In recent weeks, cracks appeared within the Malaysian ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan. Hit with negative headlines, amid the inclusion of Islamic calligraphy in the syllabus for vernacular schools, the coalition seems fragile.
This has further stressed the ruling coalition. Has the Pakatan Harapan lost the plot?
Coalition members are in a free-or-all public spat over the ‘khat’ or Islamic calligraphy issue and the offending remarks by an Indian born Islamic preacher, Dr Zakir Naik.
From the Khat or Islamic calligraphy issue, the Pakatan leaders and members are hounding Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir on Zakir Naik. They are against the presence of the controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.
On Wednesday (August 14), they raised concerns about Zakir Naik’s speeches in the country to the cabinet. But they probably did the right thing in leaving it to Dr Mahathir.
Unless they are keeping tabs on what the PM is doing and not doing according to their wishes, then it’s now a matter in Dr Mahathir’s hands.
According to the ministers, Dr Mahathir is to deliver on Zakir, as in subdue to their demands to kick him out.
If they are keeping tabs, then Dr Mahathir will be in big trouble when the ministers, N. Kulasegaran and Gobind Singh Deo, take him on for not delivering.
Dissolution of Parliament?
Nevertheless, a source says there is a plan to dissolve the Parliament. The source says it is part of a well-thought plan to ‘reset’ the current Parliament.
When asked who is behind such a plan, the source explains it is all a matter of numbers in the Parliament. It says Dr Mahathir has to build his strength to fend off a ‘possible’ attack on him. Remember the Party Islam se-Malaysia’s plot on the supposed motion of no confidence against the PM?
The Islamists had said the Parti Keadilan Rakyat or Justice Party of Anwar Ibrahim was plotting such a move against the PM.
But rumours also have it that Dr Mahathir is keeping the cards for a snap poll under his sleeve. It is a trigger to reset the configuration in the Parliament.
We do not believe in those rumours, but it is good to analyse this situation.
Both the source and the rumours flying in the country says if you have the numbers, you rule peacefully. But it appears Dr Mahathir may not have the numbers contrary to what the opposition is saying.
The Islamists and the Umno have given tacit support to Dr Mahathir saying they will keep him as PM for the next four years.
Does this mean they do not want snap polls? It is one thing to propel rumours of a snap poll and promise the Prime Minister support for four long years!
But the Parliament is not where Dr Mahathir holds a majority if he is to do without the Pakatan Harapan partners.
The Pakatan has the Justice Party, the Democratic Action Party or DAP, the Bersatu (Mahathir’s party) and the Amanah as coalition partners. They have the support of a break-away Umno group in Sabah, giving them a majority in Parliament.
A new coalition in power?
Breaking the Pakatan to form a new coalition to rule the country will do a lot of damages to the politicians who will stay in power.
Because if you break the Pakatan, this will send some parties in the opposition and they will most likely be the DAP and the Justice Party.
The opposition itself is a divided lot, with some supporting Dr Mahathir and others giving public support to Anwar.
It will be difficult to constitute a new coalition with the Islamists and their ‘Hudud’ demands or the Umno and its MP’s and ex-Ministers who are facing trial.
If that is the well-thought plan, then it is already in limbo well before the formation of a new coalition in power. They lack not only the numbers, but they are also from an era that Malaysians in their majority want to put behind. At least, that is what we see on the ground.
The talks in the coffee shops and high-end food joints in Kuala Lumpur are about the current state of affairs in the Pakatan government.
Some informed sources, close to the corridors of power, are saying there is intense pressure on Dr Mahathir from all sides.
The elderly statesman has too much to chew with the number of dossiers on his desk, forcing him to work day and night.
The noise from the corridors of power is that many ministers are incapable of taking risks in making decisions that may become unpopular.
Thus, many of the dossiers under their purview ends up in Dr Mahathir’s office.
There is also pressure from the Pakatan leadership for Dr Mahathir to set a transition timeline. This is not an easy thing to do. Not after the other catastrophic leak of the gay-sex videos.
Damaging sex videos
A group of Pakatan leaders met with Dr Mahathir months ago to discuss a leadership transition timeline. There were plans for the PM to make such an announcement after the Raya Puasa (Eid el Fitr) holidays.
Then came the gay-sex videos implicating a member of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat or Justice Party. This rocked the foundation of the Pakatan regime, putting Anwar Ibrahim in a difficult position.
The video implicated Azmin Ali, a powerful minister in Dr Mahathir’s cabinet who is also Anwar’s deputy in the Justice Party.
It opened a rift in the Party headed by Anwar, the Prime-Minister-to-be in what appeared to be an open challenge to his leadership.
This catfight gave Dr Mahathir serious leverage in the decision-making process because Anwar’s party is a weakened party in the coalition.
Now, the question is whether Dr Mahathir will form a coalition with the remnants of the Barisan Nasional regime? Or will he keep to his word, which he repeatedly says he will?
To keep to his word, Dr Mahathir has a single act to do: Set a leadership transition timeline.
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