If ever there was a moment in time that merited the dissolution of the 14th Malaysian Parliament and calling for the 15th General Elections, this would probably be the best of times to do exactly just that.
But lest we need reminding, we are also in the midst of a pandemic and this is probably, if not definitely, the worst of times to even think of calling for a by-election, never mind a general election.
The Sabah State Elections
The recently concluded Sabah state elections bears testimony to that very assertion. Brought about when the then Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal discovered that he may have not only lost the plot but also possibly his 28-month old state government as well.
He then went on to advise and get consent from the TYT Yang Di Pertua Negeri of Sabah, for the dissolution of the state assembly to pave the way for fresh new state elections in search of a fresh mandate from the Sabah electorate.
Held on the 26th September 2020, the state elections have now come to pass and the new mandate that he so desired did not materialised. Although his party Warisan won the most seats for any one single party that took part in the state elections, the operative word for the state elections was ‘Coalition’.
Unfortunately, the coalition he cobbled together, Warisan Plus, did not pass muster and thus, had to concede to that other coalition Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), which is essentially another coalition comprising of PN Plus and BN Plus.
Despite the one Plus too many going around during the state elections, it had to be pointed out, as many did when elections were first announced, there were already indications that a new round of Covid-19 infections was making the rounds and concerns of the wisdom of holding such an election were voiced.
With the campaigning conducted old-school style (is there any other way?), with political rallies, ceramahs and meet-the-people sessions galore, the setting for a Covid-19 explosion seemed conducive enough and the impending outcome, inevitable.
Today, Sabah is unfortunately the focus of the fight to contain the pandemic within the country. The figures coming from the daily briefings from the health authorities ever since the conclusion of the state elections did not show signs of abating, so much so the whole state is now under renewed lockdown.
In addition, the rise in the number of new cases throughout the country can be attributed to clusters with a common denominator : the Sabah state elections.
Making it more heartbreaking, reports of new Covid-19 fatalities since the conclusion of the state elections had mainly being from the state, hence adding to the paranoia already attributed to the recently concluded state elections as a contributing, if not decisive, factor to the return of virus.
Enter The Politicians
The Sabah state elections also saw many political figures and party workers from other parts of the country descending to The Land Beneath The Wind. These political figures came from all parts of the political spectrum with the aim of providing moral, logistical and financial (?) support to their local counterparts during the campaigning period.
They came, they helped and they then went back to whence they came from. As it turned out, they not only helped their respective political colleagues during the state elections but had also unwittingly (debatable this!) helped to spread the virus to other parts of the country.
Briefings from the health officials indicated that the spikes currently being witnessed in the country were of the strain, mutated somewhat but isolated in Sabah and hence, there can be no argument about the origins of the new clusters discovered.
Anger at the politicians, amongst others, were not because these outbreaks came about because they were in Sabah for the state elections.
Rather, the anger exploded when it became public knowledge that politicians and party workers acted with impunity upon returning from Sabah, purposely or otherwise, and ignored the very SOPs that was put into place to safeguard the people of the country.
It is as if there is one set of rules for the ordinary folks and another for the politicians and their party workers.
A Game of Musical Chairs?
Just as when Malaysians were getting to grips understanding what was happening with the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysians were then greeted with news that Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the incumbent leader of the Opposition in the Malaysian parliament wants a job change.
An audience with the Yang Di Pertuan Agong (YDPA), the King no less, was sought to present ‘irrefutable’ proof of support for his attempt to finally achieve his so-called destiny, the Prime Ministership of Malaysia.
How that turns out, we will have to wait and see as it develops over the course of the next few days.
There can be no denying that the incumbent Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has always been on a knife’s edge, with regards to his hold on the Premiership. With a majority that is razor thin at best, his ascent to the position of Prime Minister was not without problems.
