By Sheridan Mahavera
GABUNGAN Parti Sarawak could once again play kingmaker in Pakatan Harapan’s plan to retake federal power before the 15th general election.
Apart from the role played by GPS, it will also depend on what kind of deal is reached between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim.
Sources in the coalition said a compromise must be struck between Dr Mahathir, who claims to be Bersatu chairman, and PKR president Anwar on who gets to be prime minister should PH pull off a counter coup against Perikatan Nasional.
Sources said discussions are ongoing between associates of the two icons on how best to achieve these aims.
PH intends to convince 18 to 22 MPs to switch sides so that it can have a majority of between 126 and 130 in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat to move a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Anwar said such an effort is a work-in-progress
PH, which now consists of PKR, DAP and Amanah, forms the bulk of the opposition. Together with Parti Warisan Sabah and five MPs from Dr Mahathir’s faction in Bersatu, they have 108 seats as of the last Dewan Rakyat sitting on May 18.
The PN government has 114 MPs, with half from the muafakat nasional pact of Umno and PAS.
PH sources said it is unlikely Umno or PAS will support them, given the two parties’ deep-seated hostility towards DAP and Amanah.
GPS’s bloc of 18 lawmakers could once again play a kingmaker role. GPS has since pledged to support PN but stressed that it’s not part of the coalition.
It is learnt that PH is approaching GPS, as getting all 18 MPs to switch sides will give the coalition the numbers to form a government.
PH is also reaching out to the 31 Bersatu MPs in Muhyiddin’s faction.
PH believes some of these MPs, especially those who campaigned and won under its banner in the 14th general election, are dissatisfied with the dealings with Umno.
The Malay nationalist party has disparaged Bersatu and its leaders and only committed to work with PN until GE15.
Another group of MPs being targeted are the nine PKR rebels who followed the party’s former No.2, Mohamed Azmin Ali, to dump PH together with Muhyiddin’s 31 from Bersatu on February 24, in what is now called the “Sheraton move”.
They then joined with Umno, PAS, GPS and a clutch of independent Sabah lawmakers to form PN, with Muhyiddin as PM.
One PH leader stressed that not every MP on the other side will be approached or accepted, as he or she must accept PH’s electoral pledge to form a clean government.
“There are certain red lines that cannot be crossed. We won’t accept Zahid Hamidi, Najib Razak or anyone who has a court case,” said the PH leader.
Zahid, who is Umno president, is battling 47 charges of money laundering and bribery that allegedly took place when he was home minister-.
Najib, Zahid’s immediate predecessor, is also in court on charges of abuse of power, fraud and money-laundering of funds diverted from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MBD).
Others include former Umno leaders Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Musa Aman.
PKR, DAP and Amanah along with Dr Mahathir and Warisan have pledged to retake Putrajaya.
PH and its allies said this is because PN appears to be backtracking on its promise to end corruption and patronage, citing the appointment of PN lawmakers to government-linked companies.
They are also alarmed at how PN allowed Najib’s stepson and film producer Riza Aziz to walk away from charges of laundering funds stolen from 1MDB.
Amanah communications director Khalid Samad said PH must get back to power as it won the mandate to govern in GE14.
“We lost (that mandate) due to betrayal. We have to try our very best to get our position back,” who is a former Federal Territories minister.
“The MPs can come from a combination of groups and it depends on discussions and negotiations.”
Khalid said PH will not get MPs to defect with promises of money, contracts or plum posts.
Another source said the key to courting GPS will be whether PH can guarantee more autonomy in how they rule Sarawak and their continued political dominance after the state elections due next year.
GPS’s support for PN earned it three ministerial posts and two deputy ministers.
It controls 72 out of 82 seats in the Sarawak assembly and the biggest opposition party is the Sarawak DAP, which holds 10 seats.
“There will have to be guarantees from PH, especially DAP, that in the Sarawak elections, they will only contest the seats they currently hold and let GPS have the rest,” said the source.
The source admits that getting GPS to trust PH is a tall order given the bad blood between Sarawak leaders and PH’s former ministers.
The other big challenge will be getting either Dr Mahathir or Anwar to give up their claim to the prime ministership.
“Anwar feels that it’s time he takes the reins but we hear that Dr Mahathir also wants to return to settle unfinished business,” said a PKR source.
PKR leaders involved in the negotiations are wary of repeating the mistakes from the previous succession plan, where constant bickering over deadlines for the handover drove a wedge between allies.
“We don’t want to go through all that fighting again and get burnt. Because we might as well stay in the opposition and focus on GE15.”
This article first appeared in The Malaysian Insight. The views here do not necessarily reflect those of this portal.