Malaysia gripped in wave of denials, accusations over alleged ‘Dubai Move’ plot to topple Anwar govt

“The key is not UMNO but GPS. If Mahathir and Daim are able to convince Abang Johari not to support Anwar, then there could be a possible domino effect of MPs switching their support”

(CNA) – In the days leading up to the new year, Malaysian social media was awash with not just celebratory posts but also a thick air of political intrigue fuelled by speculation that the government could soon fall.

Specifically on TikTok, a tool commonly used to spread political propaganda in Malaysia, content creators had bandied about the same phrase: Dubai Move.

Powerful political figures holidaying in United Arab Emirates’ most populous city were said to have met in December to discuss how they could topple the unity government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, the videos said.

Then on Dec 29, these rumours grew louder when a government official took to social media to confirm the existence of the “Dubai Move”, allegedly involving opposition leaders from Perikatan Nasional (PN) and other party leaders who were not satisfied with the unity government and Mr Anwar’s leadership style.

Deputy director-general of the government’s community communications department Ismail Yusop said in a Facebook post that the meeting was held to assign tasks to officers who would identify government MPs that could be persuaded into defecting.

Since then, it has sparked a flurry of denials, rebuttals, and retorts by politicians from various camps over whether the Dubai meeting did take place and if not, who was spreading such claims and why.

While talk of the Dubai Move remains as allegations, there is precedence.

In 2020, the “Sheraton Move” crumbled the Mahathir Mohamad administration from within. Part of this plot was reportedly hatched in the Sheraton Hotel in Petaling Jaya.

The move saw more than 30 MPs in the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance defecting, bringing it down after it had been in charge for just 22 months.

While an anti-hopping law has been enacted to prevent similar undemocratic manoeuvres, it does not prevent entire party blocs from leaving a government coalition. Nor has it prevented similar attempts.

In January 2023, news emerged of plot to oust United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and eventually overthrow the unity government.

This came after a blogger alleged that two UMNO vice-presidents were part of a group of leaders who met in London to plot Mr Ahmad Zahid’s downfall, leading to it being dubbed the “London Move”.

Political observers told CNA that the Dubai meeting – if it indeed took place – was most likely triggered by Mr Anwar’s latest graft crackdown and involved individuals who were wary of being scrutinised.

However, they said such a move is unlikely to be successful unless MPs in the government bloc, especially those from traditional kingmakers Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), could be persuaded to defect en masse.

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