In the past week, we've had a PM, a PM-in-waiting, an interim PM and now a new PM. But while everybody expected the new PM to be the either the same guy as the old PM or even the PM-in-waiting (who may now never be PM), nobody thought it would actually be another guy who was once DPM.

So how exactly did Muhyiddin Yassin, the man whom few thought was eying the top job, become Malaysia’s 8th Prime Minister? And who got screwed in the process? Some may say it's Mahathir, others may say it's Anwar. But what most people seem to feel is that it's us, the people, who got shafted.

And while it looks like it's been settled, for better or worse, there may still be more drama to come, what with Pakatan Harapan and its allies looking to push forward a no-confidence vote in Parliament. Which means the ex-PM is still hoping to become the next PM.

So, who got screwed here?

You got Moo-ned

What a week it’s been with all the twists, turns and loop-de-loops, eh? Still, the rollercoaster does appear to have come to a (momentary) halt at least now that Muhyiddin Yassin’s been appointed the eighth Malaysian Prime Minister.

No one could have predicted it when the crisis first unfolded a week ago, but sometime on Friday, it began to look like the Bersatu president had done enough to secure the support of not just his own party, but Umno and PAS too. Now, if you’re wondering how Moo (are we still allowed to call him Moo?) suddenly came from behind like Seabiscuit in a race that he never looked like even being in, it really has a lot to do with one man: Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Yep, the same one now calling Moo a traitor.

To recap; on Monday last week, Maddey – apparently upset at his party and certain rogues (read: Azmin Ali, Zuraida Kamaruddin etc.) wanting to forge an alliance with old foes (read: Umno and PAS) to wrest power from Pakatan Harapan – resigned from his position as PM and Bersatu chairman. Nevertheless, a couple of days after being appointed interim premier by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah as well as having his proposal for a non-partisan government largely rejected, the old fox was back as Bersatu chair. And this time, the nonagenarian who’d been five steps ahead of everybody up to that point made one critical blunder: he said he’d concede if his party preferred the “more lenient” option of Moo, rather than him, for the PM’s post.

At the end of the week, Maddey said a special Parliamentary sitting (originally set for today actually) would be called to determine which individual had the most support in the Dewan Rakyat. However, following a rejection by the Speaker of the House and the Agong’s announcement that he would meet the parties separately, the likes of Umno and PAS began throwing their support behind Moo.

(This was also about when Tommy Thomas tendered his resignation as Attorney-General, BTW.)

Then just as folks were thinking Muhyiddin had received the old man’s blessings, a new twist emerged with Pakatan announcing that it was backing Maddey – and not Anwar Ibrahim, which it’d earlier endorsed – for the premiership! 

Pakatan, now realigned with Mahathir, appeared confident on Saturday morning that they had the numbers (at least 112 of 222 Members of Parliament) to convince the Agong to make the old man’s interim position permanent. However, in the evening of that same day, soon after meetings with leaders of the various political parties, the King announced that a decision had been made: Muhyiddin was to be named PM.

Even so, Dr M and Pakatan kept working on securing support. Unfortunately for the pact, despite PKR defector Baru Bian apparently returning from the other side to throw his support behind Maddey and the publication of a list of names supporting the then interim PM, there was to be no extra time goal. And on Sunday morning, Muhyiddin, the man who never looked like he could be king, assumed the nation’s top job.

P.S. For a more comprehensive timeline of the crisis, go here. If however, you prefer longer yarns that also paint Mahathir as a saint, check this out.

Making sense of it all

So yeah, the man who was sacked from his job as Deputy Prime Minister back when Cersei Lannister Najib Razak was removing perceived threats from the small council Cabinet is now the big man in Putrajaya. But how could he have won the position? And what does it mean for Malaysian politics, Bersatu and Muhyiddin’s new allies PAS and Umno, as well as the rakyat?

Well, first things first, there’s been a lot of talk that the Agong should not have appointed Moo as PM if Pakatan had more support. Thing is, the Federal Constitution is pretty clear. The King doesn’t have to have real proof (from statutory declarations or whatnot) that the individual picked to be PM has the support of the majority of the Dewan. He just needs to be convinced the person is “likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House”. And on Saturday evening, after his meeting with everyone concerned, that person was “likely” Muhyiddin.

Maddey and Pakatan may have subsequently secured enough SDs following the King’s announcement, but at least one constitutional law expert says it was never gonna matter. If Pakatan really now feels the new PM doesn’t have the support of the majority, the Dewan is the best place to take that grievance … but more on that later. 

So anyway, yes, the appointment is legit. 

No doubt, hashtags such as #NotMyPM and #KerajaanPintuBelakang have been trending, courtesy of quite a number of frustrated and dissatisfied Malaysians. However, it must be pointed out that, at least as far as current laws are concerned, the new PM and government are not illegal. The deals and maneuverers that resulted in Pakatan losing power may appear have been dodgy, underhanded and maybe even motivated by greed. But the laws we have do not disallow parties and individual MPs from pakat-ing and/or jumping ship. 

