Anwar’s strange counter coup

by S Thayaparan, Malaysiakini

“I don’t know. You have to ask him.” – Anthony Loke on Anwar’s numbers game

Anwar Ibrahim’s meeting with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah tomorrow could be the culmination of his ascendancy to the highest office of the land – or it could be the final nail in the coffin for a political operative who started a political upheaval which broke the hegemonic control of Umno, but not “ketuanism”.

Anwar did not inherit a ready-made opposition. He had to cobble one together to wage war against the Umno hegemon, which at one time included the previous prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was briefly an extremely influential operative in Pakatan Harapan and who still has his slavish devotees.

The fact is that Mahathir and his acolytes have abandoned Harapan and are now hoping to either be kingmakers or spoilers. They are doing so for the benefit of people who either want to sustain the hegemony they enjoyed or who never want to see Anwar become prime minister.

The fact that the old maverick considered and then reconsidered his decision to run in the next general election demonstrates that whatever moves Anwar is making has spooked the twice prime minister.

Umno sources told Nikkei Asia: “Our president (Ahmad Zahid Hamidi) is very cautious in making sure that he can secure his political future, and Anwar can be a saviour.” This echoed the old maverick’s concern that Anwar would coddle “kleptocrats”.

In an interview the old maverick did with the Malaysian Gazette, not only did Mahathir revisit his old feud with Anwar Ibrahim. He acknowledged that the current prime minister’s position was precarious, but while “Muhyiddin being toppled is one thing, the question of whether Anwar has the support (of the MPs) is another”.

Of course, all this could be settled if the former prime minister just said that he backed Anwar. After all, he had two tries at the stewardship of this country, and he was on the team that toppled the government, which he claims is destroying the country. But for some reason, the thought of Anwar becoming prime minister is anathema to Mahathir.

Anwar’s bid for power comes at a time when the pandemic is resurging, the “kakistocratic” nature of the government of the day is on full display, and the various segments of the rakyat are attempting to navigate the ever-changing economic landscape brought about by this pandemic.

On the campaign stump in the disastrous – considering this pandemic – Sabah election, current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was reported in the press saying this: “The Bersatu president added that should he no longer qualify to be the prime minister, he has two options – to step down or recommend that the Agong dissolves Parliament.

“If the Agong dissolves Parliament, then Anwar (Ibrahim) will just be a PM-in-waiting.”

Hence what Malaysians have to look forward to if Anwar proves successful is, if he (Muhyiddin) does not step down – and why should he, right? – that the Agong dissolves Parliament just so that Anwar will remain a prime minister in waiting and the rakyat will have to have another Covid-spreading election because the stakes will be high.

Add to this the political infighting that will take place, the economic uncertainty, the total disregard of SOPs during campaign ceramah sessions, the movement of politicians and their supporters across state borders, the race and religion baiting, the money politics which would further destabilise public institutions, the rumours online that could spark civil unrest and the host of pandemic-spreading activities or irresponsible actions which could irreparably damage the Malaysian body politic.

DAP’s Seremban MP Anthony Loke’s rather nonchalant answer to questions surrounding the big pow-wow Harapan had is either an indication of the lack of credibility of Anwar’s claims, and DAP attempting to damage control if this blows up in Anwar’s face, or the thought of aligning with Umno frogs is not something that the party can justify and believe me, the DAP can justify a lot.

Meanwhile, Anwar has been justifiably cagey about the numbers, but the problem here is that Anwar, for whatever reason, has never been able to control the coalitions he has been in. Sure, his allies fell under the spell of the old maverick, but Azmin’s Ali betrayal is on him.

If Anwar could not even exert control over his own party, how in God’s name is he going to control a coalition made up of political operatives, most likely from Umno, who have no loyalty beyond serving the unstable Malay political establishment?

Consider this. A source told Malaysiakini on Oct 5 that Anwar has the numbers, but more importantly, the source “who spoke on condition of anonymity said not all PKR leaders are in the know of the latest developments regarding this issue”.

Okay, there are some trust issues in PKR, and really, who can blame Anwar for not trusting his political party with the intricacies of the coup? DAP, Amanah, and some PKR leaders are not in the know when it comes to Harapan forming the next government. Does this really matter to the base? Should it matter?

On Oct 8, a PKR source told Malaysiakini that Anwar “has maintained ‘strong and convincing support’ from Umno MPs ahead of his audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah next Tuesday”, which, if true, means that Harapan would be aligning with Umno MPs to topple the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

It also means that we would have a motley gang of political operatives who do not trust each other attempting to manage the economy and the pandemic, all the while attempting to position themselves in an unstable hierarchy with vested interest using proxies.

Of course, if Anwar comes out of the meeting with egg on his face, not only will he have destroyed his credibility once and for all, he would have destroyed whatever credibility remains in Harapan. This is the strangest countercoup Malaysians have witnessed.

For the Harapan supporter base, the two opposing ideas are: is it better for Anwar to be PM by any means necessary (political coup), or is it better for PN to be defeated at the ballot box (general election)?