Anwar’s government is in self-destruct mode

Public now calling for Anwar to stand down

Murray Hunter

Anwar’s Madani government has fallen into self-destruct mode. Over the last eleven months, the realties of Anwar and his government’s performance has become very evident, where even the staunchest supporters are becoming more disappointed.

The hopes of promised reforms have been replaced with disillusionment.

The stability of the Madani government is not as sound as it appears on paper. Technically, Anwar’s government has a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat. However, the reality would be very different, if any contentious legislation was put to the vote.

Ucapan Reformasi Anwar 20 Sept 1998 (Masjid Negara)

Pakatan Harapan (PH) gained 82 seats in the last general election in the federal parliament. This was 30 seats short of a majority. With the support of Barisan Nasional, PH-BN had 112 seats, and could form a government. When Sarawak’s GPS joined the coalition, this added another 23 seats and a comfortable working majority. With more support from Sabah based parties, the coalition became known as the ‘unity government’. The current Agong lent his support to this coalition, which swayed the Borneo parties in.

Cracks in the ‘unity government’

However, the events of the last week have publicly exposed some internal cracks within the ‘unity government’.

The Sarawak government bulked at two decisions made by Anwar’s administration. The first was the use of Bahasa Malaysia as the language of government, and the second was the proclamation of a Palestine Solidarity Week to be held in schools across the country.

These were rejected by the Sarawak State Government, which is the first time the state government had publicly rejected federal edicts.

This indicates that Anwar didn’t consult with the Sarawak State Government beforehand, and was insensitive to the thoughts and ideas of a major coalition partner. This also shows that GPS with its 23 seats in the Dewan Rakyat may not give rock solid support to the Anwar administration upon issues it doesn’t agree with.

Secondly, the DAP leader Anthony Loke made a public statement over the Palestine Solidarity Week issue. Loke admitted this was discussed in cabinet and appears to have broken cabinet solidarity. This is a major rebuke to the prime minister in a Westminster system, which would normally see the resignation of those who break cabinet solidarity.

In addition, 12 state and federal MPs in Anwar’s own Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) also spoke out against the Palestinian Solidarity Week. This is reflective upon a bigger dissatisfaction within the party over the direction Anwar is taking the government.

Anwar has made a cardinal mistake in intra-coalition politics – NEVER MAKE DECISIONS COALITION PARTNERS WILL NOT AGREE WITH. This will lead to future disputes in public as a precedent has been set.

Forces are ready to exploit these cracks

Anwar will be faced with events that will further test his legitimacy. It is highly probable that former prime minister Najib Razak, currently serving a 12 year sentence in Kajang Prison will be pardoned late in December, or in the new year. Such an event will lead to a further downward spiral in Anwar’s popularity and could even strain the ‘unity coalition’ beyond repair.

Many inside the DAP consider this a REDLINE. If the DAP is to keep credibility, the party leadership would have to seriously consider leaving the ‘unity government’. This would take 40 seats away from the government. Even the rank and file of PKR will also bulk at such a decision. If the DNAA decision in Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s is any sign of the discontent that would be generated, Najib’s pardon would completely destroy any credibility Anwar had left.

Disconnected with the Rakyat

Over the last few days there have been vocal calls for Anwar to stand down.

Anwar seems to have fumbled on the important issues facing Malaysians on a daily basis. Many are struggling to feed their families with a rapidly rising cost of living. Opportunities for MSMEs are being given to GLCs, who are enjoying a bonanza of favouritism and protection during this government. There are many economic issues that need urgent attention, perceived to be ignored by an inept government.

The nation is becoming agitated by the Madani government’s failure to deliver on these basic issues. The growing unpopularity of the Anwar government is creating the conditions for when a recombination of political parties could take place to change the prime minister.

Towards a new prime minister

A realigning of political power is in the winds.

Perikatan Nasional (PN) has 74 seats in the federal parliament. If UMNO abandons PH, taking away 30 seats, PN would have 104 seats. All that would be needed is for GPS to be convinced to follow the Barisan Nasional across to PN. These 23 seats would give PN a majority in parliament, which would force a change in prime minister.

DAP is a wild card. If the DAP joined the PN coalition, this would give the PN government a massive majority in the Dewan Rakyat. PN would in effect become the natural government of Malaysia. The DAP may ironically find that Bersatu-PAS might be less extremist that the ‘unity government’ of today. Effectively, this would guarantee that the DAP would be a member of the government for decades to come. PKR could break up and not survive in the form it is today.

Such a scenario would bring a new era of government, where Malaysia would possibly be much more politically stable than it is today. The rulers gave Anwar a chance. We cannot not speculate what they will be thinking in the months ahead. However, its clear it may not be the same they did in November 2022.

How this all pans out is in Anwar’s hands.