One day, they said Mahathir Mohamad was using Lim Kit Siang. The next day, they said Mr. Lim was playing Mr. Mahathir. Now, they said Mahathir will not allow Anwar to take over. The opposition Barisan Nasional’s propaganda war machines have been so poorly-scripted and sloppily-executed that it’s an insult to the people’s intelligence.
There were many reasons why the once mighty and invincible Barisan crumbled about 12 months ago. One of them was the incorrect strategy used. The overly confident former Prime Minister Najib Razak figured the best method was to split the opposition vote. In theory, UMNO, Najib’s political party, would come off strongest in a 3-way contest.
So, Mr. Najib, with unlimited access to federal funds, easily bribed PAS Islamic Party with just RM90 million to defect from the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) opposition coalition. PAS tore the coalition apart in June 2015, when its president, Abdul Hadi Awang, deliberately pushed for the introduction of “hudud” – the strict and ancient Shariah criminal punishments.
As predicted, Pakatan Rakyat’s multicultural parties, the People’s Justice Party (PKR) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) were horrified by the PAS new leader’s betrayal, just 4 months after the death of the respected PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz. Even some progressive PAS politicians and members split from the party to create the National Trust Party (Amanah).
The DAP, PKR, and Amanah then formed a new coalition – Pakatan Harapan (PH, Alliance of Hope). The game changer was when Mahathir Mohamad, a former premier who had previously ruled the country for 22 years from 1981 to 2003, quit UMNO in Feb 2016 and formed Malaysia United Indigenous Party (PPBM), a new Malay nationalist party, and subsequently joined the Pakatan.
Still, Najib had virtually no respect for his mentor-turned-nemesis – belittling, mocking and insulting the old man almost every night during his campaign in the 14th General Election. He thought the role of PAS as a spoiler for the opposition would be his magic wand to win the election. After all, how could Mahathir compete with the supposedly God-endorsed PAS Islamic party?
Najib and his dozens of lieutenants were crushed in the night of May 9, 2018. The 3-way contest strategy backfired spectacularly. The strategy to split non-UMNO votes between PAS and Pakatan Harapan (PH) so that UMNO could get a majority of the votes didn’t work. After months of wounds licking, Najib finally admits the strategy had caused his government’s downfall instead.
As it turned out, Najib’s Barisan Nasional (BN) only managed to win 32 out of 77 parliamentary seats that had three-cornered fights. PAS had cannibalized and spoilt BN’s chances in 24 seats. So, according to the genius Najib and his advisers, the BN coalition, together with fixed deposits from Sabah and Sarawak, could actually win if UMNO and PAS had cooperated.
But it’s water under the bridge and it’s useless crying over spilt milk. Najib had also miscalculated when he let his dogs loose. UMNO thugs like Red Shirt leader Jamal Yunos was given the funding and responsibility in stirring up racial and religion sentiments among the Malays that the Muslims, Islam and Malay Rulers would lose power to the “Chinese DAP”.
The ex-PM must have thought he was indeed cleverer than Mahathir in the game of “divide and conquer”. However, his excessive racism and extremism strategy had pushed 95% of Chinese voters away. He thought he didn’t need the Chinese. Najib had brilliantly put all the eggs in one basket. He was slaughtered like a pig when he lost both Malay and Chinese voters.
After the stunning defeat, UMNO had no choice but went to PAS and begged for cooperation under the pretext of Malay-Muslim unity. The partnership would win three by-elections consecutively – in Cameron Highlands, Semenyih and Rantau. Playing the 3R cards (religion, racial and royalty) worked like a charm, until the recent Sandakan, Sabah by-election.
In spite of Najib’s huffing and puffing, his “Malu Apa Bossku (Why The Shame, Boss)” campaign was met with disaster. Unlike Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia), the Chinese, Bugis, Suluk, Bajau, Muslim Bumiputra in Sabah, Borneo (East Malaysia) were both shocked and disgusted of UMNO’s “Malaya style politics” – cursing and accusing DAP of being anti-Malay, anti-Muslim and anti-Islam.
DAP’s Vivian Wong emerged victorious in the Sandakan by-election with a majority of 11,521 despite a low turnout of only 54.44%. That was a bigger winthan her father. Heck, even Muslim-majority areas like Kampung Sim Sim and Pulau Berhala saw a swing of 12% and 13% respectively in favour of DAP. Essentially, Sabah, Borneo has now become PH’s fixed deposit.
