Early elections to block Anwar? Far-fetched, say analysts

Opposition politicians claim that Mahathir may resort to a general election and block Anwar from taking over.

PETALING JAYA: Several political analysts are unconvinced that Dr Mahathir Mohamad will call for snap elections before his term as prime minister is up, and instead believe that such a move would backfire on Pakatan Harapan.

Politicians of the opposition Barisan National have been predicting that Mahathir would not step down for Anwar Ibrahim to succeed him as promised, but would dissolve Parliament for fresh elections before the current term ends.

However, Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said that although there were indications of Mahathir being “very reluctant” to pass over the baton, it was “a bit far-fetched” to say that he would call for snap elections just to avoid the transfer of power.

“With the current political scenario, nobody in PH will favour any snap elections, given that the opposition is gaining ground day by day,” Azmi said.

At worst Mahathir might only step down towards the end of PH’s five-year term so that Anwar would “get the blame” if Pakatan Harapan performed badly at the next general election.

MCA president Wee Ka Siong had recently raised the prospect of an early general election, citing “problems” within PH such as the lack of clarity about the transfer of power. Wee said that there also seemed to be a lack of collective decision-making within the coalition, with leaders not getting along.

Umno acting president Mohamad Hasan, who said he “knows Mahathir well”, has also repeatedly claimed that Mahathir would not keep to his word. Mohamad believed that elections could be called as early as next year.

Kamarul Zaman Yusoff.

Another analyst, Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, of Universiti Utara Malaysia, said it was immaterial whether Anwar was made deputy PM or PH leaders failed to get along as these factors would not not affect their electoral mandate.

However, it would be “political suicide” for anyone to attempt to oust Mahathir, as he remained largely influential with wide public appeal in leading the coalition to power at the elections last year.

“In the unlikely event that Mahathir does not have the number to retain his position if there is an attempt to oust him and he wants to call for snap elections, court cases show that he may not get it,” he added.

Kamarul referred to two instances from Kelantan in 1977 and Perak in 2009 where requests for the dissolutions of their respective state assemblies did not receive the royal assent of the rulers of both states.

He also said if Anwar were to take over from Mahathir, it was highly unlikely that he would call for snap elections either, as there was no legal or moral obligation to seek a fresh mandate.

Anwar would need the time to consolidate his position in the government and party, he noted, before facing the risk of defeat in a general election if he dissolves Parliament too quickly.

Wong Chin Huat.

Political scientist Wong Chin Huat of Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia did not think any PH leader would want to take the risk losing Pakatan’s simple majority in Parliament.

He said PH had “limited achievements” to show in its first year in power, and would face further criticism for wasting public funds if fresh elections are suddenly called.

Cooperation among PH’s four component parties would also be put to the test, with some parties likely to be embroiled in disputes over seats and candidates.

Independent pollster Ibrahim Suffian of Merdeka Centre did not think that PH has such acute problems as to require resorting to early elections, while James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said PH would never call for snap polls as long as they remained unsure about the sentiments of Malay voters.