Malaysia Dateline

Infighting and greed may cause the demise of Perikatan Nasional

It wasn’t long after PM Muhyiddin named his cabinet when cracks within the party started to surface one by one as Umno members voiced out dissatisfaction with their slice of the pie.

The Pengerang MP, Azalina Othman was one of the first to publicly speak out about the seemingly one sided composition. She wasn’t alone in her sentiment. Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan and vice-president Mohamed Khaled Nordin also complained that the party did not get senior cabinet positions.

Most recently, Ahmad Zahid, the incumbent President of Umno, who is currently facing numerous charges on corruption, has been lobbying the prime minister to secure more government positions for his party.

Veteran journalist Datuk A Kadir Jasin has vocalized what was on the minds of many that Umno seems to be pressuring the prime minister into bestowing more power unto them. Being seen as a “bullied” or “weak-minded leader” is nothing short of a political disaster and will be a powerful talking point for the opposition party when the general election rolls around in three years.

Umno’s loyalty to Najib Razak and their indirect involvement with 1MDB has caused them to be distrusted by several factions of the Malaysian public. If PM Muhyiddin appears to be conceding to Umno, this will certainly invoke anger with the current leadership.

One may question Umno’s audacity in seeking for more power seeing how they were voted out of the federal government in the last election. However, Umno does have the power to offset the delicate majority that allowed PM Muhyiddin to replace Tun Mahathir and they will certainly use that leverage to their fullest advantage.

Loyalty goes to the highest bidder, and unless PM Muhyiddin bends the knee, he may find himself in a vulnerable position. Tun Mahathir has spoken publicly about PM Muhyiddin’s “betrayal to party principles”, so returning to his former party may not be an option. Let’s not mince words, the fallout from not giving in to Umno’s demands could be career-ending.

This may explain why, in the middle of a global health pandemic, the prime minister’s office announced that Perikatan MPs will be given cushy positions as GLC heads. The move was generally disdained by the public and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim even labeled it criminal. He’s right.

Ensuring the future of our politicians while Malaysians face hunger, uncertainty and massive job loss is downright immoral. The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) even pointed out that rewarding MPs with high-salary GLC top posts creates room for cronyism, patronage, abuse of power, and corruption.

Perikatan Nasional has never been on particularly steady ground. They have been unceremoniously dubbed as a backdoor government and their parliamentary majority questioned one too many times.

There is also the constant threat of allies pulling out of the coalition and going their separate ways. Even Pas has made it clear that the union between them and Perikatan is not concrete but rather an impromptu alliance to save the country.

The writing’s on the wall: The desire for power from Perikatan’s own members will tear them apart eventually. If PM Muhyiddin doesn’t find a way to strengthen the bond and loyalty within his administration, he will see numerous attempts to hijack power and destroy the party from within akin to the fall of his former party. As they say, what goes around comes around.