Out of 222 total parliamentary seats, 25 seats are in Sabah while 31 in Sarawak. Those 56 seats of fixed deposits are no longer in BN’s possession. When Sarawak BN lawmakers left the coalition to form Gabungan Parti Sarawak with 19 seats, BN was left with 60 MPs. BN later lost truckloads of MPs – either through defection to PH or went independent. As of February this year, the BN has only 30 parliamentary seats.
Without the 56 “fixed deposits” parliamentary seats from the Borneo, how could BN (30 seats) and PAS (18 seats) win additional 64 parliamentary seats to achieve the minimum 112 seats required to form the federal government? The only way is to split the PH coalition, by putting PM Mahathir Mohamad and PM-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim at loggerheads.
Yes, the cooperation between UMNO and PAS appears to have hit a roadblockafter the Sandakan by-election. The racial and religious politics do not work in the Borneo. And both UMNO and PAS are fabulously panicked. They have thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at both Mahathir and Anwar, hoping they would fight like cat and dog.
Like a broken record, they whined and bitched that Anwar’s Royal Pardon was illegal and the PM-in-waiting is power hungry. And like a fortune teller, UMNO Acting President Mohamad Hasan said there is no way Mahathir will hand overthe throne to Anwar. At the same time, they claim Mahathir was fighting a lone battle against the Malay Rulers, without any support from PKR and DAP.
They also rerun stories about Mahathir’s alleged billion-dollar business empire, telling all and sundry that the old man was a crook too. Heck, even a loser like UMNO adviser Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has urged the party to prepare for the possibility of a snap general election, suggesting that the transition power between Mahathir and Anwar will not happen.
In reality, the transition will happen smoothly because Mahathir cannot afford to be known as a liar who breaks his promise. He also cannot rock the boat he’s in. He has reputation, integrity and dignity to take care of. In an interview with New Straits Times published on Sunday (April 7), the prime minister dropped the biggest assurance that there isn’t anybody but Anwar as the next leader.
Mahathir revealed why he had chosen Anwar instead of Najib – “I think that to have Anwar replace a person like Najib is more acceptable than to have Najib carry on, so I decided that I would work with Anwar, whatever I may have said about him, whatever he has said against me before, I knew if we didn’t work together, Najib would be the next prime minister and that would be disastrousfor the country.”
The 93-year-old premier also voiced his trust in Mr. Anwar’s leadership ability – “In fact, he was the architect of Pakatan Rakyat. Of course, Pakatan Rakyat failed because they were not that cohesive. But after we came together, we were able to work much more closely. He left UMNO and he was able to bring DAP, PAS even, and his party together, so he has leadership qualities.”
And do you know why Anwar will be sworn in as Malaysia’s 8th Prime Minister? That’s because Azmin Ali, the blue-eyed boy of PM Mahathir many thought would become the next premier instead of Anwar, has suddenly come out defending Mr. Anwar against PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin’s remark that the PM-in-waiting is not fit to lead since he is a former convict.
Azmin, Minister of Economic Affairs, could just keep his silence and enjoys the show. His hostility and disloyalty toward Anwar is an open secret. There’s only one reason for his sudden outburst of support after months of badmouthing Anwar (and even his daughter Nurul Izzah) – he knew his political master Mahathir would keep his promise to hand over the premiership to Anwar.
Again, UMNO-PAS’ strategy of holding a rally against the ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination), forcing the government to backpedal was a humiliation and a slap in the face for PM Mahathir. In a speech at the United Nations in September 2018, Mahathir pledged to “ratify all remaining core U.N. instruments related to the protection of human rights.”
How does the opposition expect Mahathir and Anwar to fight each other when they relentlessly attack, mock, insult and condemn both individuals at the same time? Such strategy would only unite the prime minister and the prime minister-in-waiting. It’s laughable to suggest that Mahathir would call for a snap general election to avoid handing over the power to Anwar.
Exactly where should Mahathir go after he rocked the boat by calling a snap election? Rejoining UMNO or join the UMNO-PAS partnership to form a threesome UMNO-PAS-PPBM alliance? If Mahathir has no issue working with a bunch of “Shariah-compliant” liars of PAS, he would have invited the Islamic party to join the government to get the two-thirds majority in Parliament he desires.
If Mahathir has no issue working or rejoining his former party UMNO, which he has repeatedly mocked as good as dead, he would have done so as early as June last year when Ahmad Zahid Hamidi met him in his office begging for forgiveness after insulting the old man’s Indian ancestry – calling him the son of Iskandar “Kutty”.