IF WE could turn the clock back to late February last year, it’s clear that either Umno President Zahid Hamidi or PKR President Anwar Ibrahim could have been appointed Prime Minister on Mar 1.
Muhyiddin Yassin would only have been PM if Bersatu went back to Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the coalition agreed to let him finish Mahathir Mohd’s two year term or until the APEC meet in November last year.
In hindsight, Umno acted in haste on Mar 1, 2020. Since then, it has been repenting at leisure, having lost a “freak” opportunity. It could have regained the PM’s post which it lost in GE14 on 10 May 2018.
Umno’s predicament in the run-up to GE15 shows that principles matter, when push comes to shove, in politics.
The party, unfortunately, was lulled into grave strategic errors by Muhyiddin’s mantra that he was forming an all-Malay all-Islamic and all-Bumiputera Government.
Umno saw that PAS, and PBS and Star in Sabah, and GPS in Sarawak bought the mantra.
PAS and GPS wanted DAP out of the Federal Goverment.
Let’s consider how the conversation between Muhyiddin and Zahid could have gone in late February last year after Mahathir was briefly appointed Interim Prime Minister.
Muhyiddin: Zahid, bro, we want Umno to be in my new Government. It will be all-Malay, all-Islamic and all-Bumiputera.
Zahid: I understand the mantra. But even if we get the PM’s post, it would still be tantamount to being party to an illegality. And we are not getting the PM’s post?
Muhyiddin: What do you mean by party to an illegality? Bro, I don’t understand all this law talk lah! Keep it simple loh!
Zahid: Let’s face it. Bersatu has held the PM’s post for nearly two years. Now, instead of allowing Anwar to hold the post as Mahathir reportedly agreed, you are defecting to the Opposition and you want to be PM with our help. How can lah Muhyiddin? It’s like as if we are helping you to cheat Anwar, my former Mentor in Umno. It’s against my principles.
Muhyiddin: Don’t talk like that, bro. It looks like as if you are trying to make me feel guilty. I didn’t stick a knife in Anwar’s back. Other people also helped hatch the plot.
Zahid: Why should we join your Government? There are no benefits. Bersatu will hold the PM’s post, you didn’t mention even DPM for Umno, and we don’t know what Ministries the party will get. You are silent on the Finance Minister’s post. What are you promising us besides the mantra?
Muhyiddin: Don’t worry. Everything will be okay. Just join us first.
Zahid: Worry? Don’t tell me we will have to start worrying soon!
Muhyiddin: I am sure there won’t be any problems. You won’t regret it.
Zahid: Problems? Regrets? Worry? These sound like bad omens! If you are sincere, Umno will hold the PM’s post. Bersatu won only 13 MP seats in GE14.
Muhyiddin: Don’t be like that, bro. I am the one snatching the PM’s post from PH.
Zahid: What do you mean? Mahathir is Interim PM. He wants to set up a government of MPs, not parties.
Muhyiddin: The other parties have agreed to accept me as PM.
Zahid: We don’t really want to get involved with the conspiracies in PH. After all, you guys fought all out against us in GE14, painted us in all sorts of colours, made all sorts of promises to the people, and now, you are contradicting yourself. It doesn’t look good for Umno.
Muhyiddin: Bro, don’t reject an all-Malay, all-Islamic and all-Bumiputera Government. This is history in the making. You can be part of it.
Zahid: Stop repeating the mantra. I heard you the first time. And stop calling me, bro. I am not sure you are my bro.
Muhyiddin: Okay lah! Let’s be serious. All your people are out there. They agree to be in my Government.
(At this point, Muhyiddin signals somebody outside the meeting room by WhatsApp, and all the BN MPs waiting outside rush in and implore Zahid.)
Zahid: Okay! Okay! If we end up regretting a few months from now, don’t blame me. I have a bad feeling about this. We will be in a better position for GE15 if we don’t join Muhyiddin. If he can turn his back on PH, he can do the same thing to us.
The Muhyiddin-Zahid meeting breaks up in cheers but Zahid isn’t smiling.
No one is sure anymore what’s happening in Umno. The party’s Supreme Council announced on Thurs 8 July that it was no longer backing the Prime Minister.
Kini News Lab, the malaysiakini page which monitors the “Battle for Putrajaya”, has moved 45 MPs into the “unclear” category. This includes 38 Umno MPs.
Another four Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs – MIC one, MCA two, and PBRS one – are staying put with the Perikatan Nasional (PN) Plus Government until GE15.
Also in the unclear category are Upko in Sabah one seat, Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) two seats and two Independent. Two seats are vacant.
The Kini News Lab tally shows the PN+ Government down to 77 MPs including four from BN outside Umno, while PH has 88 MPs.
Also in the Opposition are Warisan with eight seats led by former Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal. Pejuang, led by Mahathir, has four seats. – July 10, 2021
By : Joe Fernandez (a longtime Borneo watcher and a regular FocusM contributor) – FOCUS MALAYSIA
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Stringer.