Wan Azizah, The ‘Road Not Taken’ On Premiership, After GE14 . . .

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Wan Azizah could have been Malaysia's first prime minister
Wan Azizah could have been Malaysia's first prime minister

Najib could have been Prime Minister if Istana had invited him on Thurs 10 May 2018. What About Wan Azizah?

Four momentous years after GE14, on Wed 9 May 2018, we have the benefit of hindsight on the recent past. Everyone rushed to judgment and celebrated the fall from power of the 14-party Barisan Nasional (BN). The shockwaves reverberated around the globe. The coalition had an uninterrupted 61 years at the centre despite the lack of internal renewal.

It was a freak moment in history when PKR President Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had an audience with the Agong on Thurs 10 May 2018, a day after the general election, on the new government. The Agong advised her that she was the most eligible among Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, based on PKR’s 48 seats in Parliament, to be the 7th Prime Minister. See here . . .

History would have taken a different turn had she promised to convey the Agong’s Advice to the PH Presidential Council. Instead, she may have made a strategic error in informing the Agong that PH had agreed that its Chairman, Mahathir Mohamad, would be Prime Minister. The discretion lies with the Agong.

Mahathir’s Bersatu, a PH component party, had a paltry 12 seats in Parliament, having been roundly rejected by rural voters. They felt unsafe with the new party, seen as a one man show, and which will probably be buried with Mahathir who turns 97 years old this year. Pejuang, to digress a little, has since become Mahathir’s latest political vehicle. Mukhriz Mahathir, a son, heads the party.

No Objections To Azizah As PM

Mahathir himself had been quoted as saying in the media that he had no objections if Wan Azizah was appointed Prime Minister.

The rest is history.

DAP, and probably Amanah as well besides Bersatu, insisted that Mahathir be appointed Prime Minister while Wan Azizah would be Deputy Prime Minister. This was history in the making as Anwar Ibrahim, the husband, was Deputy Prime Minister from 1993 to 1998 in the earlier Mahathir Administration (1981 to 2003) which was plagued by a Prime Ministerial dictatorship.

Wan Azizah, a freak situation which had emerged from GE14, was the road not taken. Now, we may have to wait for another 50 years for a woman to be Prime Minister. Malaysians should note that other nations capitalise on “freak” situations. Examples include President Barrack Hussein Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris in the US.

Two Roads

Robert Frost reminds us in an eternal poem:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

See here for the Guide . . .

Najib As Prime Minister

Outgoing Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the caretaker, was also the road not taken but in another poem. He could have been Prime Minister again after GE14. The BN had 79 seats in Parliament compared with Mahathir’s and Wan Azizah’s much smaller number of seats. PH won 113 MP seats in the 222-seat Parliament but it was not a registered coalition. It went into battle in GE14 under the PKR symbol.

In the Westminister and Commonwealth tradition, Najib would have been invited first to form the government since the other possible candidates, Wan Azizah and Mahathir, were each found wanting in their own ways. PKR felt safer if Wan Azizah was Prime Minister until Anwar, then in jail, could assume the position.

Najib hesitated after telling the media that BN could form the Federal gov’t since the unregistered PH had only a two seat majority in Parliament and it was divided on the candidate for Prime Minister.

The Agong did not invite Najib. The caretaker Prime Minister made a strategic error when he couldn’t make a “farewell” call on the Agong. He could have offered, during the farewell call, to be Prime Minister. He may have changed his mind after the initial feedback from the Istana as reported in the media. The prospects of a new term for him reportedly wasn’t that encouraging. See here . . .

No Court Against Agong

No court would go against Agong if he had re-appointed Najib as Prime Minister. The matter is nonjusticiable.

Again, if Wan Azizah had been appointed Prime Minister, newly-freed jailbird Anwar would have been a shoo in for the post after getting a Pardon and winning the Port Dickson seat in Parliament on Sat 13 Oct 2018. The wife, a homemaker plucked from relative obscurity in 1998, would have made way for the husband in a history-making world first and gone home to play with the grandchildren.

Mahathir, appointed as Prime Minister on Thurs 10 May 2018, openly refused to make way for Anwar after publicly dragging his feet on the proposed transition. Instead, he resigned on Mon 24 Feb 2020 and brought down the entire government around him after failing to bring back a Prime Ministerial dictatorship, his preferred mode of governance. Old habits die hard. Mahathir, like the leopard, could not change his spots.

In Mahathir’s eyes, Anwar was “morally unfit” — an euphemism — to be Prime Minister after being involved in two cases, dubbed Sodomy 1 in an afterthought by the media, then Sodomy 2 happened as well. Although Mahathir stays in a glasshouse, he doesn’t hesitate to throw stones, especially at Najib and Anwar. He remains incorrigible and recalcitrant. The gracious luxury of being mellow in old age may have somehow escaped him and remains cursed as the look on his face tells all.

Look out for Part 2 where we will look at the real reason for Mahathir Mohamad reneging on the pledge to make way for Anwar Ibrahim. Perhaps this is due to the latter’s public threat in 1998 before a media conference packed with the international media as well.- New Malaysia Herald

About the writer: Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez keeps a keen eye on Malaysia as a legal scholar (jurist). He was formerly Chief Editor of Sabah Times. He’s not to be mistaken for a namesake previously with Daily Express. References to his blog articles can be found here.

The points expressed in this article are that of the writer’s, and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.

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