One consequence of Malaysian Official 1’s name peppered all over the Department of Justice US$1 billion suit against the Wolf of Wall Street and Red Granite Pictures is the latest iteration of Pakatan – Harapan, right? – rallying around sacked deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
You heard it right. Sacked deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
That phrase used to be reserved for Anwar Ibrahim. Not any more. And not only that, Pakatan Harapan is said to be ready to name Muhyiddin Yassin as their choice of prime minister if they win the next general elections.
The Malaysian Official 1 understands that Anwar has reluctantly agreed to this, as he remains in jail for a second sodomy conviction. The Pakatan Harapan has also agreed that Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali would be the choice for Deputy Prime Minister.
The understanding came about after Anwar’s PKR party, led by his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, agreed to work with Muhyiddin on a nation-wide roadshow to explain the 1MDB financial fiasco that has engulfed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who the DoJ euphemistically refers to as Malaysian Official 1.
Muhyiddin, who reminded everyone that he was the first Barisan Nasional minister to meet Anwar after the latter was sacked in 1998, has been tipped by Dr Mahathir Mohamad to lead a new party against Najib’s Umno and BN coalition.
It remains to be seen if the party can be registered or renamed from an existing party, and what traction it will have among Malaysians. Muhyiddin has had a spotty record since his sacking in July 2015, spending much of his time either playing golf or in seclusion with a few media statements in between.
Much is expected of him and his party, which would be the 6th offshoot or splinter from Umno, the Malay nationalist party first founded in 1946 and declared illegal in 1988. Dr Mahathir re-registered Umno as Umno Baru in 1988, and has quit the party twice since then.
The other offshoots of Umno has been the Independence of Malaya Party, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, Semangat 46, Umno Baru, Parti Keadilan Nasional (now PKR), and the yet unknown Muhyiddin-led party.
Some might question Pakatan Hardpan’s reasons to agreeing to Muhyiddin as the potential prime minister. But realpolitik can be that surprising and the answer even more simple than that.
Pakatan Rakyat needs more traction among the Malays, who form some 60pct of the electorate, and has proven thus far to remain the bedrock of votes for Umno and to a certain extent PAS. Both PKR and Amanah, the PAS offshoot, have yet to prove they can get more of the Malay votes in the next polls.
Enter Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin, whom senior elements in Pakatan Harapan believe are the best options to get the Malays to swing to them in the wake of the 1MDB debacle and the DoJ suit.
Muhyiddin, who was once denounced for saying he was Malay first, Malaysian second by Pakatan Rakyat and later Harapan politicians, will now have to use that phrase to win over the Malays.
He has an entire laundry list of Najib’s mistakes that have cost the Malaysian government and its people. After all, he was the loyal deputy to Najib until two days before he was unceremoniously dumped on July 28, 2015.
Much the same way Anwar was Dr Mahathir’s loyal deputy until September 2, 1998, when he was fired too.
In Malaysia, political history tends to repeat itself, as do financial scandals. Unfortunately through it all, Umno endures as long as its name is kept in the party.
But perhaps the combined political acumen of the Mahathir-Anwar-Muhyiddin-Azmin alliance can finally push Umno out of Putrajaya. One will have to wait for the next general elections to see that possibly becoming a reality, all thanks to Malaysian Official 1.