PN’s biggest problem is that it has nobody who can take on Anwar

ALL this talk about Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor becoming Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) candidate for the PM position tells us that PN is likely going to take a significant step to solve its biggest problem in conquering Putrajaya.

PN’s current biggest problem is its chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin – as long as Muhyiddin leads PN, PN will never be able to conquer Putrajaya.

Why? Because Muhyiddin is no conqueror. He is just a manager. He expects that the position of PM will be handed down to him but expects others to do the fighting for him.

When the dust settled after the 15th General Election in November last year (GE15), Muhyiddin had the numbers before Anwar. Despite that, he still lost the PM position to Anwar.

Why? Simply because Muhyiddin didn’t think that it was his job to fight to take what is his.

If the tables were turned and it was Anwar that was in Muhyiddin’s shoes, Anwar would have shaken the very foundation of the country to get what he believes is rightfully his but Muhyiddin just let that slip out of his hands because he assumed too conveniently that others would pick it up and hand it back to him.

By the way, Muhyiddin didn’t just fail PN in the aftermath of GE15 but also failed PN in the post-Aug 12 six states polls period.

The Aug 12 state elections clearly showed PN still carried the winning momentum. The coalition decisively won three of the states it controlled with a larger majority while it made significant inroads into the three states controlled by Pakatan Harapan (PH).

Despite the clear signal from the ground that its supporters were ready to back PN’s attempt to re-take Putrajaya, Muhyiddin again lost ground to Anwar.

Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor

Succession planning

His failure to capitalise on the post Aug 12 momentum has given Anwar the space and opportunity to strengthen his position. Today, the PH chairman has even managed to swing five Bersatu MP’s to his side and now possess an unassailable lead in the parliament.

If only the Bersatu president had shown better leadership, it is unlikely that the five would have swung to Anwar’s side. Now that five Bersatu MPs had swung to Anwar’s side, any unity government MPs who were thinking of switching their alliance to PN would have probably changed their mind.

This is not only because it will be difficult to topple the unity government when Anwar has such a clear advantage in parliament, Muhyiddin is also not the sort of leader one can count upon to secure victory even when he possesses the advantage.

PN had probably realised that Muhyiddin is not a leader that it can count on for some time now because it had made overtures to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to lead the coalition. The problem, however, is that it is too difficult to put Dr Mahathir in the lead position when Muhyiddin is officially the one that is leading PN.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (second from left), Tan Sri Hadi Awang (second from right) and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (far right)

Muhyiddin probably has realised his “unwanted” status within the coalition which prompted him to offer his resignation during the Bersatu general assembly last week.

Even without Muhyiddin, to hoist twice former premier Dr Mahathir to the lead position is not a realistic option either. The latter is a spent force, a 100-year-old man who relies on his past reputation rather than present capability to maintain current relevance.

Bersatu remains a weak link

If PAS had previously decided to let Bersatu be the face of the coalition, it is now deciding to take up a more prominent role on account of the multiple failures of Bersatu. Not only does Bersatu not possess a confidence inspiring leadership, it also does not have a committed following either.

None of the PAS’s MP’s have switched sides to Anwar’s side but an astonishing and increasing number of Bersatu MPs have and will probably continue to switch sides to support Anwar.

Bersatu is weak at the shoots, weak at the trunk and weak at the roots. PAS has been propping Bersatu up from the very inception of PN but no matter how many times PAS props Bersatu up, Bersatu will still find a way to flounder at every step of the way.

Considering how many times Bersatu has fumbled, it is only inevitable that PAS is thinking of taking the lead spot in PN for itself this time around. Other than taking the lead position for itself, what else is there for PAS to do?

The only question now is whether PAS’ willingness to take over the captain’s seat in PN be well-received by Malaysians? This is the reason why PAS had taken a backseat to Bersatu although it is the stronger party of the two.

While Malaysians who support PAS support the Islamist party whole heartedly, Malaysians who resent it would resent it from the very core. If PAS leads PN’s march to Putrajaya and should PN manage to conquer Putrajaya, the resentment that its victory will generate might likely shake the foundation of the federation.

Sanusi as PM matertial

For comparison, having Tan Sri Hadi Awang as the PM of Malaysia is as insulting to non-Muslims as having Lim Guan Eng as the PM is to the Muslims. To PAS’s credit, it is probably aware that forwarding someone like its president as its PM candidate is an untenable proposition.

The party is obviously aware of talks about having its elections director Sanusi as its PM candidate. That Sanusi’s name has popped up as PAS’ PM candidate indicates that PAS itself is pondering about the question as to who it can put forth to replace Muhyiddin.

Sanusi might be a controversial figure but having someone like Sanusi as the PM is not something that is impossible for non-Muslims to resign themselves to even though if it is not going to be an easy proposition to swallow either.

Other than not being impossible for non-Muslim to accept, Sanusi also has the chutzpah that Muhyiddin lacks. While Anwar looks like he can intimidate Muhyiddin, it is doubtful as to whether he will have the same effect on Sanusi.

While we cannot be sure whether PAS will indeed take the lead from Bersatu and forward Sanusi as its PM candidate, Bersatu’s top leadership might still be able to work something out to keep the lead position in PN.

What I think we can expect in the coming weeks and months is significant change in the top leadership of PN as the coalition attempts to wrest Putrajaya without having Muhyiddin as its commander-in-chief. – Dec 1, 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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