Pakatan’s problems may force early elections

Wee Ka Siong believes the next general election will be held long before Pakatan Harapan’s mandate expires in 2023.

KUALA LUMPUR: The MCA president, Wee Ka Siong, has raised the prospect of an early general election because of problems within Pakatan Harapan, such as lack of clarity about the transfer of power from Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Anwar Ibrahim.

In an interview with FMT, Wee said he perceived signs of snap elections long before Pakatan Harapan’s mandate expires in 2023.

“If Anwar is to be PM, why doesn’t Mahathir make him deputy prime minister?” said Wee, pointing out that in 2002, Mahathir, then BN chairman, had named his deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as his successor,  allowing Abdullah at least a year to prepare for the role.

However, this time, many people, including foreign investors, were raising the question of whether the baton would really be passed to Anwar, and this indicated political manoeuvres were being made.

“We can also see signs that the coalition is shaky and its leaders are not getting along. There seems to be a lack of collective decisions on various issues,” said Wee.

“The leadership succession plan needs to be made clear if there is to be peace and stability in the country.”

Wee said this was why he believed a snap election could not be ruled out.

“In some countries, once a successor receives the baton from his predecessor, he will call for elections to ensure he has a fresh mandate. In other cases, in case of a dispute, the leader may leave it to the people at fresh elections, as he would have nothing to lose,” he said.

Either way, Wee said, this could mean that snap elections could come sooner rather than later.

Focus on the economy

Wee, a former federal minister, also urged Putrajaya to talk less and focus on the economy instead, saying the careless statements of some ministers in the past year had been damaging.

“They talk about the RM1 trillion debt, but Bank Negara figures show it was RM686 billion prior to the change of government. Now it has increased to RM785.3 billion, that is nearly RM100 billion more.

“You are no longer the opposition leader or a backbench MP who can make statements without consequences: in the government, you have to be accountable with whatever you say and provide the data and figures to back it up,” said Wee.

The federal government could not expect foreign investors to come in and save the economy when it did not paint an accurate picture; investors would look to other markets in the region which appeared more stable.

“They (ministers) should keep their mouths shut and not simply talk; people expect PH to do more than talking. Even Kadir Jasin, who is close to Mahathir, has said that some ministers are just not up to the mark.”

Wee said PH had made some laudable efforts, such as reform of Parliament, and the reservation of the Public Accounts Committee chairman’s post for an opposition MP.

But the main concern was the state of the economy, he said. Many businesses, such as retailers, were dwindling from weaker purchasing power among the public.

“The government needs to come out with proactive measures to stimulate the economy; so far we do not see any concrete plan to help small businesses or those in the commodity market.”

Wee, who is MP for Ayer Hitam, said oil palm smallholders in his constituency were badly hit by the massive drop in commodity prices, with many seeing a 50% drop in incomes.

“I hope the government comes up with ways to help these people rather than just suggesting they plant bamboo.”