Malaysia's ultimate influencer

IN the vortex of constitutional turbulence and cabinet collapses that ousted two prime ministers since 2020's backdoor coup, a lone figure of regal constant stands reserved, but ready to intervene if called into action.

In case you don't know who this immoveable rock is in this golden age of social media, let us reintroduce Malaysia's ultimate influencer — the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, savvy arbiter to unravel the hung Parliament.

By virtue of his paramountcy, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, also the sultan of Pahang, had immersed himself as the moral centre of this five-day morass, appraising the legitimacy of two contenders for the premiership.

He took considerable tact in measuring and tabulating their perceived or documented numbers, the first-past-the-post backing of 112 members of parliament.

FIRST, the king evaluated the survivor of long-term incarceration and feral realpolitik, but sustained a progressive advocacy of pure pluralism, inclusion and good governance; and,

SECOND, he measured the establishment mandarin, who inexplicably shed career moderation to hook up with the cult of fanatical and misogynistic firebrands to capitalise on the rancour of Malay conservatism, grievances, entitlements and religious fervour.

Yes, parliamentary empowerment numbers are crucial, but is that all there is to it?

The king may have been compelled to exercise a sensitive level of discretionary powers to explore and deduce the two men's potential before making his final choice.

It wasn't always this complex, toiling on a dispute of this magnitude. In fact, previous post-election scenarios were uncontroversial, worthy only of a photo op.

For decades since the precedent of monarchical blessing for would-be PMs seeking the king's seal of approval, His Majesty's role had been bit part, ceremonially elaborate but procedurally indispensable.

All the PMs who bowed before the king in all those years sauntered into the royal chamber illuminated by an aura of invincibility, the halo of a supermajority or since 2008, a clear majority.

But that was the era when political rivalry was mostly binary, at least in the peninsula. Now, a three-way electoral split congeals the hung Parliament where muscular constituency gains are palpable but super dominance is nostalgic.

Now, the king has star billing, and his wisdom influences the nation's short-term future.

In this quagmire, the king expressed desire for a "strong, formidable and inclusive government". Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) checked the boxes on "strong" and "formidable" but only (Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim), not Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, could readily deploy a multiracial, multicultural and inclusionary set-up.

According to one astute pollster, PH received a commanding 94 per cent Chinese vote, an 83 per cent Indian vote, and only 11 per cent Malay vote in the peninsula, the metric now used to determine government control.

Conversely, PN's social media barnstorming, on TikTok especially, was a 54 per cent bump on the Malay base, the kind Umno used to routinely accrue for votes and seats but with meagre traction from non-Malays.

With Umno's share of Malay votes dropping to only 33 per cent, it's evident that Pakatan Harapan cleared the hurdle to meet the king's wish.

Istana Negara's intelligence sliced through Muhyiddin's claims of 115 statutory declarations, an intimate insight the king applied to issue his royal decree: BN is to choose either PH or PN to break the duck.

Umno leaders capitulated, fearing that the inclination towards PH would cause their horde to hyperventilate. It was the devil's alternative in Umno's corner after PN hijacked its traditional bastion.

Besides, Anwar had unexpectedly made an offer that Umno can't refuse: one of the three deputy prime minister's slots, which is a whole lot more appetising than anything PN could offer.

To be sure, the king's task was simplified on Tuesday after Muhyiddin declined the monarch's plea that PN join the unity government to resolve the entanglement.

Out of options, Muhyiddin left the palace sulking, addressed a media conference, saying that he stood by his 115-seat claim, circumventing the fact that BN had already disavowed its allegiance to PH.

Which was amusing, because on the day of Anwar's swearing-in, PN leaders recanted their distaste for a unity government and suggested they could ingratiate themselves with His Majesty's will.

Is it already too late? We'll know when Anwar names his maiden cabinet next week.

The hung Parliament is essentially the Malaysian equivalent of the Gordian knot, a very complex interlacing rope imagined by King Gordius of Phrygia in Greek legend: whoever can untangle it will rule Asia.

No one could, under general agreement in that ancient epoch, shrug off all intellectual challenges until confronted by Alexander the Great, who executed perhaps the first lateral thinking of his time.

The king could reason that he re-enacted Alexander's cunning conscious will by breaking down the mindless intricacies dictating his decree on the selection of prime minister.

Al-Sultan Abdullah, like Alexander, had neither the pretension nor the time to entertain a feckless mystification.

The king simply cut through the bunkum and rescued the nation from prolonged madness.

Most Popular
Related Article
Says Stories