By Sharina Ahmad
AFTER a week-long political upheaval, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in on Feb 29 as the new prime minister. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who unexpectedly resigned as prime minister, however, said Muhyiddin does not have majority support to become prime minister.
Muhyiddin, 72, the previous home affairs minister, is now leading the Perikatan Nasional (PN) – the new alliance formed by Umno, PAS, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS). He has been given the mandate by the King to form the next government.
Does Muhyiddin have the support of Malaysians? Do they accept him as the new PM?
From the comments gathered by FocusM, Malaysians have mixed reactions. Some praise him, some are neutral and others questioned the way PN came into power. The majority of those interviewed said the new government came in through the back door, meaning the coalition is made up of parties which did not get majority support.
International Islamic University Malaysia law expert Prof Dr Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmood is all praise for Muhyiddin. He sees him as having a good track record, is experienced, capable and competent.
“He has a good track record and has been with the government for many years including as Menteri Besar in Johor and also with Tun Mahathir’s Cabinet and in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Cabinet as deputy prime minister.”
He says Muhyiddin’s vast experience will help him manoeuvre the nooks and corners of politics and governance.
“With the right Cabinet members to support him, I believe he can pull through. The first task is to select the Cabinet members. It would be tricky because his own party does not have the numbers,” he adds.
Muhyiddin is overwhelmed by Umno (39 seats) and PAS (18 seats) for a total of 57 against his Bersatu’s 30, including Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s 10 who broke off from PKR. Thus it would be a great challenge to ensure proportional representation of the new coalition in the Cabinet which would be outnumbered by Umno and PAS.
“The question is whether he is able to stave off pressure from Umno, especially to put certain people in the Cabinet,” says Nik Kamal.
“Issues like pending court cases against a few of them as well as ongoing investigations into a few top politicians of Umno would become thorny issues. There is also PAS which would also have some kind of concession on matters of their interest,” he highlights.
Nik Kamal says there is also the difficult issue of lack of representation for the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) in Dewan Rakyat. Both are very important allies to the new coalition.
All in all, he believes great challenges lie ahead for the country, not only politically but economically as well in the light of a possible Covid-19 pandemic, lack of foreign investments, increased unemployment and overall weak world markets.
Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) political analyst Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, 45, concurs with Nik Kamal, saying Muhyiddin is one of the more capable people given his vast experience in politics and administration.
“With this background, it is appropriate to become prime minister. He performed very well in all ministries that he led before and has served the government for the last 40 years.
“However, in order to perform in the current PN government, he really needs a good support system.”
He adds unlike the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government where the people can check its performance based on its promises in the manifesto, this PN government has no clear policy direction yet.
Khmer Times former business editor Kazi Mahmood, 61, said Muhyiddin seemed to deliver in the ministries he handled, yet this is not enough to lead a fractious government.
“But I don’t remember him as a politician with the same grit and demeanour like most previous PMs I saw in action. I saw Mahathir 1, Abdullah Badawi, Najib Razak and Mahathir 2. He is seen as soft but determined to achieve something.
“Nevertheless, it is a tough time to take over as PM and he inherits some serious legacies from the Mahathir version 2 regime,” he opines.
According to Kazi, Muhyiddin also inherits the remnants of the problems created by the fallen BN regime too, including the 1MDB scandal and others that the PH regime failed to resolve definitely.
Safuan Group Bhd group executive chairman Tan Sri Mat Shah Safuan thinks Muhyiddin has all the capabilities to become a good PM, though he might struggle to get a clean and good Cabinet together.
“The issue here is to get the right Cabinet members and support for whatever he is trying to do, especially in economic growth. In the last two years, the economy hasn’t been doing well. He needs to concentrate on it. When the economy is in a good place, a lot of things can be done,” he says.
Mat Shah is anxiously waiting for the Cabinet line-up and adds it is crucial to pick clean members.
“Whoever becomes our leaders you have to support, give them time to prove themselves,” he adds.
A 40-year-old government servant who prefers to remain anonymous says this is the best move for the nation as Muhyiddin taking the helm will enable the rakyat and nation to move forward from the political turmoil.
Another person who spoke on condition of anonymity says judging from his past comments and remarks, Muhyiddin is just another ethnocentric Malaysian PM who is insensitive to the plight of the minorities in the country, who will further degenerate the economy by sending talents out of the country, and chasing investors away.
“He is now allied with the tainted politicians who had no qualms in driving the country apart so that they and their cronies could further plunder the nation by using religion as a weapon. Yes, this PM is working with these people now,” says the 32-year-old.
“Religion would be further abused so that they can appeal to the majority who comprise mainly of B40 and lack the privilege to access amenities.”
A finance executive with a private firm says the new prime minister wasn’t the man Malaysia elected at the last general election.
“He got in through backdoor schemes and now Malaysia has to make do with him until he is challenged in Parliament, which he has conveniently delayed to May 18. One good thing that has come out of this is the majority margin is really slim in Parliament, meaning no minority group will be ignored,” notes the 28-year-old.
“If anything, East Malaysians will have a louder voice and they can demand more changes. The new prime minister has a lot to prove to Malaysians on top of garnering the confidence from the sitting MPs.”
A survey conducted by international polling firm YouGov before the PN alliance took over the government from PH showed that political allegiance differs depending on household income.
The results were tallied after polling 1,162 Malaysians on YouGov Omnibus from Feb 25 to 27.
Higher-income Malaysians are much more likely to prefer the first alliance, PH, to form a government with 71% preferring PH while 59% of the lower-income group preferred PN, YouGov said in a statement.
It said that geography also plays a role in voters’ preference, with those living in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Putrajaya being more likely to side with the first alliance (55% PH and 33% PN) than those who live in other parts of the country, at 38% and 45% respectively. – March 6, 2020