Turn, turn, turn

DOES Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim have the numbers to be Prime Minister?

Philip Golingai, The Star

That’s the big question ahead of the PKR president’s audience with the King on Tuesday, at which he claims he will prove that he has a “strong, formidable and convincing” majority to form a new government.

“Definite,” said a PKR MP, who did not want to be identified, when asked whether Anwar has the numbers. “It is strategic that DSAI doesn’t announce the names of the MPs. Power of incumbency is still with TSMY,” he said, referring to Anwar and Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Universiti Utara Malaysia political science lecturer Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff doesn’t think Anwar has the numbers: “Nope, I don’t think so. He might have initially but not now. Hence, he will be very vulnerable now,” he said.

Kamarul Zaman said that those initially supporting Anwar might have changed their stance due to the anger the people showed towards this move, especially with Covid-19 cases increasing since the day he first made the declaration.

“They could easily be dismissed as power-hungry MPs who insist on changing the government regardless of the threat it might pose to people’s lives if they continue with their agenda,” he said.

On Sept 23, Anwar, who is Opposition leader, claimed to have a strong majority to form the next government. The PKR president said the majority of those supporting him were Malay-Muslim MPs.

Political analyst Prof Shamsul Amri Baharuddin also doesn’t think Anwar commands enough support from the MPs.

“He was fishing in his first press conference (PC) and also in his second PC. If he has Umno MPs, I’m quite certain DAP won’t support him. So he would lose 42 MPs. Amanah, which is linked to DAP, will follow DAP. So that is another 11 MPs lost. So Anwar has 53 fewer MPs,” he said.

However, Shamsul Amri has a caveat.

“Unless he has some magical promise or Covid-19 tight deal and loosely structured agreement among the components,” he said.

Hisommudin Bakar, executive director of independent research organisation Ilham Centre, believes that Anwar’s path to the premiership remains a long and winding one.

“It is still fluid. There is no guarantee that Anwar will be PM easily,” he said.

Malaysia’s Rubik’s Cube of coalition politics, a phrase coined by Shamsul Amri, is turning again.

These are the numbers Anwar currently has: Pakatan Harapan 91 (DAP 42, PKR 38 and Amanah 11) + Parti Warisan Sabah eight + Parti Bersatu Sarawak two + Upko one = 102 MPs.

The Port Dickson MP will need another 10 MPs for a simple majority in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat. They could come from the Umno “court cases cluster” (kluster mahkamah).

“The kluster mahkamah is supporting Anwar because the MPs are hoping that they can get a better deal from Anwar than Muhyiddin to settle their court cases,” said Hisommudin.

However, there is talk that the number of MPs in the Umno court cases cluster has reduced. If this happens, Anwar would not have sufficient MPs to stake a claim to the PM post.

There is also talk that the Umno court cases cluster’s ultimate aim is not for Anwar to be PM but to trigger a snap election.

Umno has 39 MPs; however, not all of them support Anwar. For example, Umno parliamentarians in the Cabinet and many in government-linked companies (GLCs) are with Muhyiddin.

Even if a minimum of 10 MPs from the Umno court cases cluster support Anwar, there is no guarantee that DAP and Amanah want to be in an Anwar-led government.

“I was told during Pakatan’s last meeting, Anwar did not reveal to DAP and Amanah who else was supporting him. He asked them to support him en bloc.

“And I also was told that DAP will not support Anwar if his support comes from the kluster mahkamah,” said Hisommudin.

“It will be difficult for DAP to explain to their supporters, especially Chinese voters, how it could be in an Anwar-led Cabinet that includes kluster mahkamah.”

However, a Pakatan insider told me that it is not impossible for DAP to support Anwar even if the Umno court cases cluster is with him.

“Anything is possible in politics. The politicians can find an excuse. For example, they can say that they are with Anwar to save Malaysia because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and their supporters will swallow it,” he said.

If 10 Umno court cases cluster MPs support Anwar, Muhyiddin too could turn the Rubik’s Cube of coalition politics. The Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president could form a coalition government with new partners to compensate for the loss of support from, for instance, just 10 MPs.

The new coalition government could come from existing Perikatan government partners: Bersatu 31 + Umno Cabinet and GLC clusters, say, 29 + Gabungan Rakyat Sarawak 18 + PAS 18 + MCA two + MIC one + PBS one + PBRS one + Sabah STAR one + Lubok Antu independent MP one = 103 MPs.

The additional MPs could come from Pejuang, the as-yet-unregistered party led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (five), and Warisan (eight).

There are many permutations to Malaysia’s Rubik’s Cube of coalition politics. A Borneo bloc supporting either Anwar or Muhyiddin? A bloc of individual MPs from different parties? A bloc of rebel Bersatu MPs?

Currently, Muhyiddin’s government has a slim majority: 113 Perikatan MPs against 108 opposition MPs (less one with the Oct 2 death of Batu Sapi MP Datuk VK Liew of Warisan).

It would take just three MPs from the Umno court cases cluster to bring down the Perikatan government.

If Muhyiddin loses his majority or Anwar has the numbers, an option that Muhyiddin has is to seek the consent of the King to dissolve Parliament. Many politicians and political analysts – except the Anwaristas – see this as the only possible scenario if Muhyiddin loses majority support.

Hisommudin, however, cautioned that with Covid-19 case numbers mm rising in the country, the dissolution option might not be possible.

“One option is for Muhyiddin to resign and give the prime minister’s post to the politician with majority support,” he said.

Can Anwar convince the King that he has all the right colours in the Rubik’s Cube of coalition politics?

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