Parliament sitting which begins tomorrow. The Ketereh MP, however, does not think it would happen.
“In our Constitution, it says the Agong shall appoint a PM to the best knowledge of him enjoying the majority support of MPs. So, for example, Anwar can get written pledges and if the number is enough, he didn’t have to pass any motion of vote of no confidence in Parliament but get the King’s consent,” he said.
A vote of no confidence, he said was unprecedented. “If it happens, Umno will vote en bloc but we hope it won’t happen,” he said.
Umno, he said, wants to strengthen itself first.