Monday, November 16, 2020

The only solution


Dr M's mistake is complacency. At one point, right after the Sheraton Move had happened, he had all of Harapan and all of Bersatu and all of Muafakat supporting him to become PM.

Harapan wanted him to remain as their leader and help them win back the majority in Parliament. Bersatu, aiming to team up with Muafakat (BN + PAS) wanted him to join their side and take control of Parliament.

So what did he do? Feeling indispensable, he spurned both sides and declared he wanted to create a so-called "Unity Government" where everyone was accountable to him and he was accountable to no one.

Guess what. Everyone told him to take a hike. Harapan rejected this and so did Bersatu/Muafakat, who went on to form Perikatan.


Anwar's mistake is he likes to play political poker. At one point, he probably did have enough MPs backing him to take majority control of Parliament. At least on paper. Meaning if he counted all of Harapan, and he counted all the UMNO guys who were willing to support him, and he counted some GPS guys who might have been willing to cross over, and if he counted Warisan as eventually joining forces with him, yes he probably did have more than 112. Maybe he had something in the 120 range.

But he wanted more in order to show that he had a strong majority. So what did he do? He announced in advanced what he was going to do. He did that to induce fear and therefore encourage even more crossovers. Those sitting on the fence would think: "Oh, damn... Anwar's going to be PM... I'd better hop over and join his side".

There are two problems with this strategy. Firstly, each party that was supposed to be supporting him was kept in the dark as to who else they were supposed to be partnering with. Then, you have DAP saying no way would they work with UMNO. You also had UMNO saying no way would they work with DAP. So, on paper yes, he had the numbers but in practical terms, he didn't because these two major parties cannot work together.

The other problem is that by openly declaring his gambit for the world to see, it gives him enemies the chance and the time to counter his moves. And counter it, they did.


DAP and Amanah's mistake was they decided the best way to deal with a manifesto-reneging Dr M was to appease him. To walk on eggshells and to bend over backwards to make sure he wasn't unhappy, lest he pull the trigger and blow up Harapan.

So, instead of putting their foot down and reminding Dr M that he needs them as much as they need him, they acted as if everything hinged on keeping Dr M happy. But if you give someone like Dr M an inch, he will want a mile. And however compliant they were, it was never enough.

The problem with appeasement of bad behaviour is that it doesn't encourage good behaviour, it encourages even more bad behaviour. The more they kowtowed to Dr M, the more recalcitrant he became.

They knew he was meeting PAS and UMNO behind their back. They knew he was sowing divisions within PKR by grooming Azmin. They knew he was continually pushing back the date to hand over the reigns to Anwar. But what did they do? Nothing.


Muhyiddin's mistake was that he somehow believed that partnering up with Bersatu's rivals, PAS and UMNO, to form a new government with a razor-thin majority in Parliament, is a sustainable thing.

Perhaps he saw how Dr M could cow the other Harapan partners despite the fact that Bersatu had very small numbers, and was inspired to try to do the same. But he, of all people, should know UMNO's character. UMNO will never stand for a smaller party taking charge. And so you have all these rumblings within UMNO, constantly threatening to leave him for Anwar.

How unsustainable is the Sheraton Move? Well, Muhyiddin actually tried to resort to calling for an Emergency (which was wisely rejected by the King). That's how unsustainable it is.


UMNO's mistake is in thinking if there are snap polls they will win the majority. The reality is that not only is PAS gunning for the same seats as UMNO, so is Bersatu. And then they've also got Harapan to contend with in Malay seats.

Let's be clear. There is no way UMNO, PAS and Bersatu can come to terms on seat allocation. Each party will want the lion's share of seats and the others won't give way. So, there will be a deadlock, resulting in either a three or four-way contest. Or if the top guns miraculously manage to come up with a compromise candidate from one party, the other party leaders will sabotage the campaign.

Either way, it will not be easy for UMNO to win enough seats to control the government. They are dreaming if they think GE15 will be a walk in the park for them. If anything, they will lose even more seats due to the conflicts with Bersatu and PAS for seat allocations and the ensuing problems that result from that.


So, what's the best solution? Just wait for GE15 to happen. If Anwar wants to become PM, he has to make sure that PKR + DAP + Amanah win enough seats to form a government without having to make deals with or relying on any other party (which could hold it to ransom).

Dr M has already stated clearly that his Pejuang party aims to become the Kingmaker. Any other party outside of the Harapan tent will also want to be a Kingmaker. So, he needs to come up with a strategy for PKR, DAP and Amanah to close ranks and prepare for a win in GE15 without the help of others.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Forget about a counter-coup


UMNO is itching for a general election. Be careful what you wish for!


