Dennis Ignatius on a Coalition Held Together by Greed and Ambition

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A country in crisis being run by a bunch of bickering and backstabbing politicians united only by their greed and lust for power, intent on grabbing all that government has to offer while waiting for an opportune moment to upend it.

We’ve had coalitions before but the Perikatan Nasional (PN) construct wins the prize for giving new meaning to the word “bizarre.” Not only does it lack an agreed agenda, it also appears to lack members in the formal sense of the word.

They recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to “formalize” PN but key PN leaders immediately dismissed its significance. UMNO deputy president Mohamad Hasan said PN was nothing more than “an agreement to form the government without Harapan parties.” UMNO vice-president Mahdzir Khalid added that it was “not legally binding,” suggesting it was simply a loose arrangement to sit together in parliament. Both also made clear that come GE15 it will be UMNO-PAS against PPBM and the rest.

PAS central committee member Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, for his part, said the main focus of the MoU was “to ensure each party is on the same page.” Continuing, he said, “We do not want to be a loose pact like PH from a relationship point of view and clash.” In other words, they are so far apart politically that they fear they’ll end up like PH and clash if they go beyond generalities.

Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), meanwhile, which also signed the MOU, denied that it was formally part of PN. The party said that it had only agreed “to support Muhyiddin Yassin as the prime minister of Malaysia in the national interest for the need of a stable federal government.”

So, what we now have passing for a government is a bunch of politicians without principles sitting together in parliament to prop up Muhyiddin’s backdoor government while pursuing their own respective agendas. Of course, they all wax lyrical about the “national interests” and about “saving” Malaysia, but it’s really about their own ambitions and greed.

They won’t support PN enough to truly formalize their coalition but they’ll happily be part of it for what they can get – ministerial posts, GLC appointments, sinecures at statutory agencies and unfettered access to the public purse for asinine projects like the RM100 million rubber technology plant in Jerantut that was just announced.

There can be no doubt then that this is a government of convenience, held together not by some great purpose but just common greed and lust for power.

They also boast about being a Malay “unity” government, but behind the scenes there’s no love lost between them. Now that the prime minister’s post appears to be tantalizingly within reach, rivalry among UMNO warlords is gathering pace. Few want Zahid Hamidi – now facing corruption charges – in the prime minister’s chair. Other UMNO leaders facing similar charges are also stirring the pot, worried that they might be sacrificed in the mad rush for the spoils of power.

PPBM is also bitterly divided. With Mahathir breathing down his neck and threatening to rain down hellfire on him at every opportunity, Muhyiddin is living on borrowed time with the sword of Damocles hanging over him.

His “unofficial” deputy is in an even more precarious position. He has no power base to speak of, does not even have a party to call his own and is despised by many in PPBM and UMNO-PAS. One political commentator went so far as to call him the “most untrustworthy and dishonourable politician in the country today.” Well is it said that betrayal is the only truth that sticks.

PAS is no doubt watching and waiting for the whole lot of them to fumble and fall before making its own move. But for now, its leaders are ecstatic about finally getting to be ministers, deputy ministers, GLC heads and of course special envoys. Despite all the pretence of being other-worldly, they are just as hungry for the material rewards of this life as anyone else.

What a mess we are in – a country in crisis being run by a bunch of bickering and backstabbing politicians united only by their greed and lust for power, intent on grabbing all that government has to offer while waiting for an opportune moment to up-end it.