Has Anwar the numbers, or is it a bluff?

By P. Ramakrishnan

Ramakrishnan wrote this article, the week before Anwar was scheduled to meet the king.

Anwar Ibrahim’s claim of having a “strong and formidable” majority to topple the Perikatan Nasional has set tongues wagging. Attempts to play down this claim are very apparent in what is being said and how it is being said.

There are politicians who speak just for the sake of speaking. Not much thought or sense is reflected in what they say. Mahathir is also no exception to this.

We know he has no love or respect for Anwar but that does not mean that Anwar should not be treated honestly.

Anwar had claimed on 23 September 2020 that he had a “strong and formidable” majority. He would not have laid claim to this majority if he did not have such a majority to support his claim. He wouldn’t risk his reputation for any dubious claim. He knows what the repercussions would be.

But, politicians being politicians have disputed this claim and had ridiculed him. But we know when politicians are driven by fear of the impending doom, the first thing they would do is to deny and ridicule their adversaries. That sort of would pacify them!

Unsurprisingly, Mahathir fired the first salvo.  “We will have to wait to see if this is another episode of making claims that cannot be substantiated,” he was quoted as saying by The Edge Singapore.

Recalling Anwar’s former claim in 2008, Mahathir noted that Anwar had made a similar declaration in 2008 which did not materialize. While that is true, he wasn’t telling the whole truth – that is the problem with politicians.

 But we know what happened in September 2008 and how Pakatan Rakyat was prevented from taking over Putrajaya on 16 September 2008 – a move known as 916.

To frustrate Anwar and deny the majority that he supposedly had, 49 Barisan Nasional MPs were sent packing off to Taiwan on some silly excuse to study some agricultural projects.  That was how they foiled Anwar’s attempt to bring about a change in government by bringing down Ahmad Badawi’s government. The BN effectively removed those who were likely to support Anwar.

That was why Anwar could not produce the majority that he claimed to have had in parliament. If these MPs had been present in parliament and in spite of that if Anwar had not been successful in taking over the government, then he could be rightly ridiculed. But that wasn’t the case. It was the fear of that possibility that in desperation the BN sent away these 49 MPs out of the country to keep them out of Anwar’s reach and save their own skin.

Not to be outdone by Mahathir, the Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin got into the picture questioning Anwar’s claim to have had the majority to form a new government.

“But until today I myself also do not know (the number); his claim may or may not be true,” Muhyiddin said when speaking at a Perikatan Nasional (PN) rally in Tambun on 25 September 2020.

Well,  Mr PM, we also did not know whether you really had the majority support when you were sworn in as Prime Minister on 1 March 2020. Not only we did not know the number you claimed to have had then, but to date we still don’t know who really supported you. That remains a state secret guarded and protected from public scrutiny.

On 29 February 2020, Mahathir had laid claim to 114 MPs supporting him.  It was alleged that you also had 114 supporters backing you.  But we have only 222 MPs in parliament – not 228! Mahathir had published the 114 names of MPs who allegedly supported him but you didn’t – which meant, that you only had 108 MPs behind you when you were sworn in.

Like the wolf pack, his ministers closed in lending support.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who tweeted just minutes after Anwar’s press conference at noon, said that the Perikatan Nasional government was fine.

“Just finished the cabinet meeting. Nothing is collapsing or falling,” he said.

The Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA) Minister Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah on his Facebook page said “Remember the Sept 16, 2008, event? This time, it is another speculation …”

The PN secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin described Anwar’s claim as nothing more than a political gimmick.

He said it was merely the Port Dickson MP’s “September dream” to be the prime minister.

All these minions tried to be dismissive of Anwar’s claim and the threat posed by him. It’s natural to assure yourselves that nothing is going to happen when you are faced with imminent danger. There is comfort in deluding yourselves.

I am reminded of an Arab proverb: “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

But strangely, the Umno President, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Wednesday, September 23, that he received information that many Umno and Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament have stated their support for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to form a new government.

“UMNO and BN are not able to stop MPs supporting Anwar from meeting the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to make known his intention,” he said in a statement.

“I was told that many UMNO and BN MPs have voiced their support (for Anwar). I respect their decision.”

It is a known fact that many MPs are not happy with the leadership of Muhyiddin. And Zahid Hamidi’s disclosure not only suggests but confirms that there may be many crossovers to Anwar’s side to make a change-over of the government possible. With its razor-thin majority, the PN government is understandably jittery.

We will only know whether this so-claimed “strong and formidable” majority is a fact or fiction on Tuesday after Anwar’s audience with the Agong. On Tuesday Anwar’s fate will be sealed.

Many may wonder what would happen on Tuesday. If Anwar indeed possesses the so-claimed “strong and formidable” majority, the normal democratic convention would imply that Muhyiddin will have to step down as PM and Anwar will be the newly appointed PM – a dream come true at last!

Will this be the expected scenario? We will have to wait and see.

If Anwar indeed has a majority that is very close to two-thirds in parliament, there is no reason to doubt that he will be the 8th Prime Minister of Malaysia. Unlike the shaky and jittery government of Muhyiddin’s, Anwar’s government will be a very stable one which makes it easier to serve the nation without having to look over the shoulders for back-stabbers.

A stable government will be a welcome change and will be in a position to tackle the covid-19 pandemic and address the economic woes of the nation. It will be the return of the Pakatan Harapan government which was elected by Malaysians on 9 May 2018. This is what Malaysians want – the return of the government they voted for!

If for any reason, Anwar is not able to take the reins of government on Tuesday, all is not lost yet. Parliament is meeting on November 2, 2020. The PN government will be tabling the Budget 2021 for adoption. If the Budget is defeated, then Muhyiddin’s government will, for sure, fall. And nothing will stand in the way of Anwar to prevent him from becoming the Prime Minister.

This much-anticipated change of government will take place on Tuesday if all goes well. If not, Anwar will keep his date with his destiny in November.

When he becomes the PM, Anwar would have embodied the saying “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

Ramakrishnan’s article was first published in Aliran on 11 October 2020

P Ramakrishnan is the long-serving former president of Aliran who served three and a half decades on its executive committee, and has been with Aliran since its inception in 1977. Now an ordinary Aliran member, he continues to highlight issues of public interest to a larger audience.
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