In search of the right but elusive new landscape

Umno helped Muhyiddin form the government last year and it’s also Umno that has dislodged him

IT sure wasn’t a popular move late February last year when Muhyiddin Yassin wrested power from within the Pakatan Harapan he was a part of, to the point that his government came to be widely referred to as the back-door government, despite it being lawfully constructed.

In being able to hold the highest office of the land, he had a lot to thank the  renegades from PKR for and a big bloc of parliamentarians from Umno but the irony of ironies is that Muhyiddin finally came to terms that he had lost power last week when 15 Umno parliamentarians decided to toe the party line by withdrawing their support for him and his government.

Thus ended Muhyiddin’s tenure as the eight prime minister of Malaysia, he who served the shortest time of all of the country’s eight PMs – just 17 months, 17 uneventful months.

And in not too many days from now we will know who PM9 will be, with the indications strong that it will be Ismail Sabri Yaakob, on who his party Umno did a U-turn recently by deciding not to censure him for going against the party line to side with Muhyiddin.

After what the country had seen since the days before Muhyiddin’s takeover last year and the recent issues that led to him losing his hold on the government, political party leaders who were summoned to an audience with the King were told to work towards a new political landscape.

Patron-client culture very much alive

It sounds accommodating and conciliatory but with politics in this country clearly divided by party lines from the time of Merdeka in 1957, not many can imagine how this new politics is going to take shape. Then there’s the issue of a patron-client culture, very much alive if you look at appointments to make up the federal administrations and elsewhere, especially to chair the GLCs. Too much horse-trading to make everyone happy and thus less of a threat to the leaders.

Can those in the opposition (left) be made to work together with those in the government (top right) in the fedral Cabinet?

The DAP’s Lim Kit Siang has suggested that the deputy prime minister be the other person who failed to secure majority support, referring to PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim but because Anwar has openly made known his long-held ambition of wanting to be prime minister, it his highly unthinkable that the PKR president would want to be the country’s No. 2 a second time around, certainly not under someone junior to him in everything.

Lim’s thinking is yet another example of how it’s always about this or that party, this or that politician, never a holistic & bigger picture.

It is thus unimaginable at this point how this new landscape is going to look like, if at all it can be turned into reality by the next PM.

Maybe he can start by having members of his Cabinet represented also by parties outside of his alliance, though it sounds far-fetched at this point and when looked at from a historical perspective. But it is one that a few politicians are beginning to sound agreeable with.

Hard to think of a new pool of ministers

Doing this will eventually lead to a situation where the line between the executive and legislative is clearer and distinctively separates the two because those in the former will have to think more of the bigger picture – the country & the people – without having to worry too much about how the parliamentarians from their parties will react because in all intents and purposes they don’t carry their party flags in the Cabinet.

The same goes for appointments as board members or chairmen of agencies and GLCs, which have since a few PMs ago been used to reward party members for their loyalty or to return a personal favour.

At the moment it is also hard to imagine where the new PM is going to choose his Cabinet from because almost every party in Malaysia has spent little effort, thoughts and time to build a strong second-echelon.

For this reason we could see many from the previous Cabinet reappointed because the pool of credible candidates is almost non-existent, or more like unknown to the people, no thanks to the senior politicians who have made sure that no one could threaten their positions in the party, from the lowest level up.

If the new PM has a magic wand and an idea the rest could not think of, Malaysia is in with a hope at least until the next general election due by mid-2023 at the latest but it looks more like hope against hope.

By : Aziz Hassan – THE MOLE

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