FORMER Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has finally admitted that UMNO has pressured and ordered him to call the 15th General Elections (GE15) about a year earlier. Parliament was dissolved on Oct 10, 2022.
Opposition parties and even parties within the ruling coalition were up in arms questioning the rationale for the early dissolution, and whether he was taking orders from his political party. That led to six states refusing to call concurrent state elections.
In a recent episode of “Fireside Chat” with Sinar Daily, Ismail Sabri said “despite all the risks, UMNO insisted for dissolution of parliament”. He further said: “I told the supreme council, that if we lose, I should not solely be blamed, all of you should bear the responsibility because I have already explained our chances.”
At that time, I questioned the propriety of Ismail Sabri as PM taking orders from UMNO in the discharge of his constitutional duties.
Recall that UMNO had launched a concerted campaign and convened several high-level meetings calling for early elections despite concerns on the contrary by many. The campaign was relentless.
In fact, UMNO was so sure that Parliament would be dissolved soon and had geared up for elections even before the announcement. I believe the matter was discussed in Cabinet and there was no consensus as 12 ministers petitioned the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to delay elections.
I would assume such advice must be a consensus decision by the Cabinet. Was the PM acting on behalf of the Cabinet or UMNO regarding the dissolution of Parliament?
Some parties have taken the matter to court citing, among others, the propriety of PM taking orders from his political party contrary to the Federal Constitution. However, their application was struck off by the courts.
I wonder if this statement was made by Ismail Sabri back then, what would the court outcome be like.
More UMNO or less UMNO
I then went on further to predict the outcome of GE15 which turns out not far-fetched from what has happened now.
Well, let’s look at the current unity coalition government. UMNO is the kingmaker even though it lost badly in GE15. It snatched the top position from PN and handed it over to PH by making Anwar the PM.
We are not sure what deals were made, but one thing for sure is that UMNO dominates the unity government. So, it is more UMNO even with less parliament seats.
Will UMNO aim for the top position itself? Or will UMNO dictate to Anwar like what it did to Ismail Sabri? Recent episodes do not give us confidence that Anwar is very much in control of his political fortunes.
“It’s the economy, stupid!”
As to whether any new government after GE15 can sustain itself, I made the following comment on my article in Malaysiakini dated Oct 13, 2022:
“If there are enough good people, we can hope for a good government, but if we vote for a party of corrupts, all we can get is Ali Baba and his 40 thieves.
“What voters may not accomplish (in getting the government they truly want, not a unity government among rival political parties), the economy will certainly force it on the ruling class if there is continued wanton spending and uncontrolled borrowings.
“Like they say, it is the economy, stupid! It is foolhardy to win an election by throwing money around, especially money we don’t have.”
Anwar went on to raise the alarm about the RM1.5 tril national debt. Economy is about earning more money (not borrowing) and spending less. Even minimal cuts announced so far like the MPs’ constituency allowance is earning the ire of his own MPs. There is nothing we have heard in terms of plans and strategy to grow the economy thus far.
Anwar made a grave mistake in not appointing competent ministers and deputies from his own party. Their poor performance has drawn brickbats from the people even during this honeymoon period.
DAP was side-lined so as not to spook the Malays. Anwar’s supporters are not seeing the decisive actions when PH ruled in 2018, probably hamstrung by the unity government. This is not the reformasi that Anwar promised during GE15.
Anwar is on very shaky ground from all aspects. We hope the talented economy minister Rafizi Ramli, and his pro-bono finance and economy advisor will help him to turn around the finances and economy.
I didn’t need a crystal ball or the multi-million Invoke (data analytics firm founded by Rafizi) to make the prediction then. We the ordinary rakyat can clearly see where the country is heading.
Anwar should listen to the sentiments on the ground, not to yes-men surrounding him. Please don’t take the rakyat as uninformed and stupid. – Feb 7, 2023
Raman Letchumanan is a former senior official (environment) in Malaysia and ASEAN, and Senior Fellow at Nanyang Technological University Singapore. He is an accredited accountant (Malaysia/UK) and has a Ph.D. in environmental economics, among other qualifications. He can be reached at [email protected].
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.