Now, the question of enacting laws to stop politicians hip-hopping from one party to the next (we’re looking at you, especially, Jeffrey Kitingan!) and making a mockery of elections is something that’s been mooted before. However, while a law may have prevented all the crap Malaysia has endured this past week from happening, certain experts have also warned that anti-hopping laws can be detrimental to democracy. For example, an anti-hopping law may mean that members of a party with a vile dictator for a boss would be forced to live with him and his policies, even though the right thing to do would be to quit. Still, there’s never going to be a perfect system and the question is, which is the one with the fewest weaknesses?

The problem is that while all of this is without precedent, these dodgy and unethical events HAVE now set a precedent. What’s to stop the losing party in any election from here on out trying to engineer a backdoor way into government? Where does it stop? How does a country run without some kind of political stability?

On #NotMyPM, meanwhile, we get it – people are unhappy. However, what should be noted is that unlike say the United States, where a president is voted into office by the people, or the Israeli party-list sytem, most Commonwealth nations follow the Westminster system of government: they – we – vote for political parties and have no say on who becomes PM. 

Anyway, what is really messed up about Muhyiddin being the head of this new ruling coalition though, is this: his party, Bersatu, was created to counter and be an alternative to Umno, but is now snuggling up in bed with the very party it was supposed to replace.

But while Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and co. are now all smiles about having beaten Mahathir, you gotta wonder what the power dynamics in the new government will be like considering both parties have about the same number of seats – 30+ each – in the House. Also, how all this will impact the on-going trials involving the likes of Zahid, Jib, Rosmah Mansor, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor? Umno sec-gen Annuar Musa says the government shouldn’t interfere in the court cases. However, he did also say that politically motivated cases should be stopped … 

What we do know, though, is that the political crisis and Moo’s ensuing appointment has resulted in a bunch of protests that have seen the cops break out their pre-May 9, 2018 playbook. Already a man has been arrested for allegedly insulting the Agong on Facebook, while an activist is being investigated for sedition. Is this the shape of things to come? We’re not sure. But what we can tell you is that one of the first things the new PM will be doing today is meeting his armed forces and police chiefs.

Quo vadis

According to Parliament’s original timetable, the first meeting of the 3rd Session Of 14th Parliament begins next week. (March 9 is the Royal Address and Opening Ceremony, while the meeting proper starts March 10.) And that is when a motion of no confidence in a PM, which Pakatan hopes to raise, can be moved in the House. 

Thing is what we’re hearing is that there is a chance of a postponement.

Now, there’re no solid details as to why the meeting may be delayed. However, even before news of an impending postponement came out, Mahathir did point out that “a lot of things can happen” before Parliament does sit. Meaning, that while Pakatan may want to push ahead with a no-confidence, there’s no telling if the MPs who supported Dr M for PM on Saturday will vote that way in the Dewan.

People are fickle, after all, and politicians are no different. (Maszlee Malik – who seems to be as terrible a politician as he was a minister – for example, flip-flopped so many times in the span of a couple of hours that he might as well have been at a gymnastics meet!).

Besides, it’s not like the statutory declarations – which Pakatan used to secure support for Dr M – are enforceable anyway. SDs work like this: if you lie about a fact, that’s perjury. However, it’s perfectly okay if you just had a change of heart about something, like you know, who you want as PM.

Anyways, supposing a no-confidence motion is in fact moved in the Dewan, and Muhyiddin loses. Well then, according to the Constitution, the PM shall tender the resignation of the Cabinet. The magic number for any individual to triumph is 112. So if a motion is moved, that’s what the guys concerned will be looking to score. 

But of course, whether or not we get to that point is anyone’s guess. Especially considering that mere hours after making nice with his old Pakatan Harapan colleagues, Maddey, our now wannabe ninth PM, in a closed-door gathering with Bersatu members aligned to him, accused Anwar of being “crazy” for the PM post. True, Maddey laid most of the blame for last week’s political crisis on Moo, but whacking Anwar might have thrown yet another spanner in the works, no?

BTW, voting aside, here’s something else to consider: where the hell is Mahathir gonna sit in the Dewan?!?!

Bersatu is part of the new Federal government, yeah. But Mahathir, while still a member of the party, is leading the new Federal Opposition a.k.a. Pakatan Harapan and friends. So does he sit with the government backbenchers? With the Opposition? Hmmm … maybe they’re actually postponing Parliament to work out seating arrangements.

“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention.”

- Ramsay Bolton -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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  • One happy side effect of Covid-19 is that there’s been a huge drop in pollution in China, due to the widespread shutdowns over the outbreak.
     
  • Manchester City edged Aston Villa 2-1 to seal a third consecutive Carabao Cup triumph. City’s goals came courtesy of Sergio Aguero and Rodri, while Villa’s sole strike was scored by Mbwana Samatta.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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