Social media posts on Malaysian politics have shown that people are either indifferent, anxious or revolted by the prospect of yet another peaceful coup this year, in the wake of Anwar Ibrahim’s latest claim of having the numbers needed to topple the government.
They may also have no way of assessing the truth of this, besides the claims and denials of politicians.
Anwar on Sept 23 claimed he had the numbers – a “strong and formidable majority” – to form the federal government, thus fulfilling his decades-old quest for seat of prime minister.
He also claimed he had secured the support of enough MPs to ensure that the government would be predominantly Malay.
In doing so, Anwar is aware of the deep-rooted relationship between race and politics, which points to the unwritten rule demanding Malay dominance in federal politics.
He understands that anyone claiming to have the support to form the government must prove that it comes primarily from this ethnic bloc.
Cynics have dismissed his announcement as “vintage Anwar” going after a chunk of the media limelight, which helped him remain in the country’s political psyche more than two decades after his fall from power.
Others have been more detailed in dismissing his assertion, saying the claim of having a “formidable majority” which is also predominantly Malay-Muslim does not add up arithmetically.
So, is Anwar telling the truth?
A clearer perspective may be obtained by studying the demographics of MPs in the Dewan Rakyat.
Anyone claiming to have the support to form the government must prove that it comes primarily from this ethnic bloc.
MalaysiaNow has divided the MPs into four broad ethnic/communal groups which could have an impact on federal politics: Malay-Muslim, non-Malay Bumiputera, Chinese and Indian.
We also divided MPs based on several assumptions, taking into account recent statements to the media by individuals and political parties in response to Anwar’s claim.
These assumptions include the following:
1. All PKR, DAP and Amanah MPs will back Anwar; and
2. All MPs from PAS, GPS and Bersatu, as well as Pejuang and Muda – the Bersatu breakaway parties led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman – will not back Anwar.
Umno and Warisan have yet to make known their stand, with a split expected among members.
How many from Umno?
In the case of Umno, the largest Malay-Muslim bloc, there have been reports of several leaders backing Anwar’s plan.
One assumption, which is not confirmed, is that those facing corruption charges will back Anwar in the hope of escaping conviction.
Seven of the 39 Umno MPs in this category:
1. Najib Razak
2. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
3. Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor
4. Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim
5. Ahmad Maslan
6. Bung Moktar Radin
7. Mahdzir Khalid
Of these, Tengku Adnan, Ahmad Maslan, Bung and Mahdzir have publicly denied that they would back Anwar.
Six others – Ahmad Nazlan Idris, Salim Shariff, Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub, Idris Jusoh, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman and Shahidan Kassim – have also rejected suggestions that they would switch loyalties.
Among Umno MPs too, at least 18 are said to be in a faction led by Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is seen as close to Bersatu and former PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali.
That makes 28 Umno MPs who will not be siding with Anwar.
We will assume, to be generous to Anwar’s side, that the remaining 11 will back him, and that is if Anwar accepts Najib into his fold.
Sabah and Sarawak parties
Sabah’s Warisan is led by Shafie Apdal, a strong rival to Anwar. But this does not necessarily mean that the party’s MPs will not back the PKR leader, considering the economic and political benefits they could demand.
Again, to be generous, we will assume that Warisan’s eight MPs will vote equally for and against, giving Anwar four MPs from this party.
As for independents and parties with only one MP, we will assume that they will back Anwar.
These include an independent in Sarawak, and one each from PBS, PBRS, Upko and STAR – a total of five more for Anwar from this category.
In the case of GPS, all indications point to the ruling Sarawak party rejecting any move to replace the government of Muhyiddin Yassin, which has given the state lucrative oil royalties.
The two MPs from Sarawak’s PSB – one of them Baru Bian, who has fallen out with Anwar – are not likely to work with the PKR president.
From East Malaysia then, Anwar gets nine non-Pakatan Harapan (PH) MPs so far.
MCA and MIC
It is safe to assume that MCA’s two MPs will not be working with Anwar as the party strongly abhors DAP, Anwar’s closest ally in PH. The same goes for MIC, which has remained loyal to Barisan Nasional (BN) despite its defeat in the 2018 polls.
The scorecard so far
If these guesses are correct, and with the generous assumptions favouring Anwar, his scorecard so far has 111 MPs, in the following breakdown:
PKR: 38 (21 Malay-Muslim)
DAP: 42 (2 Malay-Muslim)
Amanah: 11 (all Malay-Muslim)
Umno: 11 (all Malay-Muslim)
Warisan: 4 (assumed, Malay-Muslim)
Miscellaneous parties from East Malaysia: 5 (assumed, 0 Malay-Muslim)
111 seats in a 222-seat Dewan Rakyat is not a “formidable” majority.
Neither is it a predominantly Malay-Muslim government, as there would be only 49 Malay-Muslim MPs and 62 non-Muslim MPs.
The bigger question is whether DAP will be on the same side as Umno, especially with leaders like Najib and Zahid in the picture.
It would be suicidal given DAP’s consistent stand against working with Umno, especially Najib, whose downfall was thanks to an overwhelming statement from DAP’s traditional vote bank.
But even if DAP gives Anwar the confidence vote, there is every likelihood that the party will stay out of the Cabinet, rendering Anwar’s government a minority one.
This means that Anwar’s quest for prime ministership would seem more elusive than ever.
The next 48 hours will confirm if this is a fair statement.
Fazreen Kamal and Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh contributed to this analysis.