Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Malaysian Political Drama Feb 2020

I need to include a date in the title or you might ask, "political drama? which one?" So this one, as reported in brief by The Washington Post:
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad, the world’s oldest national leader, resigned.“Under Malaysia’s constitution, the entire cabinet must be dissolved if the prime minister resigns,” Shibani Mahtani and Jonathan Edward report. “As the prime minister’s office announced Mahathir’s intent to resign, his political party, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party, known as Bersatu, said it would be leaving Malaysia’s ruling coalition. About a dozen other prominent members of parliament also left to form an independent bloc in the Southeast Asian country’s legislature. The king, Sultan Abdullah of Pahang, has not commented publicly on the matter. The political drama on Monday appeared to thwart one of Southeast Asia’s most celebrated democratic transitions, and returned Malaysia to a time of backdoor political plotting and palace intrigue. The move also appeared aimed at preventing [Anwar Ibrahim] from taking over as leader.”
Washington Post 
Daily 202, News email 

So what's the big deal or big issue?
Well, two things. First, the Pakatan Harapan coalition government is done. Second, Anwar is not taking over from Dr M as PM at the end of 2020.

Excerpts from other news reports:
Umno sec-gen says BN no longer supports Dr M, now wants fresh polls 
Malay Mail
25 February, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR — Barisan Nasional (BN) has withdrawn its support for Dr Mahathir Mohamad to be prime minister after learning of his plan to form a unity government that would cover the full political spectrum.
In a press conference on Tuesday (Feb 25), Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa said that the statutory declarations that BN lawmakers signed affirming support for Dr Mahathir and sent to the Malaysian king were void.
He explained that the affirmation was contingent on Dr Mahathir excluding DAP in any new administration... 
Separately, PAS also said it would not join any coalition government that included DAP. 
So UMNO and PAS wants to form a new coalition govt without DAP in it. UMNO and PAS has 57 seats. They need another 55 MPs. PKR has 50 but only 11 are splintering away (at last count) and willing to support an alternative coalition. GPS has 18. Bersatu has 26. DAP is not in contention since PAS would not ally with them. But DAP has 42 MPs. UMNO and DAP? What strange bedfellows. But then, this is politics. More importantly, this is MALAYSIAN Politics. Anything goes.
Dr M quit because he refuses to work with Umno, DAP to propose he resumes office: Lim Guan Eng 
24 February, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR — DAP’s Lim Guan Eng said his party will nominate Dr Mahathir Mohamad to return as the prime minister when the Pakatan Harapan presidential council meets on Monday night.
The DAP secretary-general asserted at a press conference at his party’s headquarters that Dr Mahathir resigned as both the PM and Bersatu chairman to protest the attempt to form a new government with Opposition parties.
Mr Lim said Dr Mahathir did not wish to work with Umno, unlike sections of Bersatu and a rogue faction in PKR.
 So let me summarise: Dr M will not work with UMNO. but his party Bersatu wants to work with UMNO. He is open to working with PAS, but PAS absolutely will not be in a govt if DAP is in it. So that blows up any proposal for a "Unity Govt". Which is another name for a coalition govt, which are weak governments.

If the above sounds like a bunch of petulant schoolboys, yeah, that was my impression too.
Mahathir resigns as Malaysia's Prime Minister
24 Feb 2020
...Following Dr Mahathir’s resignation, sources offered two different scenarios for his decision, reported Malaysiakini.
One source claimed that the premier was fed-up with his own party leaders’ political manoeuvring, while another alleged Dr Mahathir was resigning as the Pakatan Harapan prime minister in order for him to become the legitimate prime minister of the new coalition.
However, the source added that Malaysia’s King could also decide to call for snap polls or appoint another Member of Parliament as prime minister.
With Dr Mahathir's resignation, Malaysia’s Cabinet is automatically dissolved as well, said the report.
"Dr M (Mahathir) may present another letter with majority MPs and form his new administration. Then he appoints his new cabinet," the source added.
In a tweet, Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa said the Pakatan Harapan government had collapsed.
The important take-away from the above excerpt is that firstly, with Dr M's resignation, the Cabinet is dissolved as well, so that means there is no government. Secondly, the PH coalition may not be viable in the current (or previous) form.

PKR and DAP by themselves have only 92 seats. If Amanah stays on, their 11 seats will bring the coalition to 103 seats -- assuming there are no defections from PKR, and there are reports that about 11 MPs will defect.

PH will need to bring in at least 20 new allies to hold onto the majority and still be able to form the govt.

Conversely, Bersatu, UMNO, and PAS together will have 83 seats. Add Amanah's 11, and GPS's 18, and they will just managed to squeak out a 112 majority. The 11 PKR defectors will give them a margin of comfort.

Thirdly, the different sources interpreting Dr M's resignation in favour of their hopes and aspiration is self-serving and so, unhelpful.

Another "report" with a similar, if not exactly the same, binary speculation:

Malaysia's political machinations: What happens next?25 February 2020
... Some lawmakers say Dr Mahathir quit in disgust at the power grab, but analysts also speculate that Dr Mahathir — who has long had a stormy relationship with Mr Anwar — may have given the scheme his blessing despite not publicly backing it.
Regardless of his motives and intent, he seems to be moving forward with this proposal for a "Unity Government". [Excuse me while I gag. "Mahathir" and "Unity" *ack!*]

Malaysia's Mahathir proposes 'unity government' to strengthen grip 
25 February, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia's Mahathir Mohammed is trying to form a national unity government under his personal authority, drawing together rival parties, political sources said on Tuesday (Feb 25), following his shock resignation as prime minister.
The world's oldest government leader at 94, Dr Mahathir stepped down on Monday, but Malaysia's king immediately named him interim prime minister, which lets him retain the authority of a permanent leader.
The move effectively shattered a fragile coalition Dr Mahathir had formed with old rival Anwar Ibrahim, 72, to win a 2018 election on an anti-graft platform. It also appeared to nullify Dr Mahathir's promise to eventually hand power to Mr Anwar.
Dr Mahathir proposed the idea of a grand coalition at meetings on Tuesday with leaders of major political parties, including Mr Anwar and those he defeated in the election, four political sources with knowledge of the matter said.
"It appears that Mahathir is poised to form the government," one source said. "There won't be any political entity. We might be a government of no parties."

This will fly as well as Mahathir's 3rd National Car idea. Literally.

Anyway after that week of musical chairs, the dust has settled somewhat and a PM has been appointed. Controversially.

And he has named his Cabinet Ministers. Anwar is not on it. Nor Dr M.

I am not naming the PM because I dunno how to spell or pronounce his name, and I don't want to take the trouble if he will be ousted in a few weeks or months. If he's still around by Christmas, maybe I'll learn his name then.

His cabinet ministers are conservatives and old wine. Or old wineskins. Not really confident they can steer Malaysia out of these troubled times... but then, who can? None of their leaders are particularly inspiring. Even Anwar is more of a hope than a sure thing.

So this is what we have so far.

Until the next political drama.

And there will be another one. It is to be expected with political monkeys.

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