The dubious legitimacy of Muhyiddin’s surprise backdoor government has caused most of the world to take time to respond to the sudden arrival of PM8. Foreign governments have remained largely silent so far, for example, when it comes to the standard congratulations normally accorded the new leader of a major country.
Malaysia is a significant member of the Commonwealth yet it is being noted that few of its fellow members, including Britain, have formally even acknowledged the government of PM8.
By contrast, an embarrassing question was this morning raised on the floor of the UK House of Commons by a Northern Ireland MP, Jim Shannon, asking about the threat to freedom of religion in Malaysia now that PAS and its extremist leadership had become part of the ruling coalition?
“Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as Malaysia’s 8th prime minister on Sunday morning leading to political unrest. Rhetoric against non-Muslims has escalated following the change in prime minister and radical Muslim groups are being emboldened to propose that the new government pursue an agenda that will significantly limit the right of freedom of religion or belief in Malaysia. Will the leader of the House make a statement on this urgent and very pressing mater?” [Jim Shannon MP 5/3/20 Commons TV clip]
The Leader of the House, Jacob Rees Mogg, then proceeded to make a statement expressing concern that the right of all people to freedom of religion and beliefs must be respected in all countries.
So far, this appears to have been the only official public response by Britain to the arrival of the new government which has yet to test its numbers in the Malaysian parliament, itself shockingly postponed from sitting for two months in what is widely believed to be a desperate attempt to build a sufficient majority.
The reticence of the international community will not have been helped by the confirmation by Anwar Ibrahim last night that shortly before the coup he was himself approached by UMNO to lead the backdoor power grab. He says he declined at which point the offer seems to have been passed to Muhyiddin.
This means, as everyone knows, that the country is now being led by a leader who has ditched his own party coalition, under whose winning banner he fought the last election, to head up a rag bag of minority opposition parties, that are mainly led by individuals facing multiple criminal charges in court for looting the country under their previous term of government.
The rest of this back door coalition is propped up by 18 radical PAS MPs, who have already indicated under their notoriously intolerant leader, Hadi Awang, that they want to introduce Hudud law and keep non-Muslims out of all decision making positions in Malaysia.
International disapproval is a major concern for this trading nation that has depended on its friendly reputation and strong alliances. The stock market has already plummeted in response to the uncertainty and upheaval.
Yesterday, the Guardian newspaper in the UK pointed out that fellow democracies have been dismayed that Malaysia’s most egalitarian and diverse government ever, which triumphed over a corrupt regime at GE14, appears to have been displaced by what it described as a ‘royal coup’ (given that so far PM8’s legitimacy has yet to be tested in Parliament) led by a handful of politicians, who have proven willing to betray their colleagues and voters and to work with charged criminals and religious intolerants.
Muhyiddin’s biggest problem of all however, as the stock market continues to plummet and coronavirus takes a grip on the population, is the credibility gap caused by his failure to prove his numbers and his decision to postpone parliament.
Former prime minister Mahathir, who has publicly shown the list of 113 names he says give him the majority instead, claims that PM8 misled the Agong as to the level of his support and is now dodging parliament.
Not only does Muhyiddin appear short of numbers, but those who have agreed to sign up to the backdoor coalition appear deeply disunited with clashing immediate agendas. The fact that after several days the new PM has yet to announce any appointments or his cabinet is a telling reflection of the rumours of discord that have begun to emerge.
The discord was predictable. Muhyiddin’s early statement that he was aiming for a ‘clean government’ ruled out half the leading lights of the largest party in his coalition, UMNO. Its leaders Zahid, Najib, Musa Aman and Treasurer Tengku Adnan are all in the midst of mind-boggling corruption trials that are all proceeding through the courts, as is Najib’s wife Rosmah. Yesterday, Najib smugly announced he expected a more congenial form of treatment from the courts going forward.
Meanwhile, the PM’s key allies PAS are disliked by most in Malaysia for their rank intolerance of anyone outside their own ranks and for their constant hypocrisies. The leader of PAS Hadi has endorsed ‘lying’ as acceptable to Allah as long as it assists his own political party.
Muhyiddin’s fellow PH traitor, PKR’s Azmin Ali, will also be expecting a key role in government, yet voices from the other two parties have started to point out that both men lead few personal followers in the coalition and should not expect to drive it.
Clearly, the two had originally promised more MPs than either have actually brought to the table, and the resulting resentment amongst the larger parties who risked their credibility in this venture seems to have started to show.
PM8 is a man in remission from a virulent disease. He doesn’t need this sort of stress, but for now there seems no way out it, given the mess he chose to step into – having appeared to have given the matter far too little advance thought.