UNTIL yesterday afternoon, the chase for the minimum seats — 112 — out of the 222-strong Parliament was on overdrive, with the candidate for the eighth prime ministership shifting from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as Malaysian politics swung like a pendulum on narcotics.
Dr Mahathir’s live telecast yesterday afternoon has at last brought some clarity: he will remain “interim” prime minister to steer the nation forward in a non-partisan way. We think the nation should rally behind him. If at all there was a time to leave behind politics and march behind the nonagenarian to a single drum beat, this is it.
And it should not be too difficult for all the political parties anyway. When Dr Mahathir resigned on Monday, political parties of every stripe wanted him to be the prime minister again. Once, twice and three times a prime minister, they pleaded. What they pleaded for may come true after all. All it needs is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s consent as per Article 43(2)(a). If this happens, and for the good of the country we hope it does, today may just see Dr Mahathir as the new old prime minister of Malaysia. Call it the New New Malaysia.
Besides, there isn’t an alternative candidate if political parties’ allegiance is taken into account. The closest candidate to rival Dr Mahathir is Anwar, but can he garner at least 112 members of parliament to convince the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to be the eighth prime minister? At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Anwar announced that PKR (39), DAP (42) and Parti Amanah Rakyat (11) were nominating him to be the prime minister. The three parties’ total is 92 seats, 20 short of 112 seats required to form a simple majority government.
PH can count Umno (39), Pas (18), MCA (2) or MIC (1) out as they have made it clear that they will support Dr Mahathir and that too on condition DAP isn’t in the coalition. Parti Pribumi Ber-satu(26) too wouldn’t back Anwar as they pulled out of Pakatan Harapan earlier to form a new coalition. A return to PH is unlikely. Only Gabungan Parti Sarawak (18) and Parti Warisan Sabah (nine) can make it happen for Anwar. But would they?
We are glad the political clarity for Malaysia comes without the need to resort to a snap election. Elections are always a costly affair. In the 1950s, we could have got away with RM1 million. Not so now. If numbers are needed, the 14th General Election’s RM400 million is a good basis. This does not account for the time wasted chasing votes, instead of fighting things like the Covid-19 outbreak and other important things that could have taken the nation forward. To lose four days in political squabbling and intrigues is to lose pieces of our future.
Would the new government — “interim” or otherwise — in Putrajaya last longer than the one that crumbled on Monday? Depends. Dr Mahathir seems to have had a hard time with his cabinet. Whatever people say about Dr Mahathir, he has a work ethic that others find hard to emulate. Incompetence was rumoured to be at most places he looked. This must have irked the man who at 94 was working like he was 19. This time he can cherry-pick. We hope he is allowed to.