November parliamentary test for Anwar likely

ANWAR Ibrahim’s bid to become prime minister could not have come at a worse time. He had said he had the support of an overwhelming number of MPs and that Muhyiddin Yassin’s government has fallen. But the Yang DiPertuan Agong was ill and being treated at the National Heart Institute in Kuala Lumpur, so could not grant the opposition leader an audience. The king is now recuperating and has decided to grant an audience to Anwar on October 13.

Since Anwar made his statement many new developments have taken place to his disadvantage. There has been a dramatic spike in the Covid-19 infection rates, and the whole nation is focused on this serious health issue. A change of government at this juncture could upset a wide range of activities planned to contain the pandemic and the socio-economic problems. The king had said that national and political stability are crucial to deal with the pandemic. A change in the top administration of the country will mean it will be back to square one.

Anwar’s rejection of  Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pejuang party’s support means that the bad blood between them will continue. Dr Mahathir could thwart Anwar’s chances as combined with Shafie Apdal’s Warisan party he has a sizeable number of MPs. These MPs will be a swing factor in any confidence vote in Parliament. Dr Mahathir might think that Anwar is out for vengeance and will do  the utmost to prevent Anwar from becoming  prime minister.

The prime minister’s position was boosted by the victory in the Sabah election, though the resulting Covid-19 spike has dampened it. Muhyiddin’s government has a razor-thin parliamentary majority, but most Malaysians feel that, given the health and socio-economic problems to worry about, the present government should be allowed to continue. A new government cannot do much more than the present due to the economic slowdown and financial constraints imposed by the massive socio-economic stimulus packages to contain the pandemic.

A snap election would be unwise considering the spike in Covid-19 infections after the Sabah polls. The king, given his present state of health, is unlikely to opt for the onerous interviews with Anwar’s supporters. The king cannot be just content with Anwar’s statutory declarations, but will need more solid proof to dismiss prime minster Muhyiddin. Most probably, the king will ask Anwar to wait for the next parliamentary sitting to test a vote of confidence against the prime minister. A lot of things can change in the interim and it also gives the prime minister time to shore up support. It is said that politics is the art of the possible. Whether Anwar has the “overwhelming numbers” or is going to give Malaysians an “overwhelming shock” will be known soon.


* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Stringer

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