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IN FOCUS: As dust settles over Malaysia’s political uncertainty, can Anwar’s new government bring stability?

Meanwhile, from BN’s perspective, this alliance with PH could be an opportunity for the coalition to reset and come back stronger. 

On Wednesday, BN chairman Ahmad Zahid wrote a Facebook post saying that the coalition’s principle to reject working with PKR and DAP was only for the GE15 campaigning period. But considerations changed after the results were known, he said. 

He added that working with the likes of DAP will not cause BN to lose its identity or abandon its principles. 

UMNO information chief Mr Isham highlighted that from a strategic perspective, working together with PH could be a shrewd move as there would be fewer contests for seats if they link up for future elections. 

He noted that PN and BN would typically want to contest and win seats within the rural Malay heartland. Additionally, if BN were to partner with PN in the upcoming polls, it would be forced to play second fiddle.

“So if we want to be successful in rebuilding the party, we have to be smart in negotiating seat allocations. We contest in Malay areas and our pool of seats in the heartland will get smaller (if we work alongside PN),” said Mr Isham. 

CABINET LINE-UP A DELICATE BALANCING ACT

In the short term, one of the biggest challenges faced by Mr Anwar was the formation of his Cabinet as he wanted a leaner team compared to previous administrations. 

On Friday night, he unveiled his Cabinet line-up, appointing Ahmad Zahid and GPS’ Mr Fadillah Yusof as his deputies.

Mr Anwar will also serve as the finance minister, while Mr Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz will serve as the trade minister. 

The defence and economy portfolios will be held by Mr Mohamad Hasan and Mr Rafizi Ramli respectively. 

Mr Loke will be the transport minister while Mr Mohamad Sabu will serve as the agriculture minister.

The new line-up comprises 28 ministers, which is leaner than the recent Cabinet teams helmed by Mr Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Mr Muhyiddin. The list of deputy ministers has yet to be announced. 

Under the Ismail Sabri administration, there were 31 ministers and 38 deputies. Mr Muhyiddin, meanwhile, had a Cabinet of 32 ministers and 38 deputies.

The new Cabinet will be sworn in on Saturday at 3pm.

Prof Chin of the University of Tasmania, told CNA that Mr Anwar had “little choice” but to pick Ahmad Zahid as deputy prime minister in spite of his outstanding graft charges. This is because the prime minister needed to strengthen Ahmad Zahid’s position within UMNO, he said.

Prof Chin noted that there is a faction within UMNO led by Mr Ismail Sabri and former defence minister Hishammudddin Hussein who disagreed with the pact with PH.

“Everyone knows that it was (Ahmad) Zahid who played an instrumental role in pressuring BN to work alongside PH in the formation of the government. (Ahmad) Zahid is also president of UMNO, so if they are to be given a DPM post, it would make the most sense to give it to him,” he added.

He opined that it was a shrewd move for Mr Anwar to opt against giving DAP a high-profile Cabinet post such as finance, defence or education.

Mr Loke will once again serve as transport minister, a post he held during the previous PH administration from 2018 to 2022.

Meanwhile, former deputy speaker Mr Nga Kor Ming has been appointed housing and local government minister, while Ms Hannah Yeoh will be the youth and sports minister.

“That’s a smart move because it’s much harder for the Malay-centric parties in the opposition to accuse this government of being too accommodating towards DAP,” he added. DAP is a Chinese-dominated party.

Independent political analyst Dr Zaharuddin Sani Sabri felt that it was risky for Mr Anwar to hold the finance portfolio.

“If we look into the history of 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad), the misuse of power led to the huge corruption scandal,” said the former deputy director general of the government’s Special Affairs Department.

He added that the appointments of the ministers from BN reflected an effort to strengthen Ahmad Zahid’s power within UMNO.

“It is an indicator of how the UMNO elections will be and Ahmad Zahid will make sure his position is secure. The UMNO election is in six months and he will need to strengthen himself.

“This also ensures stability in BN so that no one will go against Anwar during the confidence vote (in parliament) on Dec 19.”

Dr Zaharuddin, however, said that a big test of Mr Anwar’s unity government will be the spate of state elections which are likely to be held next year.

While Pahang, Perak and Perlis held their elections simultaneously with the federal elections, the state legislatures of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu will have to dissolve next year.

“I don’t believe that the PH and BN will work together because their ideologies are quite different,” said Dr Zaharuddin. 

“You can see that it’s going to be quite difficult for them not to compete against one another in the coming elections unless they can come up with a memorandum of understanding,” he added.

With all eyes on how Mr Anwar’s government gets down to tackling challenges on the ground, a steady and stable government would go a long way in avoiding another drawn-out political drama that leaves Malaysians in suspense.

Source: CNA

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