First notes of Anwar’s swan song in Malaysia

“I would say that before the end of the year there will be some realignment of the opposition as it looks like Anwar is not able to fulfill his role anymore.”

Nile Bowie, Asia Times

Anwar Ibrahim, long seen as a champion of national reform and multiracial unity, is under pressure from his coalition partners to step aside as frustration with his strategies and leadership mount in the aftermath of a watershed budget vote in Parliament that failed as promised to topple the government.

After pillorying the government’s expansionary 2021 budget and intimating he would not cooperate with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s “back-door government”, opposition leader Anwar allowed the draft expenditure bill to pass in a walkover as per an eleventh-hour strategy shift that has apparently ignited an intra-coalition revolt.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition had intended for the bill’s November 26 vote to serve as a do or die test of Muhyiddin’s nine-month-old administration, which has clung to power with a razor-thin two-seat majority. Instead, the vote has resulted in a legitimacy crisis for the opposition, one that could knock Anwar out as PH’s prime ministerial candidate at the next election.

“The mood in the last week since the vote is one of anger and frustration,” said a senior figure from Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). “Everyone is angry, especially with Anwar’s last-minute U-turn. And until now, Anwar has failed to provide a satisfactory explanation to his coalition partners about why he did that.”

In the vote’s aftermath, Anwar confirmed that he unilaterally gave the order to PH lawmakers to stand down even though the leaders of PH’s other component parties, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), preferred to at least symbolically oppose the budget in a show of defiance.

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