Anwar’s singular but tenuous quest to be PM
DATUK Seri Anwar Ibrahim is incorrigibly persistent, predictable and indefatigable on the singular quest of his life – to be the next Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Contrariwise, Anwar’s extraordinary expedition has been far from linear: his populist train had detoured, derailed, overhauled, re-tracked in several juxtapositions, and now, tenuously on route in just under three decades.
In his hustle to Putrajaya, the issue for him, at least in his mind and that of his army of acolytes and backers, is not IF, but WHEN: never mind that it has crossed a generation or two to accomplish his high stakes ambition…or fantasy.
In the same milieu, the issue for his detractors, and there are legions, is guilefully unpretentious: NEVER.
Anwar was one breath away from ascending the premiership in the mid-1990s, his anointed position as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Chosen One” plastered on his forehead for all to comply and make way.
No single Umno leader imagined himself to be the one to thwart Anwar’s aggressive push to the most coveted political position though conventional wisdom states that someone should have.
That someone was then deputy Prime Minister and deputy Umno president Ghafar Baba who tried in 1993 but he had neither the will nor stomach to counterweight Anwar’s ruthless march as the ambitious one effortlessly deposed Ghafar for the Umno No. 2.
Of course, in the intervening years, after serving his sentence for Sodomy 1, Anwar launched his infamous 2008 coup, bragging one hoary claim after another that enough Barisan Nasional (Umno) MPs, in the region of 30 to 40, were defecting to his side.
Anwar is still persistent today, claiming that he had secured majority MPs to back his quest, even a supermajority, but he was deemed both ludicrous and incredulous, depending on who you ask.
So, the wager is, what are Anwar’s chances, realistically speaking? Anwar has to realise, if not already, that his enterprise is subjected to rigorous public scrutiny.
To facilitate his plan, he has been accused of deploying in August his protégé in Sabah PKR, Kenny Chua, to collaborate with former Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman and others to trigger the collapse of the Parti Warisan Sabah Government.
Henceforth, the subsequent hustings and polls that moved people from Peninsula Malaysia to Sabah and back instigated a Covid-19 super spread nationwide.
In an immediate follow-up, Anwar – like in 2008 – lathered a major media offensive that he, again, had the numbers to become PM but despite a high profile 25-minute audience with the King on Sept 23, his claim to the premiership was summarily dismissed.
Anwar felt justified only to provide a list of supporting parties and their leaders as adequate to convince the King – arguably unconstitutional – while the very thing needed to verify his numbers claim – names of at least 111 other MPs supporting him – was stubbornly withheld.
The King was no-nonsense in his dismissal of Anwar’s legation and curtly told him off to “abide by and respect the legal processes as enshrined in the Federal Constitution”.
The consequence was furious: Anwar’s allies in Pakatan Harapan first felt deceived and then betrayed when reports surfaced that of a startling collaboration with Umno chieftains, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak in particular, to form a new administration.
In his caginess on this so-called collaboration, Anwar precipitated another perception that he is so besotted with the idea of becoming PM that he’ll resort to the unthinkable.
PH allies, the DAP and Amanah especially, questioned this collaboration, more so with Anwar not giving a decorum of consultation.
Naturally, the deal was perceived as a plan to rescue these Umno politicians from corruption indictments and jail time.
Even long-time loyalists within PKR, senior officials and MPs embarrassed by their president, plan to desert him by leaving PKR.
What was Anwar’s counterpunch? He deployed his army of bloggers, writers, analysts and politicians to blame and demonise Dr Mahathir for all of Anwar’s past failures in his quest to be the next PM.
This distract and deflect strategy sums up Anwar’s miscalculations, which in turn has reinforced public perception that he is a failed leader unfit to be PM, especially on policies he assertively pushed that maligned the education system.
On Anwar’s watch as Education Minister (1986-1991), he elicited diminishing returns for bumiputera graduates – unproductive, unemployed and under-employed.
From that alone, these graduates’ progress were burdened by lack of confidence, innovation, creativity and a constructively critical mindset, and the inability to communicate properly, especially in English.
Then there is the ethnic tension and disharmony simmering underneath, the lack of integrity, ethics, social responsibility and respect for peace and the environment.
His path to Putrajaya is riddled with landmines of his previous undoing, Anwar may be unable to overcome the hurdles of people he alienated across ethnic, age and political divides, many his loyal supporters since the halcyon Reformasi years.
Anwar’s current mode seems to be on standby since the debacle with the King, perhaps he is waiting for the unpredictable outcome of the crucial vote on Budget 2021 next week.
Whatever it is, you can be sure that Anwar will prepare more histrionics to mask his shallow support and the growing disenchantment of his allies and supporters.
WRITER: Azmi Anshar is a retired newspaper editor and active political commentator who has reported on and observed Anwar Ibrahim since 1981