Having angled his appointment as DPM a little over a month ago in one of the increasingly desperate attempts by Mahiaddin to buy support (in this case from UMNO) Ismail Sabri is now seeking to outdo the backdoor prime minister with the ultimate behind the scenes power grab.
His name has been assiduously floated about as a leadership candidate on the basis of his essentially meaningless new title and a job barely occupied five weeks. Before that he was one of three Vice Presidents who are three rungs down in UMNO, favoured for the promotion as the one prepared to be most fawning to the usurper from Bersatu.
That Sabri is after the job there is no doubt although he was barely heard of outside UMNO before July 7th. As Mahiaddin’s tenure entered its death throws at the start of August with the cancellation of a session of Parliament called for by the Rulers after a reproach from the King, it was learnt that Sabri had slunk over in the night on 5th August for a three hour session at the Pavilion residence of none other than Najib Razak.
On good evidence his purpose was to secure Najib’s backing for him to succeed Mahiaddin as prime minister and to promote his cause with the Agong (who is after all Najib’s home state Sultan and a long term ally). What do we imagine he was offering in return?
Interestingly, it appears that Najib rebuffed Sabri and his backers (who include Azmin, Zuraida and their team of ‘Reformasi leaders’). Possibly, he has decided he can trust others better.
So it was that yesterday Ismail Sabri was on the plane this time to Johor. If anyone wants to know where power secretly lies in Malaysia just watch for whom Ismail Sabri is sucking up too. After all, it was the exact same Sultan (the businessman brother in law of the present Agong) whom Mahiaddin was visiting a couple of days before he too sparked the original Sheraton Coup to unseat an elected government.
It was another long meeting by all reports. We can be sure what Ismail was begging for, namely promotion over his own party heads to be the Agong’s choice as the man most likely to achieve a majority in Parliament.
He alone would be able to bring the tearful toppled Bersatu frog-hoppers over to an UMNO dominated government will have been his argument. He is Mahiaddin’s new best friend and Mahiaddin has done the Sultan’s bidding for decades. Forget the fact that UMNO was roundly turfed out of office by a disgusted public in 2018, this would be the best outcome for those who matter he could explain.
It is to be noted however that Mahiaddin himself did the Johor trip earlier in the week. That last ditch attempt to pull the royal levers didn’t work – the one thing that makes royals relevant in a democratic system is they look to the longer term.
Moreover, the jumped up Bersatu cheerleader unsurprisingly does not appeal to his own UMNO superiors either, if the latest intervention by the spin merchant ‘RPK’ is to be read correctly. According to his angry mouthpiece Malaysia Today (these days speaking for the Azmin faction it would appear), the Deputy President of UMNO “Tok Mat wants PM To Just Resign And Hand Over To Anwar“. Tok Mat had himself refused Mahiaddin’s recent offer of the Deputy PM post later seized upon by this junior upstart.
The accusation by RPK is reflective and also points to the correct path outlined by the constitution which the Agong ought to take to avoid censure.
Today’s Update – And in the course of Sunday it has emerged that this man who was previously best known for attending a feast of Turtle Eggs (he later claimed he had no idea that consuming turtle eggs is rightly banned) next took his market stall to none other than is former boss then rival Zahid Hamidi.
We all know what he has offered Zahid today as his bargaining chip for being supported as PM. Mahiaddin side-kick Redzuan Yusof has just confirmed it. Zahid wants the process of the law to be interfered with so that some 87 charges of corruption can be dropped against him.
In return he will accept to be the Deputy Prime Minister of the country and allow this offerer of such bribes and willing perverter of justice, the Turtle Egg Man, to hold the top decision making position in the land.
And in his last fishing expedition of the weekend it emerged that he had also attempted to bang on the door of Dr Mahathir whom he had worked to topple in the first place.
There is, as the Agong and all the rulers know a clear constitutional duty incumbent on the King when the issue of the appointment of the Prime Minister arises, which is to choose the political leader who has established the most likelihood of being able to command a majority – the best sign of popular consent.
As was apparent in February Anwar Ibrahim is the leading contender in terms of the largest number of direct supporters within Parliament and therefore should be given the first opportunity to attempt to form a government. The convention is clear and simple and as it was Anwar and his coalition which won the last election his selection is plainly what the population intended. The King needs to be seen to do the right thing and represent the will of the people.
Analysts may look into their tea leaves and play virtual chess about which parties and individual MPs may or may not fall behind PH, but it is not their opinions that count. The rule book rightly prescribes that the man with the greater following ought to be allowed the first opportunity to form a government.
This is not was happened in February 2020 and look what happened. Malaysia ended up with the consequences of government by a rivalling, squabbling bunch of bought up MPs interested only their own rewards and with a zero agenda for the people.
So, people are welcome to their opinions as to whom the likes of Ismail Sabri might appeal (though yet more bribes and handouts) where Anwar perhaps cannot, but this should not form the basis of an appointment of a nobody politician in place of a strong coalition with stated principles, a clear leadership and a winning agenda at the last election.
The King must be seen to do the right thing and not play politics or soothsaying. If Anwar fails there will then be further steps that can be taken.