Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad clearly shot down DAP elder statesman Lim Kit Siang’s “save Malaysia” mantra, evoked since the latter’s hudud crisis with PAS, when he laid down the conditions under which Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs can be expected to support any Opposition-led initiative to introduce a no confidence motion in Parliament against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. Obviously, but not stated, a BN-led no confidence initiative may not be on the cards for some reason. The DAP Central Executive Committee (CEC) had urged that Najib himself submit a confidence motion to demonstrate that he still commands the confidence of the majority. It's telling if he doesn't do so.

Mahathir’s arguments can be found in full in his blog posting.

The Opposition, said Mahathir, must agree that Najib’s exit would see the continuation of the BN Government in Putrajaya. Otherwise, there could be no deal.

Mahathir was pointing out the realpolitik of the situation from the BN side. However, he did not completely forget the informal opposition alliance. “Najib’s exit would ensure that the 14thGeneral Election come 2018 would be cleaner, freer and fairer than with him – “Cash is King “ -- leading the BN.”

While Mahathir does have a point on 2018, which the Opposition would do well to consider, and assuming that Lim can persuade himself to eat humble pie for now on his “save Malaysia” campaign, there must be at least a little more carrot from the BN side for the informal opposition alliance. Also, Mahathir did not say what would happen to Najib's pledge that Sabah and Sarawak would get Full Autonomy as Equal Partners of Malaya in the Federation, in line with the letter and spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963, and in Adenan Satem's words "to return to the status they had before 1963".

There’s no reason why the BN cannot agree that those involved in the RM42 billion 1MDB loan scandal, the RM2.6 billion controversy, SRC International's RM4 billion loan from KWAP and its RM42 million contribution to the RM2.6 billion "political donation", Mara and Felda’s overpriced purchases inAustralia,UKandIndonesia (Felda only) cannot be brought to justice. There are also lifestyle and money-laundering, conflict of interest and abuse of power issues to consider. Also, there remains the delicate question of bringing closure to the issue of those who took monies from Najib and those who may have exceeded their election spending in 2013.

Secondly, the Opposition would not want both Umno Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin and Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to replace Najib as the next Prime Minister. Here, the confidence factor is missing.

Beyond that, it would not be prudent for the Opposition to say who BN must choose as the next Prime Minister. The mechanics are best left to the Umno Supreme Council. However, looking at the hierarchy of Umno, it’s a toss between two Vice Presidents who becomes Prime Minister and who has to satisfy himself with the deputy’s post viz. Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and sacked Rural Development Minister Shafie Apdal from Sabah.

Alternatively, IF -- and this is a big IF -- both Hishammuddin and Shafie agree and the Umno Supreme Council gives its blessings, Umno Kelantan veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah would make an ideal Prime Minister to work on turning the economy around. It would be in BN's own interest to consider this idea. Razaleigh as Prime Minister would also satisfy the Opposition. However, again, obviously they can’t dictate that he be made Prime Minister. Razaleigh is not one of their own to nominate.

The Opposition must keep in mind that if Razaleigh becomes Prime Minister, he may at least lead the ruling coalition into battle with them in 2018, if only to quit soon thereafter given the fact that he would be over 80 years old. In that case, the best the Opposition can do was to hang on to whatever they have now especially if he helps turn around the economy, cleans house and ensures transparency, public accountability and good governance. The Opposition would have to delay any prospect of seizing the reins of power in Putrajaya until 2023 when Razaleigh would not be in the saddle.

However, there’s a silver lining in all this from Fiji, a Commonwealth nation in the South Pacific. There, the population is delicately balanced between the indigenous people and descendants of Indians who came to work the sugar plantations and went on to run the economy.

The ruling party in Fiji shares Cabinet and government positions with the Opposition which have almost the same number in Parliament as their adversaries. There are indigenous people and Indians in both the indigenous-dominated ruling party and the Indian-dominated Opposition.

The arrangement is neither seen as a unity government nor a coalition. However, it ensures remarkable political stability after a history of military coups and suspensions of democracy.

This model would be worthwhile exploring inMalaysiawhere the Opposition took 53 per cent of the popular vote in the 13thGeneral Election in 2013 but less than the magical 112 seat mark in Parliaments. DAP veteran Lim would no doubt be over the moon if this "Fiji" arrangement came to pass in Malaysia. Besides, the BN MPs who don't vote for the no confidence motion would have to pay a price at least from the ruling coalition's perspective. That would be one of life's little ironies.

It was the German Chancellor Bismarck who said that “politics was the art of the possible”.

Finally, the Opposition would want to press the case that jailed Opposition Chief Anwar Ibrahim be allowed to spend the rest of his incarceration under house arrest, and with proper medical care and hospitalization whenever needed, as a “Prisoner of Conscience” as Amnesty International and the international community has declared. It would not be politically expedient for the BN to dispute the "Prisoner of Conscience" argument.

The Opposition may be pushing its luck if they want the new Prime Minister to recommend a Pardon from the Agong for Anwar. However, if they fail on the question of a Pardon for Anwar, it should not be for want of trying.


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