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Anwar Ibrahim and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi infamous phone call

Hello, Is It Me You’re Looking For?

Under normal circumstances, there isn’t anything wrong with Anwar Ibrahim and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, two old friends, getting on the phone for a lil’ catch up sesh. 

Nothing wrong, that is, unless you’re the leader of the country’s m̶o̶s̶t̶ ̶g̶u̶l̶l̶i̶b̶l̶e̶ biggest opposition coalition, and the “old friend” you’re calling is the head of your supposed political rival party; a big part of the reason your coalition lost its hold on the government a year ago; and the country is gearing up for what is already promising to be a messy general election.

In that case, it would be mighty dodgy indeed.

And so it is that a leaked piece of audio – supposedly, allegedly of a phoner between Anwar “Cikgu (Teacher)” Ibrahim and Ahmad Zahid “Only Tactical, OK” Hamidi hatching a cunning plan (issat you, Baldrick?) after the Umno AGM – has become the latest scandal to hit the country.

Now, two things must be made clear at the start (mainly so we don’t get sued lah):

1) the authenticity of the audio has yet to be verified (FYI, the police are on it and no, the Annuar Musa method of verification doesn’t count), and;

2) both party leaders have denied making the call.

As we covered in Thursday’s BTL newsletter, whether fake or real, the timing of the leak is highly convenient, as it was no doubt intended to be. 

Zahid, facing ouster attempts from within his own party, held an allegedly skewed general assembly two weeks ago in which he got his wish to divorce PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu come snap polls. It was the same meeting in which Umno’s glorious leader loudly proclaimed the party would work with neither Bersatu, Anwar, nor DAP in the coming elections. 

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There’s a famous adage that goes, “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late”. And so it is with Talipon-gate. 

(Incidentally, if authentic, then who bugged the phones? And if fake, then poor Anwar, he’s allegedly had a look-alike, and now a sound-alike?)

The real truth is, sadly for the two former (or is it current?) pre-Reformasi Umno besties, the damage from this clip could have already been done. This has put Zahid’s slipping hold on his Umno presidency at bigger risk, with calls for internal party polls growing by the day.

To Zahid and/or Anwar opposers as well as believers of the audio’s authenticity, it would seem the pieces of the puzzle are falling in place and the bigger p̶l̶a̶n̶ picture is starting to form. The phone call certainly lends credence to Zahid’s AGM statement he’ll be open to working with other partners in forming the new gomen should Umno win GE15 (remember, he said he won’t work with Anwar et al for GE15)!

And what of our forever-PM-in-waiting? Was Anwar truly the hidden hand behind the Umno-Bersatu split? The allegations certainly give more weight to his claims of having had informal talks of GE alliance with Umno (which ol’ man Z had vehemently denied, by the way). 

Will voters finally get fed up with his constant manoeuvrings? Would this put his forever dream of the prime ministership forever out of his reach? And what of his precious PKR and Pakatan Harapan/opposition coalition, already splitting at the seams? Can it survive this latest Anwar-induced headache? 

Well, so far it certainly looks like it will. PKR, DAP and Amanah have all named Abang Nuar as PM candidate in the next GE in spite of all this. Are they suckers for punishment?

Perhaps they were in on this whole shebang (if the phone call is true, of course)? After all, they also said Haparan’s open to negotiating and cooperating with any like-minded group committed to the reform agenda.

Or are they merely putting on a brave front and trying to slap a bandage on a gaping cannon ball-sized wound? In which case, how long will it be before they admit Anwar’s the millstone around Pakatan Harapan’s neck?

Time will tell.

Picture of Illustration by Fahmi Reza

Illustration by Fahmi Reza

Fahmi Reza is one of Malaysia's most iconic political graphic artists and activists. Using his wizardry with the pen and his wicked sense of humour, he calls out government and political incompetence and deceit through graphics and posters.

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