What is PM-in-Waiting Anwar Waiting For?

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He has no idea how powerful the 91 MPs in his coalition.

Before the political coup in March, the opposition parties – UMNO and PAS – were struggling to make a comeback. UMNO won 54 parliamentary seats in the 2018 General Election but was reduced to only 39 seats after a series of defection. Together with rival-turn-ally PAS (18 MPs), both parties had only 57 seats. Even with MCA (2 MPs) and MIC (1 MP), they had only 60 seats.

Having 60 seats was too far away from forming a government in the 222-seat Parliament. The number was not even close to the 89 seats won by now-defunct opposition coalition of Pakatan Rakyat in the 2013 General Election, or the 82 seats won by the same opposition in the 2008 General Election. Pakatan Rakyat had remained as a “good opposition” on both occasions.

It was wishful thinking of then-UMNO and PAS to take over the government, at least not until the next 15th General Election. Yet, they managed to “steal” the legitimately voted Pakatan Harapan government through the “Sheraton Coup” which involved betrayal and defection (Muhyiddin Yassin and Azmin Ali betrayed their own PPBM and PKR parties respectively).

But it’s useless to cry over spilt milk. The question is this: what is prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim going to do about it? He has every right to snatch back the crown from backdoor Prime Minister Muhyiddin. Nobody can blame Anwar if he brings down the traitors – even with dirty tricks. However, is he doing something, anything at all, to reclaim the mandate of the people?

So far, since the collapse of Pakatan Harapan government in March, Anwar has been quiet, despite his role as the Opposition leader. On the contrary, former PM Mahathir appeared to be more outspoken than him. It was Mahathir, who proposed a vote of no confidence against Muhyiddin. And it was Mahathir, who filed a lawsuit against Art Harun’s appointment as House Speaker.

Anwar’s party, PKR (People’s Justice Party), raised eyebrows on June 24 when the party said it would rather put its resources into facing a snap election than support a no-confidence vote in Parliament. It remains a mystery until today as to why Anwar was not interested in overthrowing the illegitimate government that had stolen his throne in the first place.

We can understand that Anwar’s refusal to support the no-confidence motion against Muhyiddin was probably to spite Mahathir, never mind how childish and immature it may sound. That’s fine. If you do not want to deal with the big bad wolf Mahathir anymore because he was partly responsible for the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government, that’s Anwar’s right.

At the very least, however, PM-in-waiting Anwar should show some leadership in driving the Opposition. Unfortunately, the coalition seems to be running around like a headless chicken. PKR hardcore supporters claimed that they do not need Mahathir to win the next general election. In fact, the emotional supporters had even told allies DAP and Amanah to go fly kite for befriending Mahathir.

Yes, some PKR supporters actually believed the party was so strong that it could single-handedly win the 15th General Election – without any help or support from DAP or Amanah. If that is true, it simply means the party is stronger than UMNO, PPBM, PAS, DAP, Amanah and other parties combined. That indeed was a very arrogant statement considering not even UMNO dares go solo.

Yet, PKR dared not field any candidate in the Chini state by-election on July 4. The top leadership offered a laughable excuse – Coronavirus pandemic was far from over. As a result, Barisan Nasional grabbed 91% of the votes. The by-election did not create any Covid-19 cluster. The joke was that if PKR did not contest, they can’t lose so they could save face from a humiliating defeat.

In yet another by-election on August 29, Anwar’s party had again chickened out. In the Slim by-election, PKR could not use Covid-19 as an excuse not to contest. Instead, PKR president Anwar said his party was not contesting because he wanted to give way to Mahathir, despite an earlier report that his party would field a local PKR candidate.

Exactly why PKR gave way to Mahathir when the party has established that the 95-year-old man was an enemy not to be touched even with a ten-foot pole? Besides, did not PKR fanatics say the party has more Malay supporters than Mahathir? Again, Barisan Nasional won a whopping 84.5% of the votes. And again, PKR was mocked by critics – they did not lose (because they did not contest).

You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell that it was a wrong strategy not to contest just because PKR did not wish to split the votes with Mahathir. Based on the bad blood between Anwar and Mahathir over dispute of prime ministership, what is there to stop evil Mahathir from contesting in all seats against PKR (three-cornered contests) just to split the votes in the next general election?

Has any genius PKR strategist given it a thought that the disastrous three-cornered contest engineered by former PM Najib Razak in 2018, which ultimately backfired, could repeat itself but against Pakatan Harapan in the next election? Mahathir could be that naughty spoiler who would take away Malay votes that is not huge enough to win but sufficient to cause losses to PKR.

More importantly, PKR should have contested in both Chini and Slim by-elections to prove its popularity among Malay voters, as it has always bragged. Running away is not an option. Anwar cannot cherry pick only winnable seats to contest because based on the current political landscape where PPBM, UMNO and PAS work together, PKR could not avoid the inevitable.

Nobody expected PKR to win either in Chini or Slim because both were UMNO strongholds. But Anwar should have demonstrated his courage, confidence, charisma and strong leadership by entering the Lion’s Den, the same way Mahathir did. Perhaps Anwar is still naively waiting for “the call” from Muhyiddin to join his backdoor government.

That probably explains why Anwar seldom condemns Muhyiddin regime. Likewise, the authorities have not used Muhammed Yusoff Rawther’s sexual assault complaint against Anwar to investigate the PM-in-waiting. Even when Anwar eventually decided to lecture Muhyiddin’s administration, the former would take the safe approach of waiting until an issue had died down.

Anwar was quiet on quarantine breaker Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali. He was not in favour of a snap election in the state of Sabah, despite Musa Aman was about to topple the state government (fortunately Chief Minister Shafie Apdal decisively dissolved the state assembly). And when the state was finally dissolved, Anwar insisted on using his own party’s logo.

The PM-in-waiting was nowhere to be found when Muhyiddin’s boy wanted to abolish vernacular schools. Surprisingly, it was PAS Youth who said there was no need to close down vernacular schools but hoped that the national Malay language could be improved. Anwar also has no comment when PM Muhyiddin proposed to close down pubs and nightclubs.

To cling to power, traitor Muhyiddin is driving the country into more corruption, racism, extremism, abuse of power, religious bigotry and whatnot. But Anwar chooses to sit on his hands. Clearly, the PM-in-waiting has no idea how powerful the 91 MPs that he possesses in the Pakatan Harapan coalition. Had UMNO commanded 91 seats support, it would have grabbed power in the year 2018 itself.

Forget Mahathir. After several months, Anwar still could not get the necessary support from either the Borneo states (Sabah and Sarawak) or within Perikatan Nasional to defeat the lame duck PM, who survives with only two-majority vote. Heck, he can’t even decide whether Pakatan Harapan under his leadership should work together with Mahathir Mohamad or Shafie Apdal in the next election.

Fine, perhaps he prefers to stay as a good opposition until the next election. But what if Pakatan wins, which is unlikely, but ends up with the same defection and the government collapses again? Will Anwar say he can wait for the 16th General Election in 2028? He has to show his capability fighting for his throne and not be a lame PM-in-waiting who waits for his platters to be served. – Finance Twitter