ANWAR Ibrahim put his credibility and reputation as a seasoned politician on the line when he told the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that he had the majority support of MPs to be prime minister, said analysts.
The PKR president previously cried wolf with his challenges for power over the past two decades and if this latest move fails, the 73-year-old will have written off his chances of ever becoming prime minister, they said.
Adjunct senior lecturer at National University Singapore Dr Mustafa Izzuddin said this is not the first time Anwar has thrown his hat in the ring but his credibility will be dented seriously if things do not go his way.
“Anwar is the longest prime minister-in-waiting in Malaysian history. What he is doing now is to let the public know he is still the central figure in Malaysian politics.
Anwar, who is also chairman of Pakatan Harapan’s presidential council, was granted an audience with the Agong on Tuesday, where he was supposed to present a list of parliamentarians whom he claims support him to form the government.
Hours after the audience, the palace said Anwar, who is also Port Dickson MP, merely informed the king of the number of MPs on his side but did not furnish any list. Istana Negara said the king advised Anwar to act according to the federal constitution.
Some analysts, however, believe Anwar did not provide the names as he was afraid of potential horse-trading by Perikatan Nasional politicians to win back lost support.
Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi said while Anwar is willing to protect the list, he will not cross the line by blatantly lying to the ruler, as there would be severe repercussions.
“This statement (by Anwar) is to ensure names of those involved do not come out to avoid haggling and buying of politicians.
“Anwar would not have dared to lie to the palace.
“His, PKR and PH’s reputation is at stake here. It will be affected badly (if it does not turn out well),” Awang Azman said.
Keeping cards close
Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, agreed, saying there might have been a miscommunication between the palace and Anwar over the list as the latter would not have wanted to show all his cards.
“Anwar will have to balance his understandable concern for a detailed list, potentially enabling the opposing side to reclaim supporters, versus the need for such a list to definitively convince the palace,” he said.
Mustafa said Anwar’s majority swing would be getting Umno MPs to support him, who are also the most volatile bunch open to making any deal to benefit themselves.
“If you look at where Anwar is getting the numbers from, it is likely to come from Umno. There are factions that are willing to come on board provided there are sweetheart deals. But they are also open to negotiations from all parties,” he said.
Tasmania University’s Asian Studies professor James Chin said all Anwar can do now is wait for the king to make the final call.
“Anwar is in no position to bargain. He has put all the cards on the table and it is for the king to take the next step. If this move fails, Anwar will have to wait a long time, maybe until the next general election.”
He also said if this attempt fails, Anwar will surely try again as long as he is still an MP.
“The reason Anwar can create trouble is one qualification: he is an MP. As long as Anwar remains a MP, he can pull together a coalition… maybe even a few people to form a minority government. As long as Anwar is MP, he is a danger to everyone.”
Anwar has also retained die-hard fans loyal to him since his Reformasi days in 1998, many of whom will not forsake him even if he fails now, said Awang Azman.
“Like how DAP’s Lim Guan Eng has staunch supporters, Anwar also has his, and they will support him no matter what. This move could be perceived as him fighting the cause of wanting a clean and reformed government,” Awang Azman said.
Nevertheless, Oh said Malaysians have short memories, especially when it comes to politics.
“In Malaysian politics, momentary tarnishing of reputation for having bluffed can always be repaired not long after by sometimes even more spectacular antics.
“Elite politics, which are the mainstay of the political game now, is only about the alignment of common interests,” he said.
Shortly after Anwar left the palace on Tuesday, Umno advisory council chairman Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was seen entering the palace, where it was reported that he, too, had an audience with the king.
It was also reported that the king is keen to interview all party leaders, similar to when PN came into power earlier this year.
But, the meetings have to be postponed as the palace is under semi-lockdown during the CMCO, which ends on October 27.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT