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As hope fades for top seat, chatter forms within PH to replace PM nominee

Senior coalition leaders speak of a need to look beyond the PKR leader after two decades of endorsing him as prime minister.

3 minute read
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.

Calls are emerging for Pakatan Harapan (PH) to rethink its support for Anwar Ibrahim, as the PKR leader’s quest for the top seat in Putrajaya remains elusive with all signs pointing to a return of Perikatan Nasional (PN) to form the next government.

While opposition supporters have taken to social media to vent anger at what they call a miscalculated move by Anwar to force Muhyiddin Yassin out of power, a PKR insider said internal chatter among those close to PH stalwarts was taking shape, urging the coalition to “stop two decades of misadventure” with him.

“At the centre of this emerging discourse is criticism of PH’s lack of serious consultation and systematic discussion on the cross-party consensus offered by Muhyiddin,” the PKR source told MalaysiaNow on condition of strict anonymity.

“Ultimately, it was about the top leaders’ rush to seek a power vacuum without even getting confirmation on the numbers.”

Umno’s Ismail Sabri Yaakob appears to be the prime minister of choice for a majority of MPs, gaining endorsement from parties in PN as well as from GPS and Umno.

This comes after about a dozen MPs in the group aligned with Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who worked closely with Anwar in forcing Muhyiddin out of office on Monday, agreed to back Ismail’s nomination.

MalaysiaNow understands that with the full backing of Umno, Ismail, who stood behind Muhyiddin against the wishes of Zahid and former boss Najib Razak, will have a comfortable margin of support to be named by the Agong as prime minister.

“That news was long coming… because whichever way we turned, we still could not get enough support. The reason is not our policies or parties, but our prime ministerial nominee,” the source said, in an apparent reference to Anwar.

Anwar has been the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate for every general election since his dramatic sacking in 1998 which saw him become the rallying point for what was once a disparate opposition.

It was the 2018 election agreement between PH leaders that put him closest to the top post. The PH government, however, collapsed before the transition could take place, and the job of the seventh prime minister went to Muhyiddin.

Anwar has nonetheless repeatedly claimed to possess the majority support.

In September last year, he famously declared that he had a “strong, formidable and convincing” majority to topple Muhyiddin, but failed to provide proof of this during an audience with the Agong.

“Some of us are aware that supporters have changed their tone from being hopeful to cynical, to now disdainful,” the source said.

A quick check on Twitter and Facebook showed PH supporters criticising the decision by the coalition’s top leadership to reject Muhyiddin’s offer of reforms championed by the opposition in exchange for their support at a confidence vote that was to have taken place next month.

“PH missed its chance to be king maker,” said one Twitter user.

“Wtf was PH doing by pushing the PM out with no plan?” came an angry comment.

“Itulah bodoh orang offer olive branch buat jual mahal (It’s stupid that when people offered the olive branch you played hard to get),” said another Twitter user, Azroy Roy.

“Like Tony Pua said, when the opponent is desperate, negotiation would be easier. But due to leaders’ delusion of ‘one individual’, PH lost the opportunity to implement the necessary reforms and the kleptocrats will return as proxies. Now the chance for reform is gone.”

Meanwhile, DAP MPs Tony Pua and Ong Kian Ming, whose positive response to Muhyiddin’s offer made them a target of attacks from fellow MPs and pro-opposition activists, wrote cryptic posts on their social media mocking critics back.

“Perhaps it’s time to start a new painting. Already got a title in mind. ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being Stupid’. Any bidders?” said Pua, triggering a steady stream of responses, many of which praised his earlier stand on taking up Muhyiddin’s offer.

Ong meanwhile has been exchanging messages with Ambiga Sreenevasan, the former Bersih 2.0 chief who has been among the most vocal supporters of a change in government during the pandemic.

This morning, Ong cheekily asked in a Twitter post: “Morning! What are the odd makers saying today?” This was followed by a reply from Ambiga: “Basically that opposition has not got its act together still.”

Ong then asked, “Time for another Twitter protest?”

Earlier, Ong had mocked Ambiga’s call for Twitter users to show their opposition to any move to appoint Ismail as prime minister.

“Yeah, I’m sure the PN and BN MPs will pay close attention to what Twitter is saying about who among them will be PM and DPM,” he had said.