PMX’s biggest headache is that he rules over a split mandate

A LOSS in the recently concluded Kemaman parliamentary by-election and judging by the lukewarm reception his administration has received on the occasion of its one-year anniversary have confirmed that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s (PMX) biggest problem today is that he rules over a split mandate.

That the opposition candidate won Kemaman by-election with an even bigger majority than it did just a year back tells us that the Malay majority which had shied away from supporting his coalition in last year’s general election has only hardened their stance against his administration.

As such, not only couldn’t Anwar win them back in any subsequent by-elections but he has instead repeatedly lost their confidence.

Officially, Anwar might be able to convince the royalty that he is the best man to lead the country or strengthen his hold in the Parliament by getting opposition MPs to switch their support towards him but ultimately, there is there is a limit to his ability to hold on to power via stratagem and technicalities.

Officiality aside, Anwar needs to legitimise his reign by securing the mandate to rule. As the Kemaman by-election is indicating, the more that Anwar tries to subvert the mandate of the people by playing with technicalities and legalities, the more will people react negatively towards his reign.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim during a recent ‘ceramah’ on the run-up to the Dec 2 Kemaman parliamentary by-election

Reconciling split mandate

The Malay-Muslim majority have already reacted negatively to his rule in multiple by-elections. The non-Malay-Muslims, too, are getting increasingly frustrated by his reign although they have yet to openly show it.

Yes, Anwar governs a nation with a split mandate. Roughly speaking, the people’s mandate in the country is broken into a Malay-Muslim and non-Malay-Muslim mandate.

Yes, it is likely difficult to govern a country with a split mandate especially if the split mandate is also of a contradicting nature where the will of the people according to one mandate is in many ways opposing the will of people in the other mandate.

But the more Anwar moves to subvert both of his split mandates – perhaps because he feels that it is impossible to establish a functioning government otherwise – the closer is he getting to crossing the Rubicon.

Before he casts his die, perhaps Anwar should try harder to reconcile the nation’s split mandate.

If one of his heroes – the late Nelson Mandela – could reconcile the blacks and whites in the post-Apartheid South Africa, surely Anwar should at least attempt to follow Mandela’s lead and reconcile the split mandate in Malaysia. – Dec 5, 2023


Nehru Sathiamoorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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