Asia Malaysia Will Mahathir and Anwar take the bitter pill for one last time?

Will Mahathir and Anwar take the bitter pill for one last time?

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Both Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pejuang Tanah Air and Anwar Ibrahim’s Keadilan parties were defeated in the Johor elections, and the issue now is whether they would swallow the bitter pill and work together for the last time?

Why should they collaborate? The point is that Anwar’s party is having difficulty gaining the support of Malay voters. However, Mahathir’s party is not despised by Malay voters.

The issue faced by the Pakatan Harapan (coalition headed by Anwar) is that the Chinese-dominated party, the DAP or Democratic Action Party, is not appealing to Malay voters as well.

The DAP is now the biggest party in the coalition. This is not seen as a positive development by Malay voters.

Instead, it adds fuel to the criticism and fears by Malay voters that the Chinese in the country are using the PH to gain political power.

The Malays would never allow this to happen, and Anwar, for all his good intents and efforts, is now the sole victim of this political twist.

The DAP made numerous attempts to promote certain young Malay candidates who they claim are party members, but the Malay voters are not buying the rhetoric.

The PH has always been shunned by the majority of the Malay voters, who now sees the Barisan Nasional of which Najib Razak is a top leader, as the best alternative for them.

BN brings stability because it has a large majority of Malay MPs and members, dominated by the Umno the largest Malay party in the country.

Malay Coalition

The BN now has the tacit support of the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia or PAS. The Islamists abandoned the Anwar coalition after the 2013 elections.

They only joined the Umno and the frogs from the Keadilan and the Bersatu (after the party fired Mahathir as a member in 2020) to form the Perikatan Nasional government that toppled the PH.

The PH has always been rejected by the majority of Malay voters, who now regard the Barisan Nasional, of which Najib Razak is a member, as the best option.

The BN won the elections in Johor with 43 percent of the vote, indicating that the BN will need to recruit allies to enable it to win with a larger proportion of the vote if necessary.

BN, on the other hand, secured enough seats to give it a two-thirds majority in the Johor statehouse, despite the opposition PH winning 13 seats.

This is half of what Anwar’s alliance gained in 2018, which was then led by Mahathir.

If it isn’t a signal of the need for a strong Malay leader to join the PH coalition, then Anwar must demonstrate that he can still get a majority or a significant number of Malay voters in the next general elections to establish the federal government.

However, following numerous setbacks and the wipeout of the Keadilan in Sarawak, as well as the weakening of the party in Malacca, Anwar must confront reality.

He must do a meaculpa and determine if he should cooperate with Mahathir again to gain an advantage in Malay support or risk the biggest loss in the upcoming GE15!

Poison pen

One could wonder, “Why seek Dr Mahathir’s assistance again?” Some say that is not advisable, not after the ‘betrayal’ in 2020.

Keadilan members and Anwar are fired up against Mahathir for his rash decision to resign as Prime Minister without consulting the PH in February 2020.

But not all the PH members are unhappy with Mahathir nor are they all happy with Anwar’s stance towards Mahathir.

In 2020, a gungho Mahathir, then Prime Minister, concluded that he would be better off without the top job than being harassed by the PH component parties on one side.

Ph was harassing him for not following up on his pledges to resign in time to allow Anwar to govern.

Mahathir was also facing continued bamboozled inside his party, the Bersatu, for not having the heart to dump the PH and join Umno in a fresh coalition in power.

Mahathir’s reason for not following the Bersatu and the frogs from Keadilan to form the new government is that they are working with Najib Razak, the most corrupt politician in the country. That was what he said in an interview this writer conducted with the elderly statesman last year.

The old statesman, who had just been released from the hospital after suffering from an illness, campaigned through letters to Johor voters. He intended to create a story around Najib’s corruption conviction in the SRC International case, which was tied to the 1MDB issue.

He said that they would neither vote for Najib’s party or for the continuance of kleptocracy. He was not mistaken. Despite his coalition’s victory in the polls, a huge majority of voters rejected Najib. There is no doubt about that.

More than 53% of the Johor voters who came out to brave the pandemic voted for parties that were campaigning against Najib and BN. This is a good sign for the future of the opposition, but not as a divided group.

Mahathirs clout

That, however, is not enough for Mahathir or Anwar. According to rumours, Mahathir persuaded Syed Saddiq’s Muda party to run in the Johor elections.

He is also reported to be the driving force behind the Warisan Party’s decision to join the fight in Johor.

Shafie Apdal, a close associate of Mahathir, leads the Warisan. From 2018 to 2019, he served as the Chief Minister of Sabah. However, in 2020, he engineered a state election in order to save his alliance from collapsing.

He lost the bet and is now a member of the opposition in Sabah’s state legislature. The elections in Sabah are being blamed for a massive outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia in 2020.

Why did Apdal participate in the conflict in Johor? The goal was not to undermine Anwar’s party and increase support for pro-Mahathir forces.

If that was not the reason, then it was perhaps an attempt to commit political suicide in peninsular politics.

Anwar’s weakness

Anwar also wields considerable political power. But he also has more flaws than ever before.

For example, he cannot persuade the DAP to reduce its overburdened Chinese presence in the Philippines. Only Mahathir can persuade the DAP to accept fewer tickets for the party’s Chinese candidates in the 2018 elections.

Anwar is unable to do so because he feels the DAP, by definition, need more clout in the coalition because it brings more public support and seats.

However, he is in a tough situation since he also requires greater Malay backing in order to make a difference in the political arena.

The PH of 2018 is gone, and without Mahathir, I can declare unequivocally that the Malays will not support the PH. That is a fact Anwar cannot deny.

Anwar is mistaken if he believes the Amanah party, a breakaway faction from the PAS, would provide him with the requisite Malay support.

The Amanah is just following the Keadilan, eating into its voting base, and it is a symbol of Anwar’s gratitude to those who helped him in his darkest hour. Amanah does not command enough votes because it is light weight and voters are not sure of its agenda, after all.

As a result, to finish my lengthy article, I would urge both Mahathir and Anwar to reconsider their political agendas and work together to build a new coalition with a new agenda.

For both Anwar and Mahathir, this is the only path ahead. If Mahathir believes that his three-party coalition (Pejuan, Muda, and Warisan) can restore him to power, he should keep dreaming since he is nothing in this new political game without Anwar.

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