Why did Perikatan pick Art Harun as new Speaker? Pundits suggest part of bid to woo urbanites

Analysts believe Perikatan Nasional (PN) may have baited Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun with the Dewan Rakyat Speaker post primarily as a means to vacate the Election Commission chairmanship and install a figure friendlier to the ruling bloc.

(MMO) – Azhar’s acceptance of the post could set back much of the work undertaken during his tenure as the EC chief, reforms they said would have made the electoral system a more level playing field and install safeguards to prevent abuses.

But with Azhar gone, the EC is back to where it was before. The commission had previously undertaken a controversial redelineation exercise that according critics helped create more super-Malay majority seats, a move seen as favourable to Umno and Barisan Nasional.

“There are three sets of reasons why the Muhyiddin-led government picked Azhar…one of them is to free up the EC chairmanship so they could install someone of their liking,” said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of Foreign Affairs.

The move came amid mounting speculation that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is looking to hold early elections, in a bid to secure a strong mandate as he seeks to quash any doubts over the legitimacy of his government.

A PN-friendly EC chairman could give his coalition, a bloc consisting of former rivals Umno, PAS and BN component members, the needed advantage, Oh opined, although how exactly that would help the ruling coalition in the polls is unclear.

Despite Azhar’s departure as chairman of the commission, the Muhyiddin-led bloc will still have to contend with a predominantly reform-minded team of executive committee members picked by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, who could still block any attempt to skew decisions that favour the ruling government.

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