Malaysia’s oppositions call on ruling coalition to focus on uniting for polls

Anwar Ibrahim spent almost a decade in jail after being convicted of sodomising a young male aide, allegations that supporters say were aimed at ruining his political career. (Photo: AFP/Roslan RAHMAN). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17, 2020, ST. Allies of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday (Dec 17) called on the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to stop “wasting time” after spending at least three months trying to entice “opportunistic” government MPs in a bid to wrest power from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, The Straits Times reported.

Despite Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar claiming a now widely mocked “strong, formidable and convincing” majority of federal lawmakers on Sept 23, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) ruling pact has remained intact and on Tuesday passed Budget 2021, ensuring no loss of supply for Tan Sri Muhyiddin.

Instead, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Amanah Negara want the three-member PH coalition they are a part of with PKR to now focus on uniting the opposition ahead of a general election expected next year, having seen “opportunistic government backbenchers exploiting PH for their own private benefit to get more and more lucrative deals” from the PN administration.

“The Budget vote on Tuesday has taught us not to lose our energy on seeking the mirage of more than 111 MPs based only on PH’s core of 92 MPs.

“Not a single government backbencher voted with PH, including those who allegedly support Datuk Seri Anwar.

“Clearly these government backbenchers are adept at playing political games to gain maximum leverage from the PN government,” DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu said in a joint statement.

“This is the reality that PH must face, the need for a political reset to focus on uniting our friends among the opposition MPs who stood by us on Tuesday.”

They added: “PH leaders must put aside past baggage so that PH can expand to PH Plus with a formidable force of 108 MPs. With 108 PH Plus MPs as a solid grouping, anything is still possible.”

The failure to defeat Budget 2021, despite PN having only a narrow majority in the 220-strong Parliament, has led to growing calls for new leadership in the opposition, especially from Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal’s Parti Warisan Sabah.

This recalls unsuccessful efforts earlier this year by DAP and Amanah to coax Mr Anwar to support former nemesis Mahathir Mohamad’s bid to reclaim the premiership after defections toppled the PH government in February.

A compromise proposal for then Sabah chief minister Shafie to be nominated – as opposition MPs outside of PH refused to back Mr Anwar – was also rejected by PKR.

Instead, Mr Anwar courted disgruntled Umno MPs unhappy at having to play second fiddle to leaders in PM Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

However, this faction is led by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former premier Najib Razak, both of whom are facing dozens of corruption charges, with the latter appealing a jail sentence related to missing billions in the 1MDB saga.

DAP and Amanah have repeatedly insisted PH should not form government with “kleptocrat MPs”, particularly Zahid and Najib.

The tensions from this disagreement are still reverberating in PH.

PKR vice-president Xavier Jayakumar responded to his allies’ call to set aside past enmity by insisting that Tun Dr Mahathir was to blame for their government’s collapse in February.

He instead called for PH to rally behind Mr Anwar who “was the sole leader who took it upon himself to fight and bring down the PN government”.

“We should all be praising and thanking him for doing this, as he was the only one putting his neck out to achieve what all the other members of Pakatan Harapan were hoping for,” the former minister said.

Although elections are not due until 2023, Umno, the largest party in government, wants polls as soon as possible to end Malaysia’s ongoing political uncertainty.

Umno believes a fresh vote will result in a resumption of its dominance that lasted for over six decades, until its unprecedented defeat at the 2018 election.

However, Malaysia’s worst wave of coronavirus infections shows no sign of ebbing.

Going to the ballot may be possible only after a vaccine has been rolled out nationwide, currently expected to be sometime in the second half of 2021.

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