October 7, 2022

Look who’s counting

5 min read

Since the formation of Malaysia, the Prime Minister has come from the party with the most MPs. GE14 broke this convention, and now there’s a numbers scrum.

Politics is a numbers game.

Since the formation of Malaysia, the Prime Minister has been from Umno, which had the most number of MPs. However, this convention was not followed after GE14.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became the seventh Prime Minister even though his party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, only had 13 MPs. Bersatu’s Pakatan Harapan component parties had more MPs – PKR got 47 MPs and DAP 42. (Umno still had the most MPs with 54).

“The numbers game in Malaysian politics is relevant. But there was an exception. An MP from Bersatu which only had 13 MPs could be PM, ” said Universiti Malaya sociopolitics professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi.

“But that was an exceptional case as it was darurat politik (political emergency) at that time. PH was against a common enemy (Barisan Nasional). It was the best solution. That time (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim was in jail. But now the scenario has changed.”

Anwar is now out of jail. He is the Port Dickson MP after winning the seat in a forced by-election. He is PKR president after winning it uncontested.

With political jumping, the number of MPs in some parties have changed. PKR has 50 MPs, DAP 42, Umno 37, Bersatu 26, Gabungan Parti Sarawak 18 (PBB 13, PRS two, PDP two and SUPP one), PAS 18, Amanah 11, Parti Warisan Sabah nine, MCA, MIC, PBS, PBRS, STAR, Upko and PSB have one MP each, BN direct MP has one and Independent two.

Now, Anwar’s party has the most number of MPs. In short, Anwar is ready to take over from Dr Mahathir as PM. But the big question is: Does Anwar have enough numbers (minimum 112 out of 222 MPs) to realise his prime ministership ambition?

Awang Azman thinks Anwar does have the numbers. His political math is largely based on the Pakatan Harapan promise that Mahathir is the interim president who will hand over power to Anwar. The sociopolitics professor goes through the numbers.

“Just say with PKR with minus 10 MPs (aligned to PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali), DAP is 100% with Anwar, so is Warisan, about nine to 11 of Amanah MPs supports Anwar, there is a group in Bersatu which supports Anwar, ” he said.

GPS, the coalition which rules Sarawak, according to Awang Azman, is taking a neutral stand.

“Whatever is done by Mahathir or Anwar, GPS does not want to be involved in the political agitation, ” he said.

Awang Azman added that Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg is close to Anwar and he has no problem with Dr Mahathir.

As for parties who are not in the Pakatan coalition, the sociopolitics professor said Umno has at least three camps – those who support Mahathir, those who support Anwar and those who are neutral. He said, as the public knows, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang wants Dr Mahthir to be Prime Minister for a full term.

On the speculated backdoor government, Awang Azman said the proponents would need 100% support from Umno.

“But what you see is a camp led by Sembrong MP Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein, who supports Mahathir. A camp led by Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is seen as comfortable with Anwar. And a camp led by Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan who is seen as neutral, ” he said.

“The big question is the backdoor government an opposition game or has it received blessing from Dr Mahathir.”

Currently, the backdoor proponents do not have the numbers to set up a new coalition government, he said.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia politics and governance research group head Dr Mazlan Ali believes in terms of numbers; it is 50/50 between Team Mahathir and Team Anwar. On the talk of the backdoor government to make Dr Mahathir a full-term Prime Minister, Mazlan believe it can’t succeed as the proponents do not have the numbers.

He said there are about 95 Malay MPs from Bersatu, Umno, PAS and PKR (who are aligned to Azmin) who support the idea. But even with Umno, Mazlan said that party was not a solid block.

“There are Umno leaders who are not happy with Zahid and (former Umno president Datuk Seri) Najib Razak and there are those who support Mahathir, ” he said.

But to get a simple majority, Mazlan said the backdoor government proponents need the support from Borneo MPs from GPS in Sarawak and Warisan in Sabah.

He said it was difficult to gauge who Warisan would support.

“Both sides – Team Mahathir and Team Anwar – still have a chance to get Warisan’s support. But for the local party what is important for it is to survive in Sabah.”

For GPS, Mazlan said it was also hard to gauge who it supported.

“Just like Warisan, GPS is more concerned about local politics. For them, their support depends on who can give them a better deal, ” he said.

However, the political analyst said Anwar might have an edge with Warisan and GPS as Anwar was a more inclusive leader compared to Mahathir who is seen as pro-Malays.

“Sabahans and Sarawakians are not happy with Mahathir attending the Malay Dignity Congress or the idea of a Malay unity government. They don’t see this conducive for them. This gives an advantage to Anwar, ” he said.

“Looking at Borneo as the kingmakers on the position of the PM, tawar menawar (bargaining) from both sides is happening.”

In the Pakatan coalition, Mazlan observed that Anwar had support from PKR (minus the Azmin faction) and DAP (but not 100% as a few MPS in government are comfortable with Mahathir’s leadership). As for Amanah, he said it looked like its president Mohamad Sabu was pro-Dr Mahathir.

“But I don’t see it that way. Amanah holds on the principle of consensus. The president said the party now support Mahathir as he is the PM. But it also holds to the promise that Anwar will be Mahathir’s replacement, ” he said.

The numbers game fight, according to Mazlan, is like api dalam sekam (the fire in the husk). It is unseen, but it is happening.

Both sides have to get the numbers, if not their political days are numbered.

Stay tuned for a new offer coming to you soon.