Back when the Sheraton Move first happened and everything started to fall apart for Pakatan Harapan, I said the best option for Harapan moving forward is to prepare for GE15 and aim to win a simple majority without Dr M's faction and without Warisan's support.

The rationale was simple. Dr M wants to be a king-maker. Even with as few as 5 MPs back him, he wants to be the one to dictate things in a Harapan coalition. That won't do.

As for Warisan, it has never supported Harapan per se. It supported Harapan while Dr M was in Harapan. And it's been reported that it was Warisan that rejected the idea of Anwar as PM and Mukhriz as DPM. Warisan is not a steady and reliable ally.

Harapan cannot afford to rely on the support of "kingmakers" who want to be able to have the final say on things. Instead it should prepare to win GE15 without them.

But what about a counter-coup instead? First of all, Anwar doesn't have the numbers. Maybe he did at one time but right now, it doesn't seem like he does anymore.

Besides, in order to have the numbers it seems Anwar would need UMNO and DAP to be on the same team and that's impossible. UMNO has said it won't work with DAP, and DAP has said it won't work with UMNO.

So, just forget about the counter-coup and focuse on GE15!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Muhyiddin at his weakest


There are many imponderables when you think about the political situation in this country. One big imponderable is what on earth made Muhyiddin think it was a good idea to pull Bersatu out of Pakatan Harapan and team up with its rival UMNO instead? How on earth did he think this could possibly be a stable situation? What could have possibly convinced him that the situation could be sustainable?

This marriage of convenience had the word "Implosion" all over it. But he went ahead anyway. And this is the mess he got himself into. His situation is so precarious that he actually resorted to trying to get the King to declare a state of Emergency.

When news first got out about the Cabinet approving this desperado move, everyone was concerned because the common understanding is that the King has to act on the advice of the PM. Several articles published by online media quoted constitutional lawyers affirming that the King should act on the advice of the PM. Most did not regard his discretion to include rejecting that advice.

But reject his advice, the King did.

We don't know what the conference of rulers talked about but they probably realized that not only would an Emergency declaration be highly unpopular because of how unnecessary it would be, it would also destroy our economy. And not to mention it was a blatant political power play that had little to do with curtailing the virus, and more to do with curtailing Anwar.

With the advice of the other rulers, the King said no.

Can Muhyiddin challenge that decision in court? He could. Would he win? Very possible, if you believe what the constitutional lawyers say. But he's not going to do it. He's already so weakened by this situation, the last thing he needs now is a Battle Royale with the royalty.

Muhyiddin is in bad shape. His only consolation is that the Opposition hasn't exactly got its act together either. Anwar seems to be acting like a lone wolf, trying to cobble together a majority in Parliament. From what's been published, it seems like he's been reaching out to UMNO MPs to get the numbers. But if he gets a bunch of UMNO guys to join him, DAP will leave. He can't assume DAP will stick with him no matter what.

So, while Muhyiddin might have lost his majority, it's not obvious that Anwar has the majority either. The solution might have to be snap polls. Nobody really wants that but sometimes a bad option is the only option.

Whatever the case, one thing is clear: Muhyiddin's back door gambit has come back to haunt him.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


The political situation right now is full of imponderables:

1. Why did Anwar reveal that he had the numbers even before he saw the King?

The only logical conclusion is that he wanted to induce fear (and crossovers) from UMNO MPs who were afraid his claims are true.

2. But isn't he afraid that once he alerts his enemies, they will try to thwart the crossovers?
One logical conclusion is that he believes his support is so solid that it can't be thwarted. But how can he be so sure? Another possibility is that he is playing high stakes poker. He thinks the risk is worth the potential pay-off (that the fear will induce enough new crossovers that it would more than offset any who changed their mind about crossing over).

3. Why did Zahid say that many UMNO MPs support Anwar?
The knee-jerk conclusion is that he had cut a deal with Anwar. The more likely scenario is that this was done to spook Muhyiddin into making concessions.

4. If indeed Zahid and Najib are supportive of Anwar, why?
Assuming that Anwar is savvy enough to know he can't possibly make a deal with these two and hope to survive politically, the only logical conclusion is that they believe that they are somehow better off with Anwar as PM than with Muhyiddin (even if there's no deal in place). In other words, they might view him as the lesser evil for some reason. But it really can't be that it's because he's made a deal with them. That would be political suicide for Anwar.

