Who will be PM?

P Gunasegaram
5:50PM Feb 28, 2013

QUESTION TIME On the surface, that seems an easy enough question to answer. Perhaps if Pakatan Rakyat wins, then almost everyone expects Anwar Ibrahim to become prime minister, even though there are minor dissenting voices from among coalition partners, notably PAS.

So why should not Najib Abdul Razak become prime minister if Barisan Nasional wins? Sure he will, for a start but how long he remains prime minister will depend crucially on how well – or badly – BN does at the polls.

As it is there is not a single person I could find who does not think there is some kind of tension between Najib and his deputy, both as Umno head and prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin. The popular wisdom is that Muhyiddin is poised to take on Najib if BN does not do well enough in the polls.

This column took a look at who is likely to win the polls about a month ago. In the unlikely event that Pakatan wins, Anwar is the clear choice for prime minister.

In the likely event that BN wins, the situation is not very clear-cut. Recall that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was pressured to step down as Umno head and prime minister even though he was a mere eight seats short of a two-thirds majority in the 2008 elections.

At the federal level it was a victory that would have counted as respectable in most countries except Malaysia, and of course our neighbour down south, Singapore.

The bigger rub was the unprecedented loss of five states in peninsular Malaysia and the popular vote here being just over 50 percent – for the opposition. Unquestionably Sabah and Sarawak saved the day for BN.

Abdullah had to come down from a major victory previously in 2004 when BN won over 90 percent of parliamentary seats and all states but Kelantan. The strong turn against BN in the peninsula was the reason Abdullah had to relent to pressure within his party to go, which he did later in 2008.

That resulted in Najib becoming the longest serving prime minister and Umno head without a direct mandate from the people via elections. But the day of reckoning is near and by June 28 at the latest the die will be cast. Then it will become clear, if BN wins, whether Najib will face pressure to cede the reins of power to Muhyiddin.

At the federal level, the common view, which I share, is that BN will not regain its two-thirds majority but is likely to remain in control via a smaller majority. That is not likely to help Najib’s case any, unless there are mitigating factors, aka the results of the state elections.

High-stakes gamble

For Najib, that means BN will have to at least regain Selangor. That much seems obvious to Najib himself who has basically appointed himself as BN’s election director for Selangor in a high-stakes game to lessen pressure on him if BN wins – and regains Selangor.

But it is not a gamble that Najib could have avoided. If BN’s showing at the parliamentary level is less than before, than he has to do at least better in terms of states. Otherwise, the pressure is going to be great for him to step aside in favour of Muhyiddin, who is getting on in age and no doubt wants to try his hand at the helm.

One can expect then that a lot of effort is going to be spent on regaining Selangor. Even if there is some reduction in the number of parliamentary seats for BN, bringing Selangor into the BN fold may just tilt the balance in favour of Najib if there is no significant loss in terms of other states.

But what is the reality or rather the realistic outcome? If Pakatan wins (unlikely) Anwar will be PM. If BN wins big (unlikely) Najib will be PM. If BN wins narrowly (most likely) Najib is going to come under plenty of pressure to step down.

The eventual PM in that final scenario may well be, yes, Muhyiddin. I am not even going to comment – at least for now – on what that means for you and me.

P GUNASEGARAM is founding editor of KiniBiz, a business news portal set up in a joint-venture with Malaysiakini. After all these years, Malaysian politics still baffles him.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 7:08 am

    Based on current situation and conditions…a BN win is unthinkable.
    And should they somehow can win by cheating…like 12th GE…with a slim majority…you will have another 4 years of no work by BN politicians….all …fighting for positions…to be Ministers and Deputies.
    It is clear…Umno b will have the last say in everything.
    The others are nothing but puppets.
    It is impossible for Najib or Muhyiddin to please everyone….thus a win by BN will means billions of tax payers money will be wasted with unproductive elected servants.
    However…Umno b politicians do not consider themselves as elected servants at all.
    In the past…they keep bragging Umno b will govern forever….and now we know why.
    With a win…they are confident the phantom voters idea is very much alive….and that is the only way..they can win.
    Will People Power allow it????…to be suckers again??
    Najib needs to think twice…and so he did..and will he dares to encourage cheatings…to win??

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 7:52 am

    (Unless Pakatan wins) the real defacto PM is still “M” – not necessarily, Muhyiddin, and it ought to be apparent what that means for you and me as well.

  3. #3 by monsterball on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 9:03 am

    Nothing is permanent….and that goes for Umno b too.
    55 years have been proven with frauds….and so the change is real.

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 9:27 am

    Who will b PM? Well, rakyat can discuss until d COWs come home n moo mooo will b larfing all d way 2 d bank

  5. #5 by yhsiew on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 9:33 am

    Tun Dr M will be the de facto PM if BN win GE13.

  6. #6 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 2:58 pm

    Who will be PM? Oh we have quite a number of capable candidates in pakatan. So no worries there as far as capability is concerned. Of course the final candidate would have to be one where everyone in malaysia can accept.

  7. #7 by mauriyaII on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 8:13 pm

    Who really cares which corrupted, racist and religious fanatic from UMNO becomes the PM. They are birds of the same feather. The evil Mamak Kutty has the last say not because he is the wisest of the lot but he has the billions to buy up any dissenter to his dictates. He is even known to have that little black book which has the records of all the scandals, skeletons,etc with which he can blackmail and get his way.

    Frankly, I am only looking forward to the PM from Pakatan Rakyat. It can be AI or anyone with the consensus of all the component parties of PR. They can even do a rotation system for all I care but the next PM must be from Pakatan Rakyat.

    Enough of lanun rule. They, especially the biggest, greediest and dirtiest lanun in Malaysian politics is the one and only evil Mamak Kutty who destroyed everything that was enshrined in the Constitution.

    Mamak Kutty is a traitor. He sold the country to foreigners with his IC project. He should be tried and meted the sentence that is usually reserved for all traitors.

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