Only right for opposition chief to be given opportunity to show his political hand
IT has been two weeks since PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed he holds a “strong, formidable and convincing” majority in Parliament, and that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional administration has virtually collapsed.
Unfortunately for the opposition leader, the third time is not the charm as he faces a situation similar to that following his announcements in 2008 and 2014, when he declared a parliamentary majority but was unable to prove it after being outdone by his political rivals.
This time around, it seems that Anwar has a different challenge before him. The opportunity to meet Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, to prove that he has the numbers, seems to elude him.
Originally, the king was supposed to grant the Port Dickson MP an audience on September 22, but His Majesty was unexpectedly admitted to the National Heart Institute on the same day. His doctors told him that he needed to be under observation for another week.
A day later, Anwar held a press conference to announce his parliamentary majority and the collapse of the Muhyiddin government.
Political speculation was rife on whether Anwar indeed enjoys majority support, and how this would impact the Sabah election three days later.
The Vibes reported that 15 Umno MPs are backing Anwar as prime minister – enough to dethrone Muhyiddin’s government that has a razor-thin majority, with the support of just 111 MPs of the country’s total 222.
The Agong, in a telephone call with Anwar on September 22, assured the latter that an audience will be granted.
It has been a week since His Majesty was discharged, but no audience with Anwar is in sight.
Sources told The Vibes today that the king has yet to receive Anwar’s letter sent on September 24, seeking a fresh audience.
With the delay, restless netizens have accused the monarch of playing favourites, to which Istana Negara delivered a strong rebuke.
Anwar’s critics said he might have jumped the gun with his announcement and even offended the ruler, as under the federal constitution, it is the Agong who has the final say on who takes up the prime minister’s post.
Similarly, the Agong has sole discretion on whether he wants to grant Anwar – or anyone, for that matter – an audience.
Muhyiddin has access to the king via the weekly prime minister’s briefing that takes place every Wednesday.
But, His Majesty must also be advised that this is a prime minister who does not have the people’s mandate.
As Anwar rightfully said at his press conference last month, his will not be a backdoor government, but the return of the legitimate one elected by the people on May 9, 2018.
Hence, any refusal by the palace to grant Anwar an audience with the king is an affront to the democratic process that saw Pakatan Harapan voted into power.
Parliamentary vote a recourse
It cannot be the palace’s intention to deliberately deny Anwar his audience, as doing so would bring the royal institution into disrepute.
However, if Anwar is still unable to meet the Agong, his only recourse is to prove his numbers in Parliament next month by moving a no-confidence vote.
The king was forced to meet Muhyiddin after the “Sheraton Move” in February because Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as prime minister and the country was left without a functioning government.
Meanwhile, Muhyiddin’s waning support – following the spike in Covid-19 cases and rogue ministers who did not observe health SOPs – may be confirmed if Budget 2021 does not get passed.
This is highly likely as Umno is dissatisfied with playing second fiddle to Muhyiddin’s Bersatu, despite having the most seats among government MPs.
For the speculation and uncertainty to end, Anwar should perhaps be granted the opportunity to show his political hand to the king. PH, after all, still commands the popular vote.
This will put a stop to the innuendo and unwarranted attacks on the royal institution, while setting investors at ease.
Anwar and PH’s reform agenda and anti-corruption stance resonated with investors following the 2018 general election. This was reflected in the immediate surge in foreign direct investment and interest following the coalition’s win.
Should he prove to His Majesty that he does indeed command majority support, he would be cornering Muhyiddin.
As former Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal has shown, a cornered politician can be a very dangerous animal. As prime minister, Muhyiddin has the discretion to advise Sultan Abdullah to dissolve the Dewan Rakyat – leading to a snap general election.
Early polls amid virus crisis devastating
But, this would be an irresponsible thing to do as the constitution states that an election must be held within 60 days of Parliament’s dissolution – no ifs and no buts, and no pandemic can change this.
With the Sabah polls contributing to a spike in Covid-19 cases, can one imagine what devastation a general election would bring?
In fact, a general election is just what Umno wants and needs for a chance to return to power, if the results of the Sabah vote are anything to go by.
At the same time, due to the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, voters might be angered enough to decimate opposition parties for forcing a snap election when the 15th general election is only 2½ years away – presumably after a Covid-19 vaccine has been deployed.
Without a doubt, this king has demonstrated that he puts his subjects first.
One also appreciates that he has an enormous burden ruling during an unprecedented and uncertain time. Granting an audience to Anwar will immediately resolve one uncertainty.