PN to take over Putrajaya? A psywar or a reality?

13 Jul 2023 07:00am
Anwar (seated, middle) chairs unity government leadership meet at Menara Dato' Onn Pusat Dagangan Dunia Kuala Lumpur (WTCKL) on Tuesday. Inset (from left)  Shafiq Abdul Halim, Muhammad Muhd ​​Taib and Anis Anwar
Anwar (seated, middle) chairs unity government leadership meet at Menara Dato' Onn Pusat Dagangan Dunia Kuala Lumpur (WTCKL) on Tuesday. Inset (from left) Shafiq Abdul Halim, Muhammad Muhd ​​Taib and Anis Anwar
SHAH ALAM - Apart from heated sentiments surrounding race, religion and royalty or 3Rs that are currently being debated, there is another major sensitive and concerning issue being played out by political actors as the state elections approaches on Aug 12.

The 'hot' narrative among certain opposition political leaders at present is is link to claims that the people need to make the state elections in Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu a referendum to change the unity government in Putrajaya before the government's term ends in 2027.

The narrative began several months after the formation of the unity government as sentiments surrounding the 3Rs began during the 15th general election.

This follows speculation that there are some members from Barisan Nasional (BN) who are allegedly attempting a "political kamikaze" strategy by collectively resigning as MPs and subsequently contest in the by-elections under the Perikatan Nasional (PN) ticket in an effort to assist the coalition in forming the federal government.

The rumours were subsequently denied by the top leadership of BN.

However, the narrative of the downfall of the unity government after the state elections in six states in August is still being raised by several PN key leaders and Muafakat Nasional such as Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Annuar Musa and Pas President Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang, in their statements and campaign speeches.

The narrative was later toned down by Pas Central Committee member, Dr Mohd Zuhdi Marzuki, as he clarified that such statements were merely part of PN's psychological warfare (psywar) strategy to exert pressure on the unity government leading up to the state elections in six states.

This was also acknowledged by a PN political activist, Mohamad Shafiq Abdul Halim, who said the coalition had never been involved in any efforts to bring down the unity government and were prepared to be an effective opposition.

"The rumours about the downfall of the unity government before the 16th general election began with Muda which felt marginalised by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and is understood to have initiated the "do or die" strategy.
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"Furthermore, there have been speculations that some members of the BN Parliament who were not able to accept the decision of their party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to bring the coalition into the unity government wanted to exit the coalition and support PN," he said in an interview with Sinar.

Furthermore, Shafiq claimed that the narrative was further strengthened by speculations of a conflict between DAP and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), the ruling coalition in Sarawak, to the extent that it was said to be intervened by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

"If the two political blocs, GPS and BN, with the support of Muda and several members of small parties agree to change the government en bloc, the possibility of a change in Putrajaya could become a reality," he said.

Anis Anwar Suhaimi, the Chief Researcher of O2 Research Malaysia said the implications of the state elections in six states should not be taken lightly.

However, he said the message of the people can still be conveyed to the federal government through the state elections as a referendum in the form of votes for the participating political parties in unity government.

"For example, if we take a look at the Tanjung Piai by-election where Bersatu-PH went against MCA-BN, which coincided with the discussion surrounding the Kongres Maruah Melayu and also involved former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Bersatu," he said.

"As a result of those events, many Chinese voters in Tanjung Piai not only did not turn up to vote but also cast their votes for the MCA candidate as a protest against the PH government," he said.

Anis Anwar also touched on Melaka and Johor state elections last year, where a significant number of PH voters did not turn out to vote, resulting in a two-thirds majority victory for BN.

This was seen as a response to the dissatisfaction with the internal political turmoil within PH at the federal level.

"Therefore, the PN campaign has an influential impact on voter sentiment in the context of national issues and should not be taken lightly, especially considering that the economic well-being of the people has not fully recovered under the unity government," he added.

"These state election results are crucial for PN to gain support and, consequently, have the moral legitimacy to demand a change in the leadership of Putrajaya," he explained.

In reality, there are three factors that PN needs to thoroughly consider in formulating its efforts to take over Putrajaya in a manner similar to Sheraton Move 2.0.

These factors include the response of Umno-BN MPs towards the leadership quality of Zahid, the response of grassroots Umno members towards the Deputy Prime Minister, and the negotiation process of PN in convincing BN, GPS, and GRS to back them.

In the negotiation, the Borneo bloc will have one of the main power to determine the country's political direction post-state elections while the royal pardon process of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is currently in prison will be PH's 'bait' to bind BN's support.

"I just think that these three factors do not necessarily take place directly.

"In order to calm the political temperature after the state elections, Anwar may have to meet Umno's demand to release Najib to prevent the chain of deterioration of Umno supporters' support for the unity government from continuing," said Anis Anwar.

However, the Selangor Umno Advisory Chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd ​​Taib said there is no need for the six state election results to be a Sheraton Step 2.0 referendum because it has nothing to do with the federal government's position.

He does not see the rationale of changing the federal government based on the results of the state elections in the upcoming six states since the new unity government was established after the GE15.

"Do we want to emulate the Italian government that acts to change the Prime Minister every year? This only reflects how weak the country's politics are so that the future of the people is a mess and the politicians don't care about the effects of the madness of changing the government.

"Let the unity government led by Anwar run until the end of the administration term for the people to make an assessment. If it is true that the claims of the unity government is weak, then just change the government in GE16," said the former Selangor Menteri Besar.