From Prison to Power: At long last, Anwar Ibrahim made it

By LOQMAN O. IDRIS

New Malaysian Prime Minster Anwar Ibrahim

I would have wanted to write this piece in a detailed manner. But for want of space and some amount of concern that my readers might lose keenness in reading comprehensively, I set it in an elemental frame. I made it as “sabotable” as possible, to borrow a term from my idol, Masiding Noor Yahya.

Having been here in Malaysia for a couple of weeks preceding its advanced Nov. 19, 2022, General Elections which was supposed to be held next year 2023, I was one of those who held breath anxiously waiting to whom the premiership should be awarded. I used the term “award” because when any major block fails to clinch the simple majority which is 112 out of 222 parliamentary seats, then it will come up with a so-called “hung parliament”. This is the first time to occur in the country’s 59-year history; thus, the impasse with twists and turns of events. As multi-cultural and multi-religious country, an unnecessary rangy impasse could reignite hostilities along the cultural and religious lines. In this case, the decision as to whom the premiership will be awarded is all up to the King (Yang di-Pertuan Agong).

The PH (Pakahatan Harapan) led by Anwar Ibrahim garnered 82 seats; while the PN (Perikatan Nasional), led by Muhyidin Yassin got 73 seats. BN (Barisan Nasional), the dominant party since Malaysian independence in 1963 managed to obtain only 30 seats – their leaders battling corruption cases in court being the culprit behind their fall. Former PM Najib Razzaq is presently placed behind bars for the 1MDB scandal and party president and chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is grappling with 47 counts of corruption cases in court. These are all peninsula-based parties – each with component parties.

A BN submitting to a coalition with PH following a Nov 21 joint meeting between the two parties could have propelled Anwar Ibrahim into the premiership but some BN key members such as acting PM Ismael Sabri Yakob and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein were obstinately unyielding, thus, prompting the party to go for the oppositional fence to take on the check and balance job. A GPS (23 seats), GRS (6 seats) and unrevealed 19 MPs proving true to their verbal commitment to Muhyidin could have catapulted the latter to the coveted post. Meanwhile, GTA (Gerakan Tanah Air), a newly formed party by political giant Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, fielded 121 candidates but got empty-handed. Both Dr. M and his son, Mukhriz, ran in different areas. His old age and perceived abnegation of a pact of power-sharing with Anwar Ibrahim following their victory in the GE14 could be the cause.

At 4:30 pm, Tuesday, the King summoned Anwar and Muhyidin into the Istana Negara. Enunciating that no one was able to secure a simple majority, he proposed for them to work together in forming the government. Muhyidin discontentedly went out of the palace speechless. Anwar said a few words to media people emphasizing that no decision has been arrived at yet.

Muhyidin convened his supporters probably to seek their thoughts on the matter, after which they pronounced in chorus of a rejective stance on the King’s proposal confidently claiming that they have achieved the simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat. A fact viewed by many as disrespect to the King. Perhaps, the GPS and the unrevealed MPs stepped back for one reason or another. The new law “Anti-hopping” pertaining to political parties could be one; or because BN stayed neutral that GPS’ insufficient numbers will not hold water anyway; or in profound respect for the King whose only wish is to have a stable government to avoid a repeat of the previous government whose helm shifted through 3 hands due to political maneuvering.

Perhaps, BN could be the key to break the deadlock. Thus, the King summoned the 30 victorious BN stalwarts for an audience the following day, Wednesday, but they asked for postponement probably to ensure a unanimous stand. The UMNO component of BN has distaste against Muhyidin. In its conclusive meeting, they resolved to support unity government but not with PN at the head. The King then summoned GPS MPs who subsequently heeded the King’s call for a unity government.

Nov 24, Thursday morning. The 8 Malay rulers met to allow the King to choose an MP who, in his opinion, “might command the confidence of the majority in the Dewan Rakyat and his decision cannot be challenged no matter what mathematical explanation is given…”

At 5pm, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah will swear in MP Anwar Ibrahim at the Istana Negars as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia.

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