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Do DAP leaders like Anthony Loke ever listen to themselves when they talk about their  cockamamie plans to cling to Dr Mahathir’s coat-tails in a desperate bid to get back to power? If they did, they’d realize just how pathetic and desperate they sound.

After weeks of intense discussions, PH settled for recycling the old Mahathir-Anwar formula as part of their grand strategy to retake Putrajaya. The twist, this time around, would be for Mahathir to occupy the prime minister’s post for six months and then hand it over to Anwar Ibrahim.

Acutely aware that Mahathir’s trust quotient is near zero, Loke assured Malaysians that they had a “mechanism” in place to ensure that Mahathir would keep his word this time around. Explaining further, he said that Anwar could always pull his party out of the coalition and thus deprive Mahathir of a majority if he reneges on his word.

But isn’t that the exact same “mechanism” that was in place previously? It didn’t stop Mahathir from playing his games then; why would it deter him this time around? Why didn’t the DAP themselves utilize that same mechanism before when Mahathir kept changing the goalposts on the handover date?  And what happened to the DAP’s confident prediction  before GE14 that PH leaders would act as a check against Mahathir? Was the DAP so addicted to power, so afraid of losing the key cabinet positions that Mahathir had given them that they went along to get along?

Having the power to pull the plug is one thing; having the courage of one’s convictions to actually do it is something else. Let’s face it: all this talk about a “mechanism” to ensure Mahathir keeps his word is simply disingenuous. In any case, if they really trusted Mahathir they wouldn’t need such a mechanism in the first place.

In the end, it’s a leap of faith because there’s just no telling what Mahathir will do or how he might leverage the post to promote some agenda of his own. It’s just too much to ask the nation to take yet another leap of faith no matter how much Perikatan Nasional is disliked.

And, why six months? What does Mahathir hope to achieve in those six months? Previously he was needed to put the country’s finances in order before stepping down. Then he was needed to host the upcoming APEC summit before handing over to Anwar. Now they are talking about the need to solve the mess that Muhyiddin has created. Is there no end to this charade? Is this about one man’s ego, about saving face, about giving him one last hurrah on the global stage before going quietly into the night?

Besides, previously Mahathir was reluctant to set a date for his departure because he didn’t want to be a lame duck. Wouldn’t making him prime minister for six months make him a lame duck from starting line?

Playing musical chairs with the prime minister’s post may seem acceptable to the DAP and Amanah but it is no way to run the country. With so many variables involved it will do nothing to restore stability or build confidence. And remember that the Istana is under no obligation to play ball; PH may propose, the Istana may dispose.  Politicians like Loke might find it expedient but it does voters a great disservice. The people of Malaysia deserve better especially at a time of national crisis. If that’s the best solution that PH can come up with, perhaps they deserve to stay in the opposition benches a lot longer.

There are other unanswered questions as well. The whole plan to return to Putrajaya is contingent upon persuading a few more parliamentarians to join PH. Amanah and DAP seem convinced that Mahathir is the best person to make that happen. However, would any MP make the jump if they know that Mahathir will simply be warming the seat for Anwar?

And what of Warisan? Will Warisan, which by all counts appears implacably opposed to Anwar becoming prime minister, then support Anwar after Mahathir leaves? So far, Warisan has declined to endorse Anwar either now or in the future. Does this mean that after six months we will be back to the same old squabbles within PH about who should be prime minister?

At the rate things are now unravelling, the whole question of who should lead PH might quickly become moot given the acrimonious barbs being traded between PH leaders. Amanah and DAP are clearly exasperated and impatient that Anwar continues to drag his feet with no appreciation for the urgency of the situation. Some PKR members are so angry they are floating the idea of PKR breaking with DAP and Amanah. At this rate, PH might implode before their plans to retake Putrajaya can even get off the ground.

In the meantime, the DAP’s emergence as one of Mahathir’s staunchest supporters is itself revealing. They are like drowning men clutching at straws, a pale shadow of the once proud party that was willing to endure imprisonment and hardship for the sake of their principles. How the mighty have fallen!

Likewise with Amanah; they prefer the easy shade of Mahathir’s shadow to get back to Putrajaya rather than putting their shoulder to the wheel to earn the right to rule. Sitting around a conference table scheming about how to get back to Putrajaya is no substitute for going to the ground and winning the support of the people. Better to wait and return to power with the strong backing of the people than to cling to office and be held hostage to capricious parliamentarians who’ll sell their loyalties to the highest bidder.

To be sure, many Malaysians are aghast at the manner in which Muhyiddin and his colleagues took control of the government and horrified at the way he is now managing the affairs of state, but PH shouldn’t assume that band-aid solutions will resolve anything.  The best thing that PH can do is to take time out, reflect upon its mistakes and weaknesses, settle the leadership issue and then come out swinging. It cannot fight the battle without until it wins the battle within.

In supporting the plan that Mahathir serve as prime minister for six months before handing power to Anwar, Loke indicated that PH had an obligation to form the government with its allies because of the mandate given during the 2018 election. After the way the people’s trust was betrayed by Mahathir and other PH leaders, they have lost the moral right to talk about the people’s mandate. It’s time to go back to the people and let the chips fall where they may.

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 19th June 2020]