ON Sunday, January 7, 2018, Pakatan Harapan announced Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as its Prime Minister designate and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as its Deputy Prime Minister designate if the coalition wins the next general election or GE14. However, Mahathir is only going to be an interim prime minister.
Pakatan Harapan’s secretary-general, Saifuddin Abdullah, said the agreement the four parties within the coalition reached was that Dr Mahathir must give way to (de facto opposition leader) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to take over once the new government obtains a royal pardon for him.
Even if Anwar is freed on June 11, 2018, which would be after the general election, he would be barred from contesting the elections for a period of five years, which would mean until after GE15. That would make it impossible for him to become the prime minister until after June, 2023. So they need to get the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to grant Anwar a pardon as soon as Pakatan Harapan forms the new federal government.
So Dr Mahathir would be sworn in as the interim prime minister once the results are in on polling day and once it is confirmed that Pakatan Harapan has won more than 112 parliament seats. The next day they would submit an application to the Pardons Board (according to Article 42 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia) to get a pardon for Anwar. Once the pardon is granted, one of the PKR Members of Parliament will resign so that a by-election can be held. Anwar would then contest this by-election and if he wins the seat, Dr Mahathir will resign so that Anwar can be sworn in and take over as the the Eighth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Very clean. Very smooth. And very clear. Or so we are led to believe. But then, as Kevin Spacey said in The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” And Dr Mahathir’s track record has proven that he is a master of deception that would put even the devil to shame.
Someone who used to be in Dr Mahathir’s team of ‘Boffin Boys’ during the Team A/Team B days of the late 1980s once said, “With the bomoh, you do not listen to what he says but ‘listen’ to what he does.” Bomoh was the codename Dr Mahathir’s inner circle used for him and what they meant was that Dr Mahathir may say one thing but that is mere deception. What he does in the end is what counts, not what he says.
From then on we knew how to decipher Dr Mahathir’s cryptic messages. Anwar, however, did not, which was why on August 31, 1998, he failed to ‘smell’ that he merely had hours left to live while the rest of us were already preparing his 'kain kafan'.
So, Pakatan Harapan is telling us that Dr Mahathir is its interim prime minister and Wan Azizah its deputy prime minister if the coalition wins GE14. Dr Mahathir’s track record does not prove that is going to be the case. What is going to happen is it will be Wan Azizah who will be the interim deputy prime minister while Dr Mahathir will stay on as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister. And it will be Mukhriz and not Anwar who will be Malaysia’s eighth prime minister.
Let us go back 12 years to June, 2006. Why did Dr Mahathir fire his first shot at then-Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on June 24, 2006? It was because Abdullah’s son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, was a threat to Mukhriz’s political career. Both Khairy and Mukhriz were going to go head-to-head for the Umno Youth leadership and only one was going to make it. And that one was Khairy.
Dr Mahathir needed to oust Abdullah so that Khairy could be 'killed', which would give Mukhriz a clear field to win the Umno Youth leadership. On April 3, 2009, Abdullah resigned as prime minister and later that year, the Umno party elections were held. However, Khairy still won in spite of his father-in-law no longer being the prime minister. Much to Dr Mahathir’s disappointment, Mukhriz lost. In fact, he got third place with Khir Toyo in second place.
In 2013, Mukhriz decided to forget about the
Umno Youth leadership altogether and go straight for an Umno Vice-President post. Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein swept the top three slots (in that order) while Mukhriz, at fourth place, lost. That was when Dr Mahathir decided that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had to go. If Mukhriz is ever going to become prime minister, then Najib must be ousted. And that was when they also mooted the 1MDB gameplan as the catalyst to oust Najib.
So, for the last 12 years since 2006, it has always been about Mukhriz. It was about Mukhriz in 2006. It was about Mukhriz in 2009. It was about Mukhriz in 2013. It was about Mukhriz in 2015. So why should it not be about Mukhriz now? What has changed since the last 12 years? Nothing! Whatever Dr Mahathir is doing now, and that includes his latest move yesterday, is about Mukhriz.
So how would helping Anwar get a pardon, and helping Anwar contest a by-election after getting that pardon, and stepping aside so that Anwar can take over as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister, help Mukhriz become the PM? Once Anwar takes over from Dr Mahathir as prime minister, is he going to sack his own wife, Wan Azizah, and replace her with Mukhriz, and then step aside so that Mukhriz can take over as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister? Once Anwar becomes prime minister, he is going to slaughter Mukhriz and Dr Mahathir alongside him.
According to the tripartite agreement made between Dr Mahathir, Tun Hussein Onn and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in 1976, Dr Mahathir would appoint Razaleigh as Deputy Prime Minister once he takes over as Malaysia’s Fourth Prime Minister. Dr Mahathir took over as Malaysia’s Fourth Prime Minister in 1981 and he did not honour that tripartite agreement. So why should Mahathir honour the tripartite agreement he made with Anwar and Wan Azizah on Sunday to step aside and allow Anwar to take over once the Agong’s pardon is granted?
After supporting Tun Musa Hitam as his new deputy prime minister, Dr Mahathir removed him five years later in 1986. Dr Mahathir then replaced Musa with Tun Ghafar Baba and then six years later, in 1993, replaced him with Anwar — who also lasted only five years.
Dr Mahathir ‘eats’ Deputy Prime Ministers. He even ‘ate’ Tengku Razaleigh before he could become the deputy prime minister. So do people think Dr Mahathir is not going to ‘eat’ Wan Azizah as well and instead will allow her to continue as DPM while she waits for her husband to get a pardon, gets released from jail, contest the by-election, and then takes over as the new prime minister?
Look at what happened to former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin. If Muhyiddin had patiently waited, he could have taken over as PM once Najib retires, say around 2020 or so. But if Muhyiddin takes over as Prime Minister, the new Deputy Prime Minister will have to be one of the three Umno Vice-Presidents – Zahid Hamidi, Shafie Apdal or Hishammuddin Hussein – and most likely the VP with the highest votes.
That means Mukhriz will never become deputy prime minister, let alone Prime Minister. So Dr Mahathir needed Muhyiddin to not wait but to go against Najib. Then it would be a Muhyiddin-Mukhriz tag-team versus a Najib-Zahid tag-team. Only then can Mukhriz become prime minister.
So Muhyiddin sacrificed his career and lost everything to help Mukhriz. And where is Muhyiddin now? He started as Deputy Prime Minister and what has he ended up as? Muhyiddin is no longer worth anything to Dr Mahathir so why would Wan Azizah be worth more? Yes, it is not Dr Mahathir who is the interim prime minister. It is Wan Azizah who is the interim deputy prime minister. History has proven that is how Mahathir operates.
* The views reflected in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication