In a move that echoes his failed 2008 bid, perennial PM wannabe Anwar Ibrahim has made a fresh grab for Putrajaya. He's announced he has majority support of the Dewan Rakyat, causing our newsfeeds to be bombarded with related news and the stock market to tumble. Are Anwar's claims true this time? Time will tell.

Keeping his cool, current (and possibly outgoing?) PM Muhyiddin Yassin has meanwhile announced more financial aid. And in other news, yet another Umno leader has been infected with Covid-19 while campaigning in Sabah while several candidates have been quarantined; and, our infection numbers have hit the triple-digit realm once again with the vast majority happening in, you guessed it, Sabah.

Front door, backdoor... window?

Putrajaya has fallen?

Ancient Rome had its Year of the Four Emperors in AD69. Imperial Germany had its Year of the Three Kaisers in 1888. Will 2020 be the Year of the Three PMs for Malaysia? 


Well, if PKR el presidente Anwar Ibrahim has his way, it will. The perennial PM bridesmaid has proclaimed he now has the support of a “solid and convincing” majority of MPs in the Dewan Rakyat and that the Perikatan Nasional government has fallen.

Being the kind bloke he is, he’s even offered current PM Muhyiddin a role in the new government if the latter plays ball. Moo’s government, formed in a similar fashion back in March, may be hanging by a thread but let us tell you Anwar ain’t convincing many people. But more on that later.

So who makes up his “solid” backing? Anwar has refused to divulge any names or the actual numbers, saying the Agong will be the first to know. He did claim in a presser yesterday it was close to a two-thirds majority. Anwar has, however, insisted that his on-again, off-again frenemy PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s new party Pejuang wasn’t among those supporting him. For a full transcript of his press conference, you can go here

Istana Negara confirmed that Anwar’d been granted an audience with the King on Sept 21, but the meet was postponed as His Majesty had to be warded at the National Heart Institute. 

 

Of course, there were immediate reactions to what Anwar said, not least of which was by Muhyiddin. MooMoo was already scheduled to give a televised address to the nation to announce extra financial measures to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Without naming names, Moo took the opportunity during his address to advise people to reject politicians who cause instability and negatively impact the country’s economic recovery. In a later, more Anwar-focussed statement, PM8 proclaimed he’s still the legit PM and challenged Brother Anwar to prove his claim of majority parliamentary support.

 

One-time Anwar main squeeze Azmin Ali, who was deputy president of PKR till he left Anwar at the altar jumped ship, allowing Muhyiddin to ascend the “throne” in Putrajaya, spewed the most vitriol, calling Saudara ‘Nuar an incorrigible liar and political psychopath. Several BN leaders, meanwhile, tried to shrug it off, saying nothing had fallen.

 

In Sabah, where everyone is still eyeing Saturday’s state election prize, state BN and Bersatu leaders Bung Moktar Radin and Hajiji Mohd Noor have written this off as Anwar’s desperate ploy to garner support for Warisan Plus in the polls. 

It wasn’t just politicians and Twitterjaya reacting to the news. The Meridien Move negatively impacted both stocks and the ringgit. In fact, our ringgit fell to a two-week low. Not great concerning the markets are already struggling amidst the pandemic.

The potential political upheaval, in just seven months since the last one, and the possibility of a general election are sure to spook financial investors concerned these will derail Malaysia’s ongoing efforts to ride the Covid storm and restore the economy.
 

So the big question is this – what happens now after what is being called the Meridien Move (Anwar’s presser was held at the Le Meridien Hotel in KL)? That would be all up to the King. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah has three options: 

  • To laugh Anwar out of the palace if the latter fails to cough up the sufficient number of lawmakers’ names he claims to have in his corner;
     
  • If Anwar is telling the truth, then, in a repeat of what took place after Muhyiddin’s Sheraton Move, allow Anwar to form a new government.

    It sucks that we have precedent in this matter as this is not how a government should be formed in a democracy (although we’ve seen this playing out at state level many times). Be that as it may, the PN coup in February saw the Agong taking a firm hand and calling upon each MP to verify where he/she stood. His highness could well do that again; or
     
  • Say power to the people(!) and dissolve Parliament, triggering GE15.

Funny, familiar forgotten feelings...

Are you getting a familiar feeling of déjà vu? Well, we don’t blame you.
 
You see, in 2008, when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was PM, Anwar had also claimed to have the support of the majority of parliamentarians, thanks to behind-the-scenes manoeuvring which he said had convinced some Barisan Nasional MPs to katak it over to his side. 
 
Well, that clearly never happened, of course, since Anwar still hasn’t (presumably) had the chance to see what it feels like to settle his butt on the seat of the master toilet in Seri Perdana. 

Anwar pulled the same stunt just earlier this year, claiming in February he had the majority to form the government. Last we checked, that plan too amounted to a fat load of fuck all. 

So it’s not really surprising ex-PM Maddey is one of the many who believe Anwar is once again crying wolf. Mads has said we will have to “wait and see if this is another episode of making claims that cannot be substantiated”. 
 
So just who is supporting Anwar? Obviously, PKR – or what’s left of it. Amanah has announced its support, too. 
 
DAP, meanwhile, has said all its MPs are behind Anwar “if he has the numbers”. That little caveat is a bit of an enigma. Is this DAP’s way of hedging their bets? After all, they did previously declare support for Warisan president Shafie Apdal. Or were their 42 MPs secretly in negotiations all along?
 
Sabah MPs aligned with Pakatan Harapan have been keeping silent, while Shafie himself has said he’s more focused on the state elections
 
Perikatan partners have refuted Anwar’s claims. Separately, Gabungan Parti Sarawak has said it still supports Muhyiddin, as has PAS
 
While PN’ s joint statement also included BN, the coalition’s chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi came out on his own to say many BN MPs have voiced support for Anwar. He, apparently, he won’t be doing anything to stop them as he “respects their decision”. He also took pains to remind us all that BN is not officially a member party of Perikatan, only that its MPs supported Moo’s regime.

So Zahid’s statement is dodgy as hell. In every situation in the past, all BN members have had to toe the party line – in fact, that solidarity and ability to close ranks are one of BN’s greatest strengths. If the party line is to support Moo, why then would he not stop BN MPs from supporting Anwar?
 
Is this Zahid’s way of saying that BN/Umno is now part of Anwar’s coalition? A kind of Pakatan Plus Plus? In short, has Zahid quietly done a deal with Anwar? Jeng Jeng Jeng!
 
Not two years ago, Anwar had said there was no cooperation between Pakatan and Umno, though he left the door open for “future cooperation”. Well, the future could already be here. 
 
Pakatan chief secretary Saifuddin Nasution Ismail says Zahid’s statement was confirmation that the son of Ibrahim has the required numbers to form the government.
 
Whether anybody believes all this is, honestly, besides the point. Why? Because the only thing that will reveal the truth is time. In a few days, we’ll see if Anwar’s lifelong dream will come true or if it’s just another sweet, sweet fantasy baby.

But here’s the thing – and this is probably the most important bit in today’s BTL. What all of this shows us, more than anything else, is that this country really, badly needs an anti-party hopping system
 
The country went through an upheaval in March 2018, with many lamenting the “backdoor government” led by Muhyiddin that took over. Anwar was among those who did, but he is now attempting to do the exact same thing, adding yet another stain to our democratic system. If he becomes PM, what would that make his gomen? A window gomen? A chimney gomen? 

Anwar himself insists his administration would not be a backdoor government, though he never explained why? The logic is simple – if this a government is formed by political defections and not democratic elections, then it sure as hell is a backdoor administration.
 
And, as we’ve pointed out, he’s tried this shit before, so he obviously isn’t above doing the backdoor thing (and no, that’s not a double entendre!). It can’t be justified as taking back the mandate given by the people to Pakatan in 2018, because the people had then voted in a completely different government, with many different MPs and most importantly, a government that didn’t have Anwar Ibrahim in it, especially in a prime ministerial capacity. 

In simple terms, Anwar doesn’t have a mandate. And no amount of long jumping or high jumping MPs will change that. 

But despite what he says or projects, principle isn’t something that’s ever seemed to have bothered Anwar. It could be argued that his fateful, failed 2008 coup attempt set in place the modern template of toppling Malaysian governments at state and national level. 

Anwar has consistently also shown the greatest contempt for the people’s mandate, triggering by-elections (each of which cost millions) by getting elected MPs to step down just so he or his chosen ones can contest. Some recent examples of this particular stunt include the 2018 Port Dickson elections and the 2014 Kajang Move

And all of this is why an anti-party hopping system is crucial. We know a law compelling an elected rep to remain with a party she/he no longer believes in is unethical. But if MPs defect or resign from their seats without good cause, those seats should revert to the party the MPs belonged to during elections. And the MPs should be slapped with a hefty fine and be banned from politics for life. 

Anyway, back to the present. The timing of all this shit couldn’t possibly be worse. The Sabah polls hasn’t even concluded yet (though it will likely be by the time this issue is resolved), and we are in the midst of a pandemic which has taken a huge toll on our economy.
 
Do we really want to change government right now? If Muhyiddin calls for elections to stave off Anwar’s claims, it would be a terribly costly thing thanks to Covid-19. It would be more than double that of elections held before the pandemic. 
 
And since the Election Commission estimates that those under 21 will only be included in the electoral roll by July next year, that means those aged 18-20 hoping to cast their ballots for the first time in GE15 will not be doing so.  
 
