KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 — The Year of the Rat 2020 is not only notable for the COVID-19 pandemic but also political dramas that led to a change of the federal government and some state administrations in Malaysia with many interesting turn of events.
Political turmoil started early in the year with rumours rife concerning pressure within the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition for power transition from the then Prime Minister, nonagenarian Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to PKR president and Port Dickson Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
As they failed to resolve the issue, the kerfuffle led to several top-level meetings involving political leaders amid talk of possible realignment in the country’s political landscape, resulting in the famous ‘Sheraton Move’ on Feb 23, which was a gathering of certain PH factions and opposition parties at the Sheraton Hotel in Petaling Jaya, Selangor that led to the collapse of the PH government.
PH comprised Bersatu, PKR, DAP and Amanah with allies being Sabah-based parties Warisan and UPKO.
Following the ‘Sheraton Move’, Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the next day that the party was quitting the PH coalition, which was quickly followed by news of Dr Mahathir’s unexpected resignation as prime minister and Bersatu chairman the same day.
The seismic shift in politics did not stop there as 11 PKR members of parliament, including several Cabinet ministers, called it quits from PKR to become independent elected representatives, which some quarters branded as part of the ‘Sheraton Move’.
The whole nation, while in the midst of facing COVID-19, was astounded when Dr Mahathir resigned as the prime minister which left Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah to appoint a new premier after one-to-one interviews with all MPs and heads of parties at the Istana Negara before consulting the Malay rulers on the matter.
On the historic day of Feb 29, Malaysians got all the answers they needed as Al-Sultan Abdullah consented to the appointment of Bersatu president Muhyiddin, who is also Pagoh MP, as the eighth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Muhyiddin then formed a new coalition government consisting of Bersatu, Barisan Nasional (UMNO, MCA, MIC), PAS, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR), Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS). which became known as Perikatan Nasional (PN).
The political saga didn’t stop there as Dr Mahathir, who is also Langkawi MP, formed a new party known as Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) consisting of five ex-Bersatu leaders, just before the Slim state by-election in Perak that was held on Aug 29, but failed miserably, losing by a big margin to Barisan Nasional (BN) in a three-cornered fight.
Albeit being labelled as Dr Mahathir’s blue-eyed boy in Bersatu, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, however, declined to join Pejuang but instead formed a new youth-based party known as Muda to focus on the youth agenda.
Later, Muhyiddin’s eight-month-old administration managed to fend off a leadership challenge from Opposition Leader and PKR president Anwar who claimed that he had enough support in Parliament to form a new government and become the country’s next prime minister, but it did not materialise.
The change in administration at the national level also led to PH losing the states of Johor, Kedah, Melaka and Perak.
In Johor, Benut assemblyman, Datuk Hasni Mohammad, 61, who is the Johor BN chairman and state UMNO chief, was sworn in as the 18th Menteri Besar on Feb 28 following the formation of the Gabungan Baharu coalition government there comprising UMNO-led BN, PAS and Bersatu.
In Melaka, Lendu assemblyman and Melaka UMNO secretary, Datuk Sulaiman Md Ali, 54, from BN, was appointed as the 12th Chief Minister of the state on March 9, replacing Adly Zahari from Amanah under the PH administration who was appointed CM on May 11, 2018.
The momentum did not stop there as on March 13, Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu made history after being sworn in as Menteri Besar of Perak for the second time in 22 months, having taken his first oath of office on May 12, 2018, leading the state government under the PH administration then.
Ahmad Faizal took the oath once again and to lead the state government under the new coalition PN.
However, a shocking turn of events in December saw the deputy president of Bersatu lose majority support among assemblymen of the Perak state assembly, which led to his resignation from his post on Dec 4 and was replaced by Kota Tampan assemblyman and Perak Umno chairman Datuk Saarani Mohamad.
In Kedah, yet another chapter opened as Jeneri assemblyman Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, 46, was sworn in as the 14th Menteri Besar of the state on May 17 after the Kedah PAS deputy commissioner received majority support of the assemblymen.
Earlier, on the same day, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Tun Dr Mahathir, who had headed the PH government in Kedah, announced his resignation as Menteri Besar effective immediately after losing majority support in the state assembly. He later joined Pejuang.
As time went by, the nation also witnessed a drama in Borneo, labelled as the ‘Sabah coup’ in order to change the state government led by Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal after former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman claimed that he had a better majority than Mohd Shafie.
However, the Governor of Sabah Tun Juhar Mahiruddin decided to dissolve the State Legislative Assembly and called a state election which was won by the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition comprising PN, BN as well as other state-based parties such as Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and STAR.
Sabah Bersatu chief and Sulaman assemblyman Datuk Hajiji Noor was appointed as the new chief minister on Sept 29 and had the unenviable task of forming a new state Cabinet lineup to secure the people’s trust as the state election on Sept 26 was among the causes of the third wave of COVID-19 in the country.
Another Malaysian state in Borneo, Sarawak, is also facing crunch time to hold its polls by June next year, or the state assembly will be automatically dissolved at the end of its five-year term, causing speculation whether it will be held at the same time as the 15th general election (GE15).
On this matter, shortly after he averted a showdown by winning the Dewan Rakyat’s support for his administration’s Budget 2021 on Nov 26, Muhyiddin said Malaysia will hold GE15 when the pandemic is over.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit Malaysia really hard which forced political parties to halt their annual general meetings and gatherings, hence online meetings came into the picture as what was done by Bersatu recently.
Despite all these political dramas in 2020, Malaysia is still at peace, and the people live harmoniously while respecting each other’s religions, cultures, and hopes for a better year in 2021 with further events yet to unfold.