By Murray Hunter
BANGKOK, Thailand-Malaysia’s prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim has found the first two months into the job, metaphorically like tip-toeing through a minefield, just to survive. Many within the public are beginning to lose patience in Anwar, due to the failure to deliver any meaningful reform. They see Anwar’s administration as just a continuation of governments that went before him.
The reality for Anwar is there are powerful stakeholders, which could mortally wound Anwar’s tenure as prime minister, should he not accommodate their demands.
Demands by Royal households
It has long been known that the Royal households have extensive business interests. Most Sultans obtain favourable concessions and opportunities by state governments. When a sultan becomes the Agong, there are expectations that business opportunities within the federal sphere will come their way.
Just like the previous prime minister, there are contracts now with Anwar to sign off upon that can’t be refused.
The Zahid Dilemma
Many lawyers around Kuala Lumpur, believe that Ahmad Zahid Hamidi won’t be as lucky this time round. He is facing 47 charges of criminal breach of trust of RM 31 million belonging to the Yayasan Akalbudi charity foundation, which Zahid leads.
Anwar is under immense pressure to interfere with the case. However, Zahid’s opponents within UMNO, especially those who are MPs have offered to support Anwar as prime minister for this term of parliament, should Zahid stand down and Anwar not interfere with the case.
This would put pressure on Zahid to resign, where he would most likely be replaced with his deputy Mohamad Hasan, known as Tok Mat takeover as deputy prime minister.
Implementing such a deal would be very risky during transition, where things could go wrong, hurtling the government into potential chaos.
Making the decision to replace Zahid as deputy prime minister would be popular with voters, and allow those opposing Zahid to make some real reforms to UMNO. If done before the coming state elections due by September, this move could bolster Pakatan Harapan and UMNO’s chances electorally.
Senior Civil Service Appointments
There are a number of senior civil service appointments due for renewal over the next few months. Two such appointments include the position of Director General of the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (JAKIM), where the present DG Hakimah Yusof is retiring and the Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), where the incumbent Azam Baki wants to remain.
There is pressure to appoint Dr Sirajuddin Suhaimi as the new DG of JAKIM, and maintain Azam as Chief Commissioner of the MACC. Both have been subject to allegations of corruption over the last couple of years, and Anwar’s hands are being tied up on the matter.
The influence of the Perikatan Nasional opposition
The Perikatan Nasional opposition are in a position to perform very well in the coming state elections. The most pessimistic scenario for Anwar is that PN could sweep all five states.
This potential ‘green wave’ in the states is severely constraining the Anwar administration instituting reform. Consequently, Anwar must play a very conservative position, if PH and UMNO have any chance of performing well in the coming state elections.
This decision is bound to lose some support of urban voters, which will cost too many seats. However, it may help drum up some support within the Malay heartlands and semi-rural seats, with mixed ethnic compositions.
To sum up, the Anwar administration has little room to manoeuvre. This is frustrating for many. The leverage some stakeholders have over Anwar is very concerning. These are the limitations Anwar must work within.
Anwar Is Tip Toeing Through A Minefield
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