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Finally, Amanah for Anwar

  • Despite the fact Mahathir has all the powers in his hands, PKR and DAP with their combined strength of 92 seats still have the biggest say. Even the most indecisive party should know which side to stand on. Photo courtesy: Bernama

By James Chai

Amanah has been hesitating for some time now whether to support or not to support Anwar Ibrahim.

After the election victory, Amanah's direction has been rather inconclusive.

Since the very first day of putting up his new cabinet, PM Mahathir had wanted to divide Pakatan Harapan into two different camps, and to make them see PKR, the biggest party in the coalition, as their biggest rival.

Mahathir's bait was top government posts that would put both DAP and Amanah on his side, offering them the highly priced finance and defense portfolios respectively.

These top posts would allow Mahathir to have a free hand in many matters. Indeed, by offering some privileges and powers, he could easily buy loyalty.

The good news is: DAP quickly saw Mahathir's intention, and was doing everything it could to stop the PM from getting what he had wanted.

After a finance minister was picked, Mahathir subsequently made provisions for a new economic affairs portfolio which would take away some of the finance minister's duties, and powers. He said this was to palliate the uneasiness among the Malay voters, but actually he was doing this to consolidate the power of Malays in the cabinet.

DAP was well aware that PPBM had been constantly strengthening itself in recent months, and would invariably make DAP the party's rival.

PPBM's acceptance of former Umno members has not only contravened PH's reform spirit, but has also significantly weakened the public's support for the ruling coalition.

DAP is maintaining a professional distance from Mahathir. While they appear to be in a team in the cabinet, they are actually two separate camps in politics.

When Mahathir dropped the two bombs on DAP -- one each for Jawi and Lynas -- the latter's skepticism was substantiated, that Mahathir never treated it as an ally that would go through the thick and thin together.

It was not difficult for DAP to realize the hidden agenda behind Mahathir's plan, but for Amanah, it was not that easy.

Amanah was fully submissive to Mahathir from the very beginning, as if a spell had been cast on the party. Out of 11 elected reps in the parliament, the party managed to get 10 posts, big or small, making it apparently the biggest beneficiary in the coalition.

After getting the defense portfolio, Mat Sabu seemed to have changed into a different person. The erstwhile reform spirit vanished into thin air, and he has become more serious today than he was humorous in the olden days.

Some members of PH components felt Amanah had betrayed them. They accused Amanah ministers of getting too close to Mahathir whom they once saw as big bandit, loyally supporting every decision their big boss was making and every now and then slamming their PH allies for not being grateful.

The temptation of power has rendered their reform spirit valueless, and all their past efforts are now completely brushed aside.

Another good news is: Amanah has finally seen the truth. On a rare occurrence the party's president Mohamad Sabu freely talked about politics, arguing that Pakatan could not afford to strengthen only one single party but should instead focus on fortifying the coalition as a whole.

Mat Sabu said smaller parties like PPBM and Amanah needed the support of stronger parties like PKR and DAP to win the next election, implying that PPBM had the ill motive of splitting up PH.

The party's vice president cum agriculture and agro-based industry minister Salahuddin Ayub subsequently reiterated the importance of honoring the coalition's 2018 succession agreement. Amanah grassroots generally feel that it is necessary for Mahathir to hand over the baton, and the only person to take over is Anwar Ibrahim.

The remarks by both Mat Sabu and Salahuddin speak volumes of the party's support for Anwar, rendering Mahathir's plot a complete failure now.

Amanah has for some time been undecided over whether to side Mahathir or Anwar. The party might be indecisive, but it is definitely no traitor.

In the end the party will still go for Anwar, because majority of the party's leaders, especially the more senior ones like Mat Sabu himself, once suffered heavily alongside Anwar and Lim Guan Eng during Mahathir's previous premiership, including unjustified jail sentences. This alone should be powerful enough to negate the short-term benefits handed out by the old man.

Amanah is also aware that without the undivided support of PKR and DAP, there is no way for the party to win even a single seat, less so to get a few places in the cabinet.

The newly established party, with its tiny membership, inadequate funds and lack of capable people, managed to clinch a handful of parliamentary seats in GE14 thanks to the support of their much more powerful allies.

Strategically speaking, despite the fact Mahathir has all the powers in his hands, PKR and DAP with their combined strength of 92 seats still have the biggest say. Even the most indecisive party should know which side to stand on!

(James Chai is a Think Tank Chief Researcher and Legal Advisor.)

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