24 February 2020, will probably go down in history as the most dramatic and confusing day in Malaysia. What began as a fairly normal Monday quickly turned into the biggest clusterfuck of betrayals, defections, and plots since Game Of Thrones ended.
Here’s a summary of betrayals past, and a list of possible betrayals to come:
1. Azmin Ali betrays PKR
On Sunday evening, PKR’s Deputy President Azmin Ali met with 130 MPs from Bersatu, UMNO, PAS, Warisan, and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) at the Sheraton hotel in Petaling Jaya.
The purpose was to plot a ‘parliamentary coup’. Mahathir’s Bersatu and Azmin’s PKR allies would defect from the Pakatan Harapan to form a new ruling coalition with UMNO and PAS, who had recently declared their everlasting love for each other. Mahathir can stay as Prime Minister, Anwar can return to the political wilderness and Mr Azmin Ali will become the heir presumptive to this brave new coalition of Bersatu-PKR-UMNO-PAS.
2. Mahathir Betrays Anwar (Again)?
It all sounds very plausible because tensions have been simmering between Anwar and Mahathir for months. Before GE14, it was agreed that Mahathir would leave within the year and hand over the prime ministership to Anwar. One year turned into two, which soon turned into a carte blanche of ‘no time, no date, no nothing. It’s up to me whether I want to relinquish or not’ (Mahathir).
Furthermore, UMNO and PAS have been making overt overtures to Mahathir for months now. Near Valentine’s day, for example, PAS tabled a ‘vote of confidence’ in parliament for PM Mahathir because they just love Tun so much. Whoever heard of an opposition party giving a vote of confidence to the sitting Prime Minister?
And let’s not forget. Mahathir has already betrayed Anwar once, with the help of his good friend, Datuk Semen-stained Mattress. Hence, it was not entirely inconceivable that the two men had fallen out again.
3. Bersatu Betrays Mahathir
Anwar admits that treachery is afoot. Speaking on Facebook live, he calls out ‘former friends’ from Bersatu and a small group within his own PKR had ‘betrayed’ him. The real question is, is Dr Mahathir the mastermind? Is the good doctor villain or victim?
On Monday morning, he visits the Prime Minister’s Office. Mahathir is working from home—presumably to set a good example for Covid-19. Anwar goes to his house and emerges in the afternoon. He tells the press they had a ‘very good meeting’.
All hell breaks loose. Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the president of Bersatu announces on FB that Bersatu is no longer in a relationship with PH. Mahathir resigns as Prime Minister. More importantly, he also resigns as Bersatu’s chief—which seems to indicate that he’s not playing along with whatever Azmin and Muhyiddin is plotting. Azmin visits Mahathir. Anwar tells the press he ‘begged’ Mahathir not to resign.
Mahathir meets with the king, who accepts his resignation and re-appoints him as interim Prime Minister.
4. Najib Betrays Najib, But Maybe Also Azmin
Last week, The Malaya Post—followed by Yahoo—reported that Najib, who still commands a sizable faction within UMNO, had agreed to support a new coalition with Mahathir at the helm.
Today, Najib tells everyone that he had never even heard of The Malaya Post. Malaya Who?
“I have never spoken to The Malaya Post. Why pick my name all of a sudden?”, he tells The Malay Mail.
He then mocks Azmin by asking where they’re going for dinner tonight. (It is undecided) Whether or not this counts as a betrayal depends on what Najib did or did not promise Azmin.
5. Bersatu Betrays Muhyiddin?
A clearer picture is now emerging of what transpired. It seems that Mahathir did not plot with Azmin and Muhyiddin to join UMNO-PAS’s Muafakat Nasional. Whatever the hell is going on, it was backroom politics and personal ambitions spilling over into the public. However, with Azmin’s leaving PKR (with 11 MPs in tow) and Bersatu quitting (taking 26 MPs), Pakatan Harapan no longer has a majority.
So it’s time for more backroom politics.
Bersatu has called an ‘emergency meeting’ for 8:30 PM, but it remains to be seen if all of Bersatu MPs will leave the coalition. The first-past-the-post system means that MPs can keep their seats, even if they leave their party. They are not beholden to its President Muhyiddin, or ex-Chairperson Mahathir, and can theoretically reform the Malayan Communist Party if they want.
