So, is Anwar playing a game?

A. Kathirasen, Free Malaysia Today

Here we go again.

You just can’t deny that Malaysian politics is both exciting and extremely fluid, especially since Pakatan Harapan took over, and then lost, Putrajaya.

Now, Anwar is making a bid to retake the government that PH lost through what many see as a “backdoor move”.

At a press conference today, Anwar boldly announced that he had “convincing support” from MPs to seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for the opportunity to form a new government.

I listened to his announcement on his Facebook page today and also went through his press statement.

First Anwar spoke about what was wrong with the present government. Among other things, he said: “We have an unstable government whose inability to handle the crisis is driving the country towards an economic recession and rising racial tension.

“We have not seen it mobilise all the country’s resources and capabilities to face the crisis head on. What has happened, instead, is the government has been busy distributing positions, appointments and contracts in order to cling to an extremely bare and razor-thin majority in Parliament.”

He went on to say he had been approached by a number of unhappy MPs to save the situation and to express their support for him to form a new government.

The PKR president revealed that he had been granted an audience with the King at 11am on Sept 21 but the meeting had to be postponed as the King had been admitted to the National Heart Institute (IJN) for health monitoring.

“However, through a telephone conversation on Tuesday night I prayed for his speedy recovery and health. “ Anwar said he’d meet the King after the latter regains his health.

Anwar claimed that with the “indisputable support and majority behind me, the government led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has fallen”.

Understandably, the reaction from PH members is that they would support his bid to be prime minister and form a new government. The DAP and Amanah said they’d back him.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, meanwhile, was his usual sarcastic self when he reminded that Anwar had in 2008 claimed to have majority support from MPs to topple the then prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi but it never happened.

It has to be noted that Anwar had said that Mahathir’s MPs were not among those on his list of supporters.

Several Umno leaders too felt this was just a “gimmick” similar to that of 2008. Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan said: “He is either trying to play a repeat of Sept 16, 2008 or trying to influence Sabah voters in the state election on Saturday.”

Several others also think Anwar’s statement is aimed at helping Warisan Plus win and form the Sabah government, as voters may be persuaded to vote for the coalition that has good relations with the federal government.

Muhyiddin himself challenged Anwar to prove he had support when Parliament sits again. “Without going through this process, Anwar’s announcement is just an empty claim,” Muhyiddin said. When Parliament sits, of course, is decided by Muhyiddin as prime minister. By then anything can happen.

GPS secretary-general Alexander Nanta Linggi said the parties in the coalition were solidly behind Muhyiddin as prime minister. “As the secretary-general of both GPS and PBB, I want to remind Anwar to stop all this immature political games that only serve his own interest and ambition.”

Within hours after Anwar’s announcement, Muhyiddin’s people got all the leaders of his Perikatan Nasional coalition to issue a joint statement saying they were still backing him as prime minister.

Malaysians would know by now that such statements by politicians should be taken with more than a pinch of the proverbial salt. Perhaps spoonful would be more appropriate.

I wonder whose names appear on both the lists.

But is Anwar playing a game, as those in government suggest?

I don’t think so and I’ll tell you why.

He went to great pains to state that this government that he is forming will be majority Malay. His words were: “I wish to state here that the majority of MPs supporting me are Malay and Muslim.”

Why? Because there is a fear, fuelled by Umno and PAS, among a section of the Malay community that any government formed by Anwar would not be as aggressive in helping the Malay community as previous governments have been.

In the past, I’ve spoken to Malays who said they feared Anwar would pursue more liberal and equitable policies, resulting in the Malays losing some of the advantages they now enjoyed.

So that part of his statement is crucial to assuage the fears of the Malays. It is to tell them that most of those backing him are Malays and, therefore, non-Malays would not be dictating the direction of the government.

We must remember that before the collapse of PH, Umno, PAS and the Ketuanan Melayu types constantly kept saying that the DAP, not Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was running the government.

Anwar went on to say: “This government will represent all people, with majority Malay-Bumiputera and fair representation of all races in this country. We are committed to uphold the principles of the Constitution that recognises the position of Islam, the sovereignty of the Malay rulers and uphold the position of the Malay language as the official language and the special position of the Malays and Bumiputeras as well as give assurance to defend the rights of all races.”

The above is carefully worded, again to inspire confidence among the Malays that they will remain dominant and also inform the non-Malays their rights will also be safeguarded.

It does not sound to me like someone playing a game.

Also, the statement by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi seems to indicate it is not a game.

Zahid admitted that he had been told many Umno and Barisan Nasional MPs were behind Anwar and had stated their support for Anwar to form a new government.

“Umno and BN cannot prevent its MPs from supporting Anwar who is seeking an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to inform him of his intention,” he said in a statement. Noting that Umno and BN were not officially part of PN, Zahid said any form of support came from individual elected MPs.

That says a lot.

Also, Anwar has sought an audience with the King and I don’t think anyone would want to play games with the Agong. The palace has since revealed that the King did grant an audience to Anwar and his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail but it had to be postponed after His Majesty was admitted to IJN.

However, it remains to be seen whether Anwar can convince the King that he has the majority to form a new government. It remains to be seen how the King will react to this, for the ultimate decision is in his hands.

There is also the possibility that some of those who signed up to support him may withdraw their support at the crucial moment. It is possible too that Zahid and Umno are using Anwar to win concessions from Muhyiddin who has been driven into a corner.

There are simply too many “ifs” in this.