5. If UMNO MPs are supporting Anwar because of their disappointment with Muhyiddin, what do they possibly hope to get from Anwar that they couldn't get from Muhyiddin?
Again, surely Anwar is savvy enough to know he can't reward UMNO MPs with even better ministerial positions and even cushier GLC jobs than Muhyiddin. So what has he got to offer? Perhaps those UMNO MPs are banking on the fact that once Anwar finally gets to become PM, he will want to hold so dearly to that long-sought-after position that he will do anything to stay in power, including cutting them some sweetheart deals. They might be wrong but that's the only logical explanation for why they would want to support him. It can't be because they support his pro-reform and multiracial agenda.

6. If Anwar is contemplating deals with UMNO MPs, how does he hope to get DAP's support?
This leads us to believe he is somehow able to offer UMNO MPs something they want that DAP is able to swallow. But it's hard to imagine what that could be if not ministerial and GLC positions. Maybe he can get the UMNO MPs to come into this without any explicit deals and rely on their gullibility in thinking they can change him.

7. If Anwar indeed had the numbers, why didn't he give the names to the King so that the King could make a decision on what to do next?
Perhaps he didn't have any exact numbers but only ball park figures based on what each party leader (including from UMNO) told him they could muster. And perhaps he's hoping that if the King takes it upon himself to individually ask each MP what their stance was with regard to Anwar as PM, they would affirm their support for him (for whatever reasons that are important to them).

8. How can Anwar hope to get enough MPs from UMNO when there are so many denials?
Of course there will be many denials at this stage. Who in their right minds will reveal themselves as people who are just about to crossover? Of course they will deny vehemently and claim that they are totally against Anwar and DAP, and so on. Well, they are totally against him until they aren't. Once it's a fait accompli, and he's PM, you can be sure all kinds of people will come forward and say they were secretly supportive of him all the while.

I guess in a matter of weeks, we will find out the answers to many of these imponderables. Anwar will eventually prove to be a fool or a king, so to speak (or perhaps we should change the saying to "a fool or a PM").

Saturday, October 17, 2020

What to make of Anwar's bid to become PM


There are a few things we know and a few things we don't know relating to Anwar's bid to become PM.

Let's start with what we know:
a) We know that he's pretty much got Harapan behind him.
b) We know that whatever numbers he's got, it doesn't include Dr M's 5 MPs from Pejuang.
c) We know (thanks to Zahid) there are some UMNO MPs supporting Anwar.

What can we don't know:
a) Who are the UMNO MPs that support him?
b) Does he have anyone from GPS and PAS (maybe a few from each
c) Is Warisan behind him? (That's not a given).

The big question on everybody's mind is whether Anwar really has the numbers or is he just bluffing? If he's bluffing, this is really high stakes poker he's playing. If it's proven in the end that he does not have the numbers, his reputation will take a fall that he will never recover from.

That alone makes me think he's not bluffing. He probably does have the numbers, with support from some individual members of UMNO, PAS, GPS and perhaps Warisan. If you add it all up, it could be a comfortable majority, even without Pejuang's 5 MPs.

The problem is all those guys who are supporting him will surely want plum positions or promises of this or that. Anwar has said that no deals have been made. And one would think that he is savvy enough to know that if he make some blatantly corrupt deals, he's finished. So, perhaps they are supporting him simply because they see him as the so-called "lesser evil" compared to Muhyiddin.

But short of any kind of special deals or promises made, how can that be? What could Anwar offer them that Muhyiddin can't or won't, especially if no deal has been made? That's an imponderable.

The other natural question is how can such a government, cobbled up by taking in various individuals from here and there, be a stable one? If these Johnny-Come-Lately supporters can abandon Muhyiddin in search of "greener pastures" what is to say they won't do the same to Anwar when they see a better opportunity?

Of course the King has a crucial role to play here. If he interviews each and everyone of the crossover MPs, he could impress upon them that he really wants to know how serious they are about supporting Anwar as the new PM, and he could tell them he won't take it kindly if they keep switching sides. The King has a lot of moral authority and it would be a brave MP who dares to make a fool out of the King.

Whatever the case, it looks like Muhyiddin's days as PM are numbered. As it is he only has a majority of two MPs in Parliament. That's pretty damn slim. His government could easily crumble any time. And from the sounds of it, there are at least two UMNO MPs not happy with him. So, it's just a matter of time.

The real question is whether Anwar, assuming he can cobble together a majority, is able form a stable and steady government. That is the big unknown.