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‘No smoke without fire’: Buck up, Pakatan or risk losing it all, analysts warn

KUALA LUMPUR — Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders need to stop attacking each other or risk losing more support and drive away local and foreign investors, analysts have warned.

Malaysian prime minster Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the country's deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and finance minister Lim Guan Eng arrive in Parliament for the tabling of Budget 2020 on October 11, 2019.

Malaysian prime minster Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the country's deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and finance minister Lim Guan Eng arrive in Parliament for the tabling of Budget 2020 on October 11, 2019.

KUALA LUMPUR — Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders need to stop attacking each other or risk losing more support and drive away local and foreign investors, analysts have warned.

Referring to the statement issued by PH last week attacking United Malays National Organisation’s (Umno) former vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, political analyst Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said that rather than heaping blame on the Sembrong Member of Parliament (MP) for allegedly sowing disunity among PH’s ranks, it is even more urgent for the former to put its own house in order. 

The joint statement was signed by PH secretariat chief Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah; PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution and his counterparts from Bersatu and Amanah, Datuk Wira Marzuki Yahya and Datuk Wira Anuar Tahir; and DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke.

Mr Hishammuddin had since dismissed all allegations hurled at him.

“With PH leaders seen joining hands with Umno and PAS leaders at the Malay Dignity Congress recently, and DAP central committee member Ronnie Liu’s recent swipe at Dr Mahathir, this reflects badly on the cohesiveness of the coalition,” said Prof Ahmad Fauzi.

He then referred to a Malay saying, “kalau tiada angin, masakan pokok bergoyang” or “there is no smoke without fire”, implying that if PH’s internal unity is strong, it should be formidable enough to dispel such notions.

Senior fellow of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun believes it is an open secret that as the discord between prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Port Dickson MP Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim over succession persists, both sides are trying to cobble together supporters across the political divide.

“So this is but the latest testimony to such power struggle and by now the public should be quite used to it,” said Dr Oh.

Whether Mr Hishammuddin’s statement has caused any dent on PH, Dr Oh said the dent has been cumulative.

“I don’t think public care much now for politics. It’s a sense of helplessness.

“The conservative will continue to vote for the rightist Umno and PAS, and the progressive may not be bothered to vote, which would only benefit the conservative camp.

“The statement doesn’t matter. It’s the whole sad scene now, that mainly, PH is not spending much time fixing the economy, but (instead) indulging in power struggles,” he said.

Universiti Malaya (UM) associate professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi appeared to share similar sentiments, saying that the public does not really care who will be the next prime minister, they are instead more concerned with the country’s development.

“On the ground, I’ve gathered that the public is quite fed-up with these kind of sentiment play by politicians.

“People will continue to support PH as long as they see the ruling coalition make real changes in terms of coming up with economic policies rather than politicking.

“But if more of such statements arise in the future, it is dangerous for the coalition as they will risk losing popularity,” said Prof Awang Azman.

Prof Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) said all these are happening because it is “the best time” to disrupt PH, citing how the marriage between PPBM and initial PH coalition parties only occurred with a common aim of defeating former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his administration.

Two years after the marriage, with things looking rather shaky for PH, compounded by inherited governance problems, it is no wonder that these disturbances are becoming more obvious, Prof Mohd Azizuddin said.

“But the government is still stable although there many attempts to disrupt them.

“What Anwar said, when referencing the Sembrong MP, it was targeted more for PH members to not go on this path (to disrupt unity within PH and his transition to become prime minister), not so much for the Opposition,” said Prof Mohd Azizuddin.

Mr Anwar reportedly made a veiled reference towards the Sembrong MP’s attempts while debating the Budget 2020 speech in Parliament last week.

He reportedly mentioned an alleged effort by the former defence minister and other Umno lawmakers to derail the succession plan for Anwar to take over as prime minister.

Prof Mohd Azizuddin added that the statement by PH over attempts to derail Mr Anwar’s transition towards premiership and pushing for a Putrajaya without DAP and Amanah are mere distractions to economic problems faced by the country.

Asked if this will alarm investor confidence, Prof Mohd Azizuddin said there are other factors that come into play.

“When it comes to investor confidence, there are global factors involved, not just the local situation.

“If anything goes wrong, it must be viewed with the contribution of external or global factors,” he added.

He also pointed out that the new Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV2030) is viewed as a good move and it is what the nation has been waiting for.

“With new foreign economic policies, these create confidence among investors too.

“They now see that PH has a plan on what to do. They are just waiting for execution,” he said.

Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) political science lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusoff on the other hand said, PH’s attacks on Mr Hishammuddin on the purported attempt to take over the government will not affect the administration’s stability.

“Even if it is true that Hishamuddin is masterminding any attempts to take over the government, his lack of clout within Umno will render the effort fruitless,” he said.

It is however undeniable that there seems to be restlessness within DAP and PKR over the conduct of Dr Mahathir and the uncertainty of the power transition.

But so far, this is yet to descend into chaos; even with the latest criticism by Mr Liu on Dr Mahathir, the matter is being handled by DAP through disciplinary action.

“Hence, I think investors have nothing much to worry about the perceived instability of the government as, despite disgruntlement here and there, things are still okay,” said Mr Kamarul Zaman.

Prof Awang Azman meanwhile warned that investors could end up being anxious over these bickerings and will result in them holding back on investments until a smooth succession has taken place.

“They want stability. What PH did (issuing the statement) does alarm investors, causing them to ‘wait and see’ before deciding to invest.

“They will only invest until they see a smooth transition of power as they are worried that when there is a change of power, there will be changes in the economic environment,” he said.

Independent analyst and economist Hoo Ke Ping echoed a similar view, that public spats show that PH is not strong as a coalition.

“Any quarrel shows this coalition is not strong.

“How will foreign investors look at us if what they see is constant fighting. They will only view this coalition as non-sustainable for the country for development,” said Dr Hoo.

“We are lacking behind countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, why? Because you are busy fighting.

“There is no big push for policies, no unified voice on policies or good governance,” he said.

He also warned that if the current situation prolongs, the country risks being erased from foreign investors’ radar in the near future. MALAY MAIL

Related topics

Malaysia Politics Pakatan Harapan UMNO PAS

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