While the 2021 budget debate has succeeded in bringing Perikatan Nasional (PN) parties closer together following its safe passage in the Dewan Rakyat, it has left Pakatan Harapan (PH) in a state of disarray with no future direction, observers say.
They say the parties in the opposition coalition are still troubled by the leadership of its chairman Anwar Ibrahim.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s PN has been seen as consolidating its strength by bringing together party leaders under a new presidential council.
“At the moment, PH is clueless and has failed to put to rest speculation of differences among the three parties.
“While the PN partners are seen as closing the gaps between them, the differences within PH are becoming apparant,” said public opinion poll specialist Hisommudin Bakar of Ilham Centre.
There had been growing criticism from within PH of its top leader Anwar following the budget’s approval last week.
In the weeks leading to the budget’s tabling, Anwar had claimed to possess a “strong and formidable” majority to topple Muhyiddin.
“While the PN partners are seen as closing the gaps between them, the differences within PH are becoming apparant.”
There were also expectations that the budget vote could turn into a confidence vote, through which Anwar could secure enough support to scuttle the bill and bring down the government.
The budget, however, was eventually passed.
A few days later, PN announced its presidential council, bringing together leaders from the 13 parties backing the coalition: Bersatu, Umno, PAS, MCA, SUPP, PBS, PBB, PRS, PBRS, SAPP, PDP, MIC and STAR.
Last week, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng warned against attempts to get MPs from Umno to switch loyalties and give the coalition the numbers needed to form the government.
The duo said PH should instead concentrate on other opposition parties including Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s four-member Pejuang bloc, and Sabah-based Warisan led by Shafie Apdal.
But that call may not sit well with PKR, as the two parties have openly opposed Anwar holding the top post.
Political analyst Shamsul Amri Baharuddin said PKR lacks a specific agenda to drive the PH coalition, other than to make Anwar the prime minister.
He said PKR would never accept anyone other than Anwar for the top post.
“PKR will not agree to that. The coalition must be able to agree on Anwar as the prime ministerial candidate,” the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia academic told MalaysiaNow.
DAP’s Lim had proposed Shafie as a prime ministerial candidate, sparking an angry reaction from PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah, Anwar’s eldest daughter.
Malay politics commentator Kamarul Zaman Yusoff however said Anwar still enjoys strong support despite the veiled criticism from Amanah and DAP leaders.
“Anwar has loyal followers in DAP and Amanah, such as Ronnie Liu and Mujahid Yusof Rawa.
“These voices are just the tip of the iceberg.”
“This could cause an internal conflict in DAP and Amanah,” he told MalaysiaNow.
Hisommudin said similar unrest is unfolding in PKR, as seen in the criticism by its youth leaders of Anwar’s political methods.
“These voices are just the tip of the iceberg, as there has been criticism outside of party channels such as on social media and unofficial platforms,” he added.
He also noted the recent remarks against Anwar by PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli, seen as the opposition leader’s closest ally.
Rafizi had said Anwar had refused to heed his advice and instead looked up to the “opportunists” surrounding him.
Hisommudin said he understood the confidence of some party leaders, such as PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, in Anwar’s claim of having the necessary numbers.
“But the truth is, no one is excited anymore about Anwar’s strategy when it comes to numbers,” he added.
* Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh contributed to this report.