Anwar can’t afford to choose principles over Bersatu MPs’ support, says analyst

Political scientist James Chin says the prime minister cannot turn MPs away from his makeshift government while some have questioned what it means for his reform agenda.

(FMT) – Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim cannot afford to take a stand against the support for his government by four Bersatu MPs, says political scientist James Chin.

Chin, who is with University of Tasmania, said in an ideal setup, it was more likely that Anwar would have rejected the support of errant opposition MPs as a matter of principle.

However, as his coalition government is made up of numerous parties outside of Pakatan Harapan, the prime minister needs to secure as much backing as he can and consider all sources, Chin said.

In recent weeks, four Bersatu MPs pledged their support to the ruling government in a bid to secure allocations for their constituencies.

Anwar’s coalition government commands the support of 147 members of the Dewan Rakyat, or 25 more than a simple majority. However, Pakatan Harapan, led by Anwar, holds only 81 seats.

The other members of the ruling coalition are Barisan Nasional (30), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (23), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (6) and Warisan (3), while 8 other MPs, including the four from Bersatu, have also pledged their support for Anwar’s government..

Chin told FMT that the support from Bersatu MPs “makes him look stronger politically, therefore he will probably consider that, given their support even with the anti-hopping law, more MPs will come out to express support for him”.

In response to the four MPs actions, former Umno youth chief and government minister Khairy Jamaluddin questioned what had happened to the reforms once pledged by Anwar as he believed providing allocations in exchange for support was contrary to those promises.

Another political analyst, Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, agreed that Anwar’s welcoming of opposition MPs’ support could be perceived as him going against his own agenda.

But Anwar would not expect his supporters to care, as he expected them to instead be encouraged by the swelling of his supporter base in the Dewan Rakyat, said Mazlan.

He said Anwar should clarify that the decision made by the four MPs was entirely their own as his government has big enough numbers without the need to convince opponents to switch sides.

“Anwar needs to explain the matter and confirm that he never persuaded these Bersatu MPs to support him because he already has sufficient support in Parliament,” Mazlan said.