Analysts: PM Anwar will need guile and charm to keep cloak-and-dagger moves at bay
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will need to tap all his reputed political shrewdness and charm to hold together the political parties making up his national unity government, said analysts.
While saying Anwar’s planned vote of confidence would dispel doubt about his support among lawmakers, the analysts insisted that this was no guarantee Pakatan Harapan’s newfound allies would stay the course for the full term.
Political analysts Professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said Anwar would need to find ways to accommodate Barisan Nasional on his side of the aisle and do so without compromising himself and the PH coalition.
“For example, while his tough stance towards corruption is well chronicled, there still lies the potential danger of compromising sublime principles in exchange for parliamentary support as the realities of governing a coalition-based administration and the trappings of power set in.
“In Anwar’s rhetoric, he himself had often caricatured his Umno rivals as robbers, bandits, et cetera. Will he continue to do so now?” Ahmad Fauzi said.
As for PH, he said it would likely need to consider Umno’s Malay nationalist ideology when prioritising reforms to attempt, saying those of common interest should be the baby steps in their unlikely cooperation.
PH should also avoid more controversial aims from its previous time in power, such as recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) or ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said Anwar would need to actively keep BN, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah lawmakers content as their coalitions were not locked to his coalition government.
“There is frankly nothing systematic that could prevent such political moves. Anwar could announce his Cabinet list soonest, composed of the leaders of his coalition parties’ leaders, in order to appease them,” he said when contacted.
While the coalitions backing PH chairman Anwar to be the prime minister did so en bloc, the support among their elected representatives was not universal.
Some, such as Umno’s Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, initially said he would rather be expelled than to cooperate with PH while former prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob also suggested he would have preferred to work with Perikatan Nasional.
PH won 82 seats in the 15th general election while second-placed PN took 73, but both were short of the 112 needed for a simple majority victory on their own.
The pockets of discontent within BN, in particular, triggered rumours of a conspiracy to oust the PH government when some of the coalition’s leaders were seen gathering at a golf resort in Petaling Jaya, eliciting fears of another “Sheraton Move”.
Senior Fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan said one way to prevent such rumours was to formalise the cooperation between PH, BN, GPS, and GRS in a legally-binding agreement.
“It needs to be in black and white, on paper; if not, any scenario where leaders are mentioned meeting in various places will be construed as them trying to create a new political bloc,” Amzi said when contacted.
“We could follow Canada’s example when they gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a few years to manage the minority government to ensure the country is run smoothly. So, a similar agreement here could work and until that time they feel like pulling out they can do so.”
Research fellow from the Institute of Malaysian & International Studies (IKMAS) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Muhamad Azwan Abd Rahman, said Anwar must waste no time in bringing his coalition partners into his new administration.
“The prime minister also urgently needs to form and announce an inclusive Cabinet before the vote of confidence scheduled on December 19 and to appoint a deputy prime minister who represents the importance of the bloc and regionality.
“It must be announced quickly to strengthen the coalition consensus and create a well-bonded and coherence among core leaders and followers in this coalition government.”
Decisive action in these three areas will “silence” further rumours of conspiracies and allow the Anwar administration to concentrate on governing effectively, he said.
With the support of the other coalitions aside from PN, Anwar has a majority of 140 seats out of the 222 in Parliament.
Following days of negotiations after GE15, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah announced Anwar as the next prime minister at the head of a national unity government.
Anwar had left the door open for PN to also join this national unity government but PN chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin declined and said his coalition preferred to serve as the Opposition in order to be a check-and-balance to the new administration.
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