Shafie ploy is just to stem desertions, says analyst

Shafie Apdal has not been supportive of Anwar Ibrahim becoming prime minister.

PETALING JAYA: Political analysts have downplayed the viability of a plan to name Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal as the federal opposition’s prime minister candidate.

Speaking to FMT, Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Sivamurugan Pandian and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Azmi Hassan said the plan would require PKR’s support and this was unlikely to happen.

Sivamurugan said PKR has been adamant on wanting their president Anwar Ibrahim to be the PM candidate, an idea which Warisan does not support.

“This could be a psywar strategy to divert from the real issue faced by Warisan and Pakatan Harapan. It could also be part of a strategy to deter mass defections from Warisan to PN,” he said.

He said PKR would naturally question why Shafie was being pushed as a PM candidate rather than a combination of Anwar and Shafie as PM and deputy prime minister.

Azmi views Shafie to be clearly Mahathir’s choice and a proxy for the 94-year-old former prime minister.

“Compared to Anwar, Shafie does not have the political clout to get the numbers to oust the Perikatan Nasional government,” Azmi said.

Recent attempts to destabilise the Warisan-led Sabah government, which includes the defections of two assemblymen, highlighted the limited amount of support that Shafie commanded in his own “fortress”, said Azmi.

He said Shafie was at risk of being challenged by his predecessor Musa Aman, who has been acquitted of corruption charges and remains influential in the state.

“Without PKR’s support, it is impossible for PH to regain control of Putrajaya,” he said.

He said the choice of Shafie as PM-candidate was “a very poor strategy, it seems desperate and not well thought out.”

A Sarawak rather than a Sabahan politician is the key to recapturing Putrajaya, says political scientist Wong Chin Huat.

He said that if GPS did not join the effort against Perikatan Nasional, whoever emerged as the PH-endorsed candidate to be PM would only get an empty title.

“The real question is what can PH plus give to GPS that Perikatan Nasional cannot match?” said Wong, who leads the reformist group Engage.

Even with GPS on their side, the opposition would also need to win over a significant number of MPs from Umno and PPBM to avoid any protests “in the name of Malays and Islam” to push for a snap poll.

With the opposition looking so fragile and unstable, Wong said he could not foresee defections.

He questioned on what basis Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin would surrender to demands to dissolve Parliament. “From Umno and PAS’ position, a snap poll is the best outcome,” he said, adding that they could win between 90 and 100 seats with or without PPBM.

The PH attempt at a counter coup against PN might end up only strengthening the position of Umno and PAS for five years, he said.

Wong looked back on Anwar’s move after the 2008 elections to engineer defections from Barisan Nasional. Instead of overthrowing prime minisiter Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the move resulted in a much tougher opponent in Najib Razak becoming PM.

“Why should Amanah and DAP go along with such a move?” Wong said. “I’m puzzled.”

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