POLITICS: How Zahid out-maneuvered Muhyiddin

Jab, cross, hook and Zahid knocked out Muhyiddin’s dream to be PM for the second time.

Philip Golingai, The Star

WITH 114 SDs signed in support of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as PM, Team Muhyiddin was overconfident that the Perikatan Nasional chairman would be sworn in as PM on Monday (Nov 28).

They didn’t expect one, two, three knockout punches from Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

On Nov 21, the King set 2pm as the deadline for coalition and party leaders to submit to form a government and present a candidate to be the Prime Minister.

Team Muhyiddin thought it had the numbers – Perikatan 73 + Barisan 10 + Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) 22 + Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) six + Parti KDM (KDM) three (two KDM MPs and an Independent) = 114 MPs.

With 114 out of 220 MPs, they expected Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Muhyiddin to be sworn in as PM at around 5pm that day.

The first punch came when Umno president Ahmad Zahid asked the Palace for an extension to the deadline, and the King gave 24 hours.

The 24-hour extension undermined Muhyiddin’s credibility that he had the support of Barisan. It also rattled Team Muhyiddin.

The extension also allowed Team Zahid to tell the narrative that Barisan was split in its support for Muhyiddin or Pakatan Harapan chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as Prime Minister.

Umno, with 26 MPs, was split between Team Zahid, which was pro-Anwar as PM, and Team anti-Zahid, which was pro-Muhyiddin as PM.

The narrative that Barisan was split allowed GPS, facing pressure at home, to make a U-turn on its decision to support a government with PAS as the leading party.

GPS issued a statement saying it would agree to the formation of a unity government if this was the decision of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The second punch came when Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan stated that Perikatan and Pakatan should consider setting up a government instead and Barisan was prepared to be the Opposition.

Mohammad knew Barisan was the kingmaker as both Perikatan and Pakatan would not agree to form a unity government.

The third punch was delivered when Team Zahid got the 10 Barisan MPs to retract their SDs supporting Muhyiddin as Prime Minister.

To nullify the SDs, Barisan decided that its stand was to be in the Opposition, forcing those who signed support for Muhyiddin to retract them.

The anti-hopping law also discouraged the 10 MPs from asserting their support for Muhyiddin. If they did, they might have to vacate their seats.

In the game of numbers, with the retractions, Muhyiddin was now down to 104 MPs which was not enough for him to be PM.

Team Zahid had managed to keep Barisan’s 30 MPs intact, and he used his mandate as coalition chairman to inform the King that it was supporting a unity government.

Jab, cross, hook and Zahid knocked out Muhyiddin’s dream to be PM for the second time.