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Hearing Mahathir talk about how the whole Pakatan Harapan (PH) house of cards came tumbling down can be exasperating. In his own mind his actions were exemplary; it was all somebody else’s fault.

He had everything going for him, mind you – a popular mandate, a comfortable majority in parliament and coalition partners who were more than happy to give him the time and space he needed to implement the Malaysia Baru agenda.

Instead of making the most of the opportunity, he started playing his political games, pushing his old discredited policies (including yet another national car) and stoking discord within his coalition.

Despite the PH consensus that Anwar would eventually take over from him, he went out of his way to undermine Anwar. It was clear then, as it is now, that he was determined to shut Anwar out never mind his repeated assurances to the contrary.

He created this instability. He was the puppet master behind the whole move to replace PH with a Malay unity government. What he didn’t anticipate what that some of the puppets had both ambitions of their own and very sharp knives.

And even now, when PH leaders are desperately trying to find the numbers to mount a challenge in parliament to Muhyiddin’s backdoor government, Mahathir cannot resist attacking his erstwhile coalition partners. PH was indecisive, he says. They did not move fast enough to endorse his proposal for one-man rule, as if that was really an option.

He also says that Anwar insisted on being appointed deputy prime minister during subsequent negotiations to restore PH to power. What’s wrong with that? Wasn’t there an agreement for Anwar to succeed him eventually? Wasn’t Anwar’s party one of the biggest in the coalition? It would have, in fact, made perfect sense and end the uncertainty over the succession issue once and for all.

Mahathir claims that he turned down Anwar’s request to be DPM because “two prominent civil society leaders” met him “to complain about Anwar’s apparent lack of leadership skills,” that Anwar was “more in tune with politicking rather than as an administrator.” How convenient.

Since when has Mahathir ever listened to civil society leaders? Did he heed their calls to abolish anti-democratic legislation? Did he act on their demands for a transparent inquiry into the enforced disappearances of Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat and Ruth and Joshua Hilmi? Was he attentive to their concerns about Lynas?

For him to use the opinions of unnamed civil society leaders to justify excluding Anwar from the post of DPM is simply disingenuous. It just shows how determined he was to keep Anwar out. The whole country was hoping that PH would somehow pull together and salvage itself from looming disaster but Mahathir was only interested in pursuing his vendetta against Anwar.

He did not, of course, mention who the two “prominent” civil society leaders were but, if what he says is true, they should be ashamed of themselves for conspiring against Anwar. Civil society leaders have an obligation to be transparent; they shouldn’t be playing political games in private while publicly promoting transparency, democracy and good governance.

All that is, of course, water under the bridge now. With Mahathir attacking his own coalition partners instead of trying to build consensus, banish any thought about a confidence motion in parliament to bring down the Muhyiddin’s administration.

Like it or not, we are stuck – at least for now – with a backdoor government that makes a mockery of our elections. Thank you very much, Dr Mahathir!

[Dennis Ignatius |Kuala Lumpur |9th March 2020]