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The opposition’s elephant in the room

Calls abound for Muhyiddin Yassin to step down as prime minister, but who would succeed him if he did?

Victor Ng
3 minute read

Calls for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to resign have grown louder following his administration’s run-in with the palace over the revocation of emergency ordinances.

Leading the chorus are the usual suspects like opposition head Anwar Ibrahim and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. It is one thing to demand the PM’s ouster. But it is time his critics addressed the elephant in the room: who’s next?

This is a dicey topic on which even Muhyiddin’s harshest critics are loath to take a strong stance, given the surrounding political sensitivities. At the moment, they take the position of “let’s get rid of Muhyiddin first and worry about his successor later”.

If Muhyiddin for whatever reason is the main source of the problems plaguing the country, would his removal and his successor be able to turn things around, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic situation becoming worse by the day?

First, let’s look at the leading contenders vying to be the country’s ninth PM. Top of the list is Pakatan Harapan (PH) head Anwar. Twenty-three years after failing to succeed Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Malaysia’s fifth PM in 1998, Anwar is still gunning for the post but to no avail. The reality is that Anwar can only muster enough support if he has the backing of Umno MPs, including the court cluster lawmakers like Najib Razak and Zahid.

As it stands, DAP, the largest bloc in PH with 42 MPs has announced that it will not budge from its stance on not working with Umno, which the Chinese-dominated party has labelled as corrupt and racist over the decades.

The Umno Supreme Council too, had earlier this month passed a resolution rejecting any cooperation with DAP and Anwar. Without the backing of Umno and DAP, the PM’s post will continue to elude Anwar, at least until the next polls.

But even if Anwar, through some stroke of luck, were to be sworn in, would he be able to hold the government together or would he need to seek a mandate via snap polls, which the country can ill afford with the pandemic still raging?

With their stubborn stance against working with DAP, Umno leaders aspiring to succeed Muhyiddin will not be able to muster enough numerical support in the federal legislature, either.

But even if the party’s frontrunners like DPM Ismail Sabri Yaakob or Senior Minister Hishammuddin Hussein manage to cobble together a bloc and turn against Muhyiddin, there is no guarantee that they will receive full backing from Umno. The party is far too fragmented with its 38 MPs divided into two or three main factions.

The only other potential PM candidate left is Mahathir who leads Pejuang. But with only four MPs, the party is practically an island unto itself. Besides, there’s too much bad blood between Mahathir and Anwar and many in PH have still not forgiven Mahathir for resigning as PM, resulting in the coalition’s collapse back in February 2020.

If the opposition is serious about wanting to reclaim Putrajaya, they need to be honest in addressing the issue of who they want as the next PM. Otherwise, they are like different battalions going to war without a general. It doesn’t instil confidence. And even if victory is achieved, there’s no guarantee that the citizens whom they claim the war is for, will be better off than before.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.