Wan Azizah and her ‘king and I’ conversation

They say timing is everything in politics. If you want to engineer an outcome for something, you must do all it takes to influence the people. But occasionally, the move backfires.

On Oct 10, while on an official visit to Indonesia, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of the prime minister-in-waiting, dropped a clanger.

She told the Malaysian diaspora which had come to meet her at the embassy in Jakarta about a conversation she had had with the Agong soon after Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election win on May 9.

According to her, the Agong asked if she, as president of PKR which had allowed its symbol to be used by the PH coalition, would like to be prime minister.

Why reveal this now? What relevance does it have for Malaysians anymore? Why divulge the details of a private conversation between herself and the monarch?

Many among the Port Dickson electorate were furious when their MP, Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, vacated his seat to make way for Anwar Ibrahim’s return to Parliament.

The premise was that once Dr Mahathir Mohamad steps down as prime minister, Anwar would take over. Anwar himself has said that he is in no hurry to become the prime minister, and that Mahathir can stay on for at least two years.

Perhaps Wan Azizah has forgotten that the deal was made with the individual parties and Mahathir. It was not made with the rakyat.

It seems as though the rakyat have the last say in who becomes their prime minister.

Anwar has gone from one disaster to another. He faces the uphill task of restoring the people’s trust in him. He alienated them with his plans for a Cabinet reshuffle, and just recently he said he would reform Parliament. He appears to have forgotten that he is not an MP.

In Jakarta, Wan Azizah said she turned down the Agong’s offer as PH had promised the people that Mahathir would be prime minister and she would be his deputy.

Was she trying to sound righteous, telling us that she honoured her end of the bargain, and that by the same logic her husband’s right to become prime minister should also be honoured? Was that a subtle way to trying to influence the Port Dickson people into voting for Anwar?

On one hand, Wan Azizah could have grabbed the chance to lead Malaysia and show the nation that a woman is just as capable of leading the country as any man. After all, her peers are men and women who have proven themselves in more than just one way. She has access to experts in various industries who can advise her.

Had she taken up the offer and proven her worth, she would have confounded her detractors who questioned her abilities after the failed Kajang Move. Who would disagree with the Agong and tell him that he is wrong to have faith in Malaysia’s women?

On the other hand, her dithering over the child marriage issue and her failure to intervene when a succession of Muslim women were punished with whipping in Terengganu are worrying. Some may even be relieved that she turned down the Agong’s offer. They say she acted like an excited teenager and showed more enthusiasm in tweeting about “women power” after chairing a Cabinet meeting in Mahathir’s absence.

Another disturbing element is the timing of this revelation. If we recall the events of May 9 and the early hours of May 10, there was some delay in the official declaration of Mahathir as prime minister. It was alleged that the Agong was out of the country and had to return to make the official announcement.

As far as we know, Mahathir and the other PH leaders, including Wan Azizah, were assembled and ready to take their oaths at the Istana Negara although they had to wait for instruction from the palace.

So when did this conversation between Wan Azizah and the Agong take place?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.