After the 2018 General Election, which saw the stunning defeat of the ruling Barisan Nasional after 61 years of one-party rule, the political landscape has changed. For the first time since Malaysia declared Independence in 1957, the people finally realized that the ruling government led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) is actually vulnerable.
No longer invincible, the Malay nationalist party became Opposition for the first time effective May 2018 – till the corrupt party returned to power 22 months later in March 2020. Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin withdrew support for the democratically-elected Pakatan Harapan government, leading to the first collapse of a ruling government through betrayal and treachery.
But before Muhyiddin betrayed his friends in Pakatan Harapan coalition, which comprised PKR (People’s Justice Party), Democratic Action Party (DAP), Amanah (National Trust Party) and Muhyiddin’s Bersatu (Malaysian United Indigenous Party), there was already a national cooperation formed between UMNO and PAS Islamist party on Sept 14, 2019.
Glorified as “Muafakat Nasional” under the pretext of Malay-unity, the temporary alliance between the corrupt UMNO and extremist PAS was the perfect formula to defeat Pakatan Harapan government. Stirring up racial and religion sentiments among the Malays that the Muslims and Malay Rulers have lost power, UMNO and PAS were inspired after winning a series of by-elections.
It was only then that Muhyiddin, convinced that UMNO-PAS would be unbeatable, had decided to switch sides. The traitor knew it was a matter of time before his party – smallest among the three – would be exterminated. Instead of waiting for the 15th General Election, power-crazy Muhyiddin snatched power and formed a backdoor together with UMNO and PAS.
However, Mahiaddin (Muhyiddin) also knew his fragile and loosely glued Perikatan Nasional regime would not last long as all the three Malay-based parties would be fighting for the same pool of Malay vote bank. There was only one option – swallow and kill UMNO through a series of betrayal, backstabbing and bribing to eventually take over its machinery and grassroots.
Unfortunately, Mahiaddin lost power in just 17 months after he was overthrown by an UMNO faction led by ex-PM Najib Razak and the party president Zahid Hamidi. Both Najib and Zahid withdrew their support for him in August 2021, the same way Muhyiddin had withdrawn his support for Pakatan Harapan in March 2020. What goes around comes around.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, goes a song by American singer Kelly Clarkson. Both Bersatu president Muhyiddin and PAS president Hadi Awang only managed to weaken UMNO in the November 2022 General Election. Worse, supporters of Pakatan Harapan, still remembered how their mandate was stolen, had turned up in full force to punish Bersatu, PAS and UMNO.
In the 15th General Election, Pakatan Harapan won a whopping 5.8 million votes, more than 1 million votes than nearest competitor Muhyiddin-led Perikatan Nasional, which captured only 4.7 million votes. Barisan Nasional grabbed 3.6 million votes. Even though Perikatan Nasional screams till foaming at the mouth that it has won majority of Malay votes, it was not enough to form a government.
Muhyiddin and Hadi ultimately paid the price for trying to kill UMNO. Despite winning only 30 parliamentary seats, UMNO’s worst performance miraculously turned up as the kingmaker. Combined with Pakatan Harapan’s 82 seats, it was like a godsend numbers as the 112 seats are essentially the magic number required to form a simple-majority government in the 222-seat Parliament.
Like it or not, kingmaker UMNO has the ability to make or break a new star in the new political landscape despite losing in both 2018 and 2022 elections. More importantly, it has an indirect influence over Sarawak, whose current 23 seats follow obediently whichever direction UMNO swings to, which in turn also saw another Borneo state Sabah pledges support for Pakatan Harapan.
Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar Ibrahim was crowned the 10th Prime Minister even though he possessed only 82 MPs because UMNO leadership despises and distrusts Perikatan Nasional more than Pakatan Harapan. Despite adopting the most racist and extremist campaign, Muhyiddin and Hadi still failed to win sufficient seats to form a government without UMNO.
It was UMNO’s support that had enabled not only Muhyiddin to become the 8th Prime Minister in March 2020, but also allowed PAS Islamist party to taste power for the first time since 1972 (the year it joined UMNO-led federal government). And now UMNO is the same missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle that denies both Bersatu and PAS the chance to taste power again.
Even if UMNO had chosen to join forces once again with Bersatu and PAS, they would have only 104 parliamentary seats, still short of eight. This means unless the three biggest Malay parties joined forces “before” the general election and fight Pakatan Harapan directly, which will never happen due to disagreements in seat allocations, they need non-Malay votes or to be precise – Chinese voters.
Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan has emerged as the single biggest bloc, winning 82 of the total 222 parliamentary seats despite grabbing only 10% of Malay votes because up to 90% of Chinese votes were already in its pocket from the beginning. In the 2018 General Election, Pakatan managed to form the government without UMNO, thanks to 95% of Chinese votes and 25%-30% Malay votes.
