Time for the Red and Borneo wave?

Philip Golingai, The Star

With the support of two-thirds of the MPs – to be exact, 148 out of 222 – the Pakatan Harapan chairman is expected to be able to push for his choice of Speaker.

The Speaker will be sworn in, followed by the MPs.

The next hurdle will be the election of Deputy Speakers. With 148 MPs, the government should win the votes.

Then comes the confidence vote on Anwar’s legitimacy as Prime Minister.

Barring any rebellion from disgruntled government MPs, Anwar should get the numbers.

With the three victories, Anwar will end 2022 secure that he has the mandate to govern Malaysia.

In the first half of next year, however, the PKR president will face two political hurdles, which could pressure his position as Prime Minister.

First is the possibility of a snap election in states – Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu – controlled by Federal Opposition, Perikatan Nasional, specifically its backbone, PAS.

Buoyed by the big win in Padang Serai, a parliamentary seat PKR has held for three-term since 2008, Perikatan could dissolve the three states’ assemblies.

The move is to ride on the Green Wave momentum in which Perikatan won most conservative Malay seats. PAS and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia won all parliamentary seats in Kedah (14) except for Sungai Petani, which PKR retained, Terengganu (8) and Kelantan (14).

The window to call for the snap state polls is January and February and early March. March 22 will be the start of Ramadhan and followed by Syawal (after Hari Raya).

If – probably the exact word is “after” – Perikatan makes an almost clean sweep in Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan, it will put pressure on Anwar that he can’t ignore the fact that his administration is not a unity government. If it were, it would have included Perikatan, which controls 74 seats, except for Beluran in Sabah and Saratok in Sarawak, which are populated by Malays.

Several political analysts have told me that a Prime Minister can’t last without the support of the majority of Muslims (most are with Bersatu and PAS based on the 15th General Election).

Some speculate a Sheraton Move 2.0 in which the government is forced to form a government with Perikatan. In the Sheraton Move in 2020, some Bersatu and PKR MPs joined forces with Barisan (whose backbone is Umno), PAS, GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) and other parties to form a government-dominated Malay MPs.

One of the reasons they gave for the move was that non-Malays controlled the Pakatan government (from 2018 to 2020).

The second political hurdle for the Prime Minister is the Umno poll has to be held within six months after GE15 on November 19.

Arguably, Barisan Nasional chairman and Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi made Anwar the Prime Minister.

After GE15, Perikatan chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had 115 MPs, including a dozen from Barisan, backing him as Prime Minister. But, Ahmad Zahid managed to get Barisan’s 30 MPs to support Anwar.

Anwar needs Ahmad Zahid to remain in power. Who else can the Prime Minister trust in Umno to back him up until his term ends?

If Ahmad Zahid is defeated in a party poll and replaced by an Umno leader who is not in Team Zahid, Anwar might lose the support of Barisan.

The MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) which Pakatan, Barisan, GPS, Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and Parti Warisan – in which any MP from the signatory parties who does not support government motions will be deemed as disqualified – is just a “memorandum” and an “understanding”. Any coalition or party can opt out of the MoU.

The current conventional wisdom is despite Umno’s worst-ever election outing (winning only 26 seats), Ahmad Zahid will win as Umno president against any challengers. At the moment, Sembrong MP Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein or Khairy Jamaluddin can’t mount a serious challenge against Ahmad Zahid, who has sidelined them.

“That’s the irony of Umno. Zahid’s divisive leadership caused it to lose big in GE15. Umno is no longer seen as a party which can command the support of its traditional base – the conservative Malays – especially after it lost its raison d’etre (reason for living) after embracing its bogeyman, DAP,” a political analyst told me over coffee.

“But Zahid is likely to win. His grip on the party is solid. He is Deputy Prime Minister with a portfolio (rural and regional development minister) that can win over Umno delegates. That’s why Anwar could not avoid not appointing an MP with corruption charges from becoming a DPM.”

An example of Ahmad Zahid’s patronage is on the day all political appointments in statutory bodies at the central government level and government-linked companies were terminated, former Machang MP Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub of Umno was re-appointed as Felcra Berhad’s chairman.

Ahmad Zahid is an undeniable but necessary stain on Anwar’s government which most Pakatan supporters voted in as they were against penyamun (bandits). But as the Green Wave spooks them, most will swallow the political reality.

The next few months will be Red Wave (the colour of Pakatan) plus Borneo Wave (all the winning coalitions and parties from Sabah and Sarawak are with the Anwar government) versus the Green Wave.