Does Anwar have majority support? Will he be thrusting himself into the premiership via the backdoor? Will snap elections be called? Right now, all we can do is adopt Maddey’s wait-and-see policy.

Another helping hand

If he was rattled by Anwar’s announcement, our glorious leader Muhyiddin didn’t show it when he addressed the nation yesterday.
 
Apart from a snarky remark at the end of his speech, the premier instead announced a second round of financial aids, dubbed Kita Prihatin, to further mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This RM10 billion boost to the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional was for the B40 and M40 households, single people and companies that are yet to recover. This makes the total amount of moolah allocated by the gomen for both the Prihatin and Penjana economic stimulus packages RM305 billion.
 
You can read the full text of Moo’s address here, but we’ve broken it down for you somewhat: 

  • B40 households will get RM1,000, while M40 households will receive RM600
     
  • Singles in the B40 category will get RM500, while those in the M40 category will be given RM300
     
  • Companies earning 30 percent or less than what they earned last year will have wage subsidies of RM600 per employee for up to 200 workers extended another three months
     
  • The payments will be split into two tranches with the first payment at the end of October and the second payment in January 2021
     
  • The government will reopen applications for the Prihatin special grant for micro traders, with payouts expected to be made on Nov 25

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin said up to 98 percent of applications for loan moratorium extensions and targeted bank assistance have been approved. As of Sept 11, he said, financial institutions have held discussions with over 1.4 million borrowers, 380,000 of whom said they needed assistance. 

The government had in April announced a moratorium on repayments of loans to ease the burden on businesses and households. The moratorium is due to expire at the end of this month, and borrowers still affected financially by the Covid-19 pandemic have been urged to contact their respective financial institutions to get extensions or other types of assistance.

Storm brewing in Sabah

The Sabah elections is fast turning into an epic shitstorm.

Umno Youth deputy chief Shahril Hamdan has been infected with Covid-19 after campaigning in the Sabah election, the second to come down with the virus after party supreme council member Mohd Razlan Rafii. And, a Warisan and two Umno candidates are now quarantined after coming into contact with Razlan on the campaign trail. 
 
Meanwhile, the country recorded three deaths and 147 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, of which two fatalities and 134 infections occurred in Sabah. The total number of infections nationwide now stands at 10,505 with 133 deaths. The number of active cases stands at 770. 
 
What’s worse is that another new cluster – the eighth – has been detected in Sabah. The Udin currently has three known infections, with 128 people tested, of whom 54 are still awaiting their results. 
 
But things are still set to continue on Saturday, with the Election Commission telling BTL there are no new Covid-related SOPs for the elections. All current SOPs stand, with the exception of places declared “Red Zones”, where only one or two people are allowed to enter homes for campaigning purposes.
 
The SOP for Covid-19 patients (basically, they ain’t allowed to vote) also stands, with the EC declining to comment on criticisms over the move. Lawyers and election watchdog Bersih have hit out at the government’s decision to bar Covid-19 patients from voting, saying it’s against their constitutional rights.
 
They say the government should make arrangements to facilitate the voting process for Covid-19 patients, suggesting that hospitals can be designated voting stations and medical officers made temporary election agents so that this could be done. They were joined by Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, herself a former Bersih chairwoman, who said the EC’s counterparts in Indonesia had gone the extra mile by delivering ballot boxes to hospitals for patients to vote. 
 
Yes, Covid-19 patients shouldn’t be allowed OUT to vote, but the ACT of voting is their right. No two ways about it. That the government will not allow them to do so is gross discrimination against their democratic rights and the call for the EC to find some way of allowing Covid-19 patients to cast their ballots is spot on.
 

After all, where there’s a will, there’s always a way. The question though is whether there’s a will at all. 

“This is Anwar's mirage. It is nothing. It is merely a dream."

- Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Anwar Ibrahim's coup attempt in 2008 -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose remains are now lying in repose at the Supreme Court, will be the first woman in history to lie in state at the Capitol Building on Friday. 
     
  • A Kentucky grand jury has found that police use of force which led to the death of a black woman in March was justified. Two of the three white police officers who fired into the apartment of Breonna Taylor will face no charges, though a third will be charged with wanton endangerment of her neighbours. The decision has sparked outrage in the US. 
     
  • A Hong Kong court has rejected pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong’s challenge against his disqualification as a candidate in the city’s district elections last year on procedural grounds. 
     
  • Swiss voters will decide on a Brexit-like referendum on Sunday as the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the biggest in Parliament, echoes some pro-Brexit arguments used in Britain concerning the risk of immigrants.
     
  • Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon in 1980, told the parole board, which denied him parole for the 11th time last month, that he was seeking glory when he assassinated The Beatles frontman and deserved the death penalty for the “despicable” act. 

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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