In 2018, when Anwar was in prison, Mahathir Mohamad led Pakatan Harapan to victory because Bersatu, which was then part of the coalition, managed to swing up to 30% of Malay votes. In 2022, Anwar led the same coalition to form a unity government even without the 30% Malay votes because he partnered with UMNO, which managed to retain 30% of Malay votes.
In short, you must have either UMNO or Chinese votes to form the government. In 1999, Mahathir was saved by Chinese voters, who were spooked by the prospect of a repeat of May 13, 1969 racial riots. For the first time, UMNO had to rely on its main coalition partners, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), to retain the two-thirds majority in the Parliament.
The 1999 national election saw UMNO gained less than half (50%) of Malay votes – its traditional vote bank. It was Mahathir’s last election. He dramatically dropped a political bombshell halfway into his closing speech during the 2002 UMNO general assembly – announcing that he was immediately resigning all his party and government positions, ending 21 years in office.
After about a month of sulking and bitching after losing the Nov 2022 General Election, sore loser Hadi Awang finally realizes that he cannot become the Special Envoy to the Middle East with ministerial rank again without UMNO. Because there’s no way the ethnic Chinese would support Perikatan Nasional, the only option left is to lure UMNO to work with PAS again.
It was only in October 2022 when Hadi mocked UMNO as dirty and corrupted. And it was in November when the PAS president openly announced that the Islamist party would rather become the opposition than cooperate with UMNO again. On New Year Eve, hilariously, the same Hadi has gone soft, offering to “save UMNO” once again from being manipulated by governing partner Pakatan Harapan.
But isn’t it great news for PAS if indeed UMNO is committing political suicide by working with not only PKR Malay liberals, but also the so-called DAP Chinese chauvinist? If the remaining 30% UMNO Malay supporters jump ship in the coming state elections out of disgust over existing unity government, Bersatu and PAS would benefit the most – commanding 90% Malay votes.
So, why was Hadi trying so hard to convince UMNO to rejoin Perikatan Nasional? The answer is obvious – desperados Bersatu and PAS need UMNO more than UMNO needs them. UMNO is already part of Anwar-led unity government and has even gotten the Deputy Prime Minister post. Mahiaddin and Hadi, meanwhile, could be charged for corruption if they don’t snatch power soon.
The window of opportunity is the upcoming UMNO party election, which could be held before May. Mahiaddin, suspected of stealing billions during his illegitimate 17-month rule, is expected to splash hundreds of millions to bribe majority of the 191 UMNO division chiefs to help Hishammuddin Hussein wins UMNO presidency, after which UMNO could switch sides.
Failing to topple current UMNO president Zahid Hamidi means Pakatan Harapan would be able to administer the country till the next general election. In fact, power-hungry Muhyiddin and Hadi have about a year to launch whatever political coup before the reign of King Sultan Abdullah expires in January 2024, ending his 5-year term as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Sultan Ibrahim of Johor would be the next King after he “respectfully declined the offer” in 2016. Under the Malaysian constitutional monarchy, the post of Head of State or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is rotated among the nine hereditary Malay Rulers. It would be hard for the Sultan Johor to decline again as all other eight rulers have become the King next year.
As the new King, Sultan Ibrahim will be disastrous to both Muhyiddin and Hadi. Initially refused to concede defeat with dubious claims that he had 115 SD (statutory declaration) to support him as prime minister, Muhyiddin reluctantly backed off after the Sultan Johor congratulated Anwar Ibrahim on his appointment as the 10th Prime Minister, effectively sealed Muhyiddin’s door.
Interestingly, the Johor Sultan had never sent any message of congratulation to then-PM Mahiaddin, despite the fact that he was the 13th Chief Minister of Johor for almost 10 years (August 1986 – May 1995) – suggesting that even the monarch didn’t recognize the backdoor prime minister (even though Mahiaddin tried to suck up with birthday wishes to Sultan Ibrahim for obvious reason).
More importantly, the Sultanate of Johor – considered the de-facto leader of the nine Malay Rulers in the country – is arguable the most liberal monarch. He had stated previously that “Bangsa Johor“ does not condone extremism of any kind, particularly from one faith to another. Controversial religious preacher like Zamihan Mat Zin was mocked as “an empty tin with no brains” by Sultan Ibrahim.
The Sultan of Johor had even questioned the relevance of JAKIM (Islamic Development Department Malaysia) and the need to allocate RM1 billion to the agency that did nothing but encouraged extremism. Both Muhyiddin and Hadi are looking for trouble if they continue to promote racist hatred, religious extremist, xenophobia, and all forms of bigotry under King Sultan Ibrahim.
In 2021, the sultan warned power-crazy politicians that he will not entertain any political games and risk destabilizing the Johor state and the government. Based on the good relationship between PM Anwar and Sultan Ibrahim, it would be extremely difficult for Perikatan Nasional to topple the current unity government the same way they did in 2020.
Source : Finance Twitter