Hence, there’s a great likelihood that Bersatu will be split between Bersatu Mahathir and Bersatu Muhyiddin, making it not very Bersatu. Bersatu a.k.a PPBM was formed in 2016 as an alternative to UMNO. The Star reports that Muhyiddin had ‘forced’ its members to agree, and its supreme council is ‘divided over the decision to quit Harapan’. Hence there’s a likelihood that Bersatu members, currently in opposition, might betray Muhyiddin and defect back to the PH.
This would be extremely ironic, because many Bersatu members had defected from BN to PH after GE14.
6. Sarawak Betrays BN?
Even if a majority of Bersatu’s members re-defect to PH, it might not be enough to restore the majority. In such a scenario, the smaller parties will become kingmakers.
PAS is unlikely to join PH because they’re still in the honeymoon stage with UMNO. UMNO will rather join Israel. That leaves the parties from East Malaysia: Sarawak’s GPS and Sabah’s Warisan and GPB.
Warisan is on friendly terms with PH, but it only has 9 seats in total. GPS is a Sarawak-based party formed after the decline and fall of Barisan Nasional in GE14. They are currently an opposition party with 18 seats in parliament—enough to replace Azmin’s PKR defectors. They attended Azmin’s meeting with UMNO and PAS, but it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll join the new PH coalition with Mahathir and Anwar.
In the past, Anwar had tried to woo parties from Sarawak and Sabah, with little avail. It’s also extremely unlikely because DAP has been making inroads into Sarawak, pissing GPS off rather badly.
Azmin: “Actually, it was Anwar who betrayed Mahathir”
After a long day of being called traitor and Judas by the Malaysian press, Azmin Ali came out to say that he did not ‘betray’ Mahathir. Au contraire, he is just protecting Mahathir from a malicious conspiracy.
In fact, he accuses those who want to set a handover date of being the ‘real traitors’, because they want to make Mahathir ‘a lame duck PM’. In fact, they did not just betray Dr. M, they’ve betrayed the whole of Malaysia because *quote* they prioritise power transition over the implementation of government policies which are aimed at restoring the economy *unquote*.
7. Mahathir Betrays Anwar (Again)?
Of course, there’s a possibility this whole thing is being orchestrated by Mahathir in some elaborate 4D chess game so he can stay as PM for another 10 years. After all, it’s hard to believe the world’s longest-serving politician is so inept at politics he did not see the rumblings of ambition from within his own party and cabinet.
It’s even harder to understand why he does not just come out and say: “That cocksucker Azmin betrayed me. Fuck him. I stand with Anwar.” He is being awfully quiet for a man who simply could not shut up about George Soros, Lazy Malays, The International Jewish Banking Conspiracy and How He Is Not At All A Dictator.
However, I’m inclined to believe he’s not the mastermind behind The Greatest Betrayal In Malaysia History. Pakatan Harapan, after many tortured negotiations, had already given up on getting him to hand over power. At the Presidential council, they basically gave him free rein to stay as long as he desired. He has ‘full discretion’ on when to step down—a suitable time for retirement was left to ‘Dr. Mahathir’s wisdom’. Hence, with free rein to do whatever he pleases, it seems unlikely that Mahathir would leave PH to rejoin Najib.
It’s not that I trust in his integrity. I trust his vanity.
The man is 94 years-old, and with Covid-19 in the air, he honestly might die any day. I don’t think he wants to go down in history as Malaysia’s oldest and most promiscuous Prime Minister. I don’t think he wants to be remembered as the man who saved Malaysia, only to betray it once again, to further entrench the corruption he’s spent years railing against.
Nevertheless, he does have a share of the blame for this entire fiasco. By failing to commit to an exact date for the transfer of power to Anwar, and by refusing to honour the pre-election deal, he has weakened the PH coalition and its reform agenda. His refusal to handover has led to backroom dealing and backroom-stabbing on an unprecedented magnitude because everyone was keen to exploit his purported rift with Anwar.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t descend into further chaos. There’s plenty of time to backstab each other when the Covid-19 outbreak is over.