KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 – Did Barisan Nasional offer Pakatan Harapan lawmakers to jump ship after the 14th general election in order to hold on to power?
That is the question that many are asking now after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad made that allegation in an article recently.
The prime minister added that such offers for party hopping resulted in the results of GE14 coming out late as well as the delay in Pakatan Harapan being declared the new government.
The last time such political maneuverings had taken place successfully was in 2009 in Perak and 1990 in Sabah.
Mahathir: Umno-PAS wanted Malay-Muslim government with PH MPs
In an interview with the Mekong Review, a magazine that covers Southeast Asian topics, Dr Mahathir said leaders from Umno and PAS tried to woo some Malay-Muslim elected representatives from PH to form a Malay-Muslim majority government.
“It had to do with racial and religious politics. There was a fear that our coalition was not going to respect the position of Islam as much as the previous government had.
“So there was an idea that if the Muslims from Umno, PAS and PH all came together they could have the majority and form a Malay-Muslim government, but they were advised against that,” he was quoted as saying by the publication in an interview published in its October issue.
Political moves not visible to the people, says Mahathir
He added that such political maneuvering caused a delay in the official announcements of the GE14 results.
“We knew we had won by 8.30pm, but we didn’t get the official announcement until about 2am, because during that short period of time there was a lot of maneuvering, which was not visible to the people. We knew, and later we learnt even more about it.”
He called such actions as an act of desperation by Barisan Nasional which had been shocked at the outcome of GE14 to stay in power.
“If these Malay-Muslims PH elected representatives could be persuaded to cross over to the side of Umno and PAS, these people would have the majority to form the government. This was what caused the delay in announcing our election victory.
“So the transition was smooth from the outside, but it was not very smooth from the inside. We had lots of difficulties, including attempts from within to reject our success, but in the end better sense prevailed,” he told Mekong Review.
Rumors of Najib making calls to pull a coup were flying around that night for certain.
Election Commission blamed for GE14 results delay
This assertion by Mahathir whilst contradicting everything he had said back on the night of May 9, and the days following, blaming the Election Commission for not carrying out its duty and holding back the results, could still be true because back then he may not full information of the attempts.
PKR Deputy President Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali however has no recollection of any such political shenanigans on the night of GE14.
He told The Star that he was unaware that PH parties had encountered “difficulties from within” after the results of GE14 were becoming apparent that PH would be taking over the government on May 9.
Azmin told the media to get more details from Mahathir instead.
Mahathir having flashback to Sabah 1994?
Some observers have suggested that Mahathir is just having a flashback to tactics he had employed in Sabah when he was prime minister in the early 1990s.
This was based on the events of 1994, when Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), which had pulled out from BN in 1990, retained power by winning the state elections, gaining 25 seats against BN’s 23 seats.
However, political manouverings by BN saw the PBS government last only about two weeks, as some of its state assemblymen were poached by BN.
Same tactic used to help Najib become PM in 2009
This is something that was repeated when Najib was deputy prime minister in early 2009. At the time, three Perak state reps – 2 from PKR and 1 from DAP – decided to leave their parties and declared themselves as BN-friendly independents.
Najib was credited with the move that eventually saw Perak, which had been won by the then Pakatan Rakyat coalition in the March 8, 2008 general election, returning to BN, 11 months later.
Shortly after, then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stepped down as Umno president and Najib took over the helm of the government.
Perhaps Najib did try to attempt such coup on May 9, which could be the reason why he remained in the country and only tried to fled few days after, only to be stopped by protesting rakyat and the authorities.