Disagreements within his party Bersatu involving the then Chairman of the party, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was public knowledge, events surrounding the infamous ‘Sheraton Move’, the leaking of audio tapes with regards to the handing out of positions on the board of state-owned enterprises (GLCs), all seem to have now played a part in what now appears as a game of musical chairs, with the seat of the Prime Minister the ultimate prize.
If it can be called that and at what cost?
Being a minority in a (very) simple majority government, the Prime Minister has been punching above his weight. For a man of his political experience, he of all people would no doubt acknowledge it and would also acknowledge that it would be a matter of time before events will start to unfold.
For the straw that broke the camel’s back, many would point to events that unfolded in the countdown to the Sabah state elections.
It was the stated intention that PN Plus would join forces together with BN Plus in a loose coalition of sorts, GRS, when going into the elections. That being the case, conventional wisdom would have the post of Chief Minister decided AFTER the elections, with the party with the most number of seats taking coveted position.
Hence, when it was announced BEFORE the state elections by non other than the Prime Minister himself, that Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, an ex UMNO leader and now a political leader from the Prime Minister’s party would be the designated Chief Minister should the coalition win, it came no less than as a BIG surprise and a shock to the other parties within that loose coalition of parties. So much of a shock that the ship almost did not even leave the pier.
With the conclusion of the state general elections, the appointment of the Chief Minister seemed farcical enough with the decision ultimately left to the TYT Yang Di Pertua Negeri Sabah to decide between Datuk Seri Hajiji and Datuk Seri Bung Mokhtar, the latter from UMNO, the party who won more seats than the party of the Prime Minister.
History will have recorded that Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor was ultimately sworn in the new Chief Minister but it will not have recorded the tensions and disagreements arising from that initial announcement from the Prime Minister himself.
Punching above its weight, as they say.
Prelude to General Elections
It is fair to say that politics in Malaysia is now at a stage where the trust deficit between the electorate and the body politics is at an all time high. Maybe its high time for IDEALISM, NATIONALISM and MODERATION to make a comeback?
It cannot be denied that the fall-out from the 14th General Elections still reverberates to this day. The political stability afforded the country when Barisan Nasional was in power is now a thing of the past. But looking wider afield, political stability is not the only casualty.
Race relations have also been seriously affected, what with issues like the status of the Malay Royal households, ICERD, the status of Islam as the official religion of the Federation, the status of Bahasa Melayu as the national language Bahasa Malaysia, the management and asset stripping of Lembaga Tabung Haji, attempts to re-write the history books vis-a-vis communism as well as the social contract, and many more are still fresh in the memories of Malaysians especially that of the Malays and Bumiputeras.
It is ironic that the country have had only six Prime Ministers in the sixty-one years since Independence in 1957, but in the period since the conclusion of the 14th General Elections, Malaysia have now had two Prime Ministers.
Malaysians know not yet the outcome of Datuk Seri Anwar’s audience with the Yang Di Pertuan Agong. The question on every Malaysian lips is whether we are to expect a third Prime Minister within the next few weeks? Or days, for that matter.
Or is the 15th General Elections is going to come a calling and knock on that proverbial front door?
It can be expected that Tan Sri Muhyiddin would not relinquish his hold on the Premiership just because Dato’ Seri Anwar claims to have the numbers. Its just not done, old chap. Its not cricket, as the Brits would say. Well, the elder ones that is.
Another pertinent issue to be addressed : the Covid-19 pandemic. All available resources will have to be focussed on the fight to rein in the virus and flatten the curve again.
At this juncture, the issues of economic survival is more important to the man on the streets than who gets to be Prime Minister. Everybody knows that, though the message may have somehow not reached the elected parliamentarians.
Truly, we will have to wait and and see, for these are all issues for utmost importance to the nation, and not to be taken lightly lest history judges the current generation of Malaysians harshly in the years to come for the current state of affairs.
But one thing is for sure, this is definitely NOT what is meant by the New Norm and this is definitely NOT normal times.
Or is it?