June 19, 2024

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Anwar Ibrahim’s immediate dilemma; The Malay Dilemma


Letter to editor, December 1 2022

Anwar Ibrahim may have won his long-fought battle to be Prime Minister of Malaysia but his most immediate battle is far from victorious. His old foe, Tun Mahathir could not do anything to prevent Anwar from becoming Prime Minister but his old book titled “The Malay Dilemma” just might give Anwar some real headaches.

For a Prime Minister to have the solid backing of the people, one cannot discount the support of the Malays. Pakatan Harapan only managed to get an estimated 11% of the Malay votes. That simply means he is rejected by the majority of the Malays to lead the nation. With only about 38% support, he’s also rejected by 62% of the total voters.

He was lucky because the powers that be extended him an olive branch, garnering politicians to agree to a Unity Government that led Anwar to be Prime Minister. But those voters who did not choose him or Harapan will remember that their voices were sidelined.

The Malays will respect the Ruler’s decision, but whether they will sit idle letting Anwar lead the country is far from certain. From recent history, we saw how the Malays gathered, throng in numbers putting aside their political differences to protest against Harapan’s 22 months in administration.

With PAS and Bersatu’s increased support among the Malays, Anwar’s time as Prime Minister will be a rollercoaster ride for sure.

Anwar makes a hand gesture at the press outside Istana Negara after his audience with the Kind

The 54% Malay votes that went to Perikatan Nasional also showed that more than half the Malays reject PH and BN. And yet, PH and BN were given the mantle to lead the nation.

Anwar’s first test will be the formation of the cabinet. The DAP will not want to see the court clusters from BN given a seat in the cabinet, what more a position like Deputy Prime Minister, Defence Minister, or Finance Minister.

As it stands, UMNO leaders have warned that if Zahid Hamidi is not given a Deputy Prime Minister position, they may pull back the support for Anwar. Anwar’s delay tactic in the cabinet formation is clearly a sign that he fears backlash from either party, though DAP may let Anwar do his thing just to keep being in the governing coalition.

Aside from the court clusters, giving important portfolios to DAP MPs will incur the wrath of the Malays. So expect Anwar to sideline DAP by giving them less important ministries. Though I reckon, DAP may accept this arrangement as they must have learnt some lessons from their 22 months in Putrajaya.

The next challenge will be ensuring that the Malays are really taken care of in Anwar’s budget. The budget MUST be very Malay-centric, probably even at the expense of the non-Malays. Anwar’s “anak cina anak saya, anak india anak saya” rhetorics may not be given priority in the budget for if he were to give more to the non-Malays, he will lose more Malay support.

Anwar’s future cabinet will also have to make sure that they don’t upset the Malays even more, which also means the non-Malays will have to back down and accept less than what they want in everything Anwar’s administration does.

With UMNO’s internal struggle, and the shift to Perikatan Nasional, unless Anwar gives them a lifeline with many important cabinet portfolios, UMNO will cease to exist by becoming weaker and weaker, leaving the Malays with only one strong choice to represent their voice in the future; Perikatan Nasional.

Mujahidin Zulkiffli is the Indera Mahkota Perikatan Nasional Secretary and an avid NMT reader