All eyes on the all-powerful PM (and his advisers)

The gay sex video controversy allegedly involving Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali is nauseating. It is a clear and present danger to the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

There is now an urgency for the police to complete their investigation and bring about a satisfactory closure to it as soon as possible.

Ultimately, the public must be convinced that the investigation is impartial and above board with no political interference and no attempt whatsoever of a cover-up.

The appointment of Latheefa Koya to head the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is already a fait-accompli with Cabinet members saying they have endorsed it.

Now she must show what she is truly capable of by bringing MACC to greater heights and dispelling assumptions about her in the past. We need to give her the time and opportunity to prove her real worth.

Meanwhile, the royal inquiry on judicial misconduct is still a work in progress, moving at a snail’s pace much to the chagrin of many.

Likewise with the establishment of the Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). The government must show greater decisiveness and resolve to quickly establish it.

The police, with Abdul Hamid Bador at the top, are also under public scrutiny now.

Hamid has pledged to bring about real reform in the police force, especially with regard to the endemic corruption within the force. The people will also want to see how he deals with illegal gambling, expecting him to clean up the mess rather than just giving lip service as happened under previous police chiefs.

Hamid will also be scrutinised for his pledge to bring back Jho Low to the country as soon as possible to face the long arm of the law. The fugitive is still at large. Hamid is putting his credibility at stake with the said pledge which has given the public much hope and expectation.

It is all about results.

The economy is still in dire straits with not much sign of an imminent turnaround despite Daim Zainuddin’s very confident forecast a few months ago that it would do so within six months. Meantime, people continue to suffer from the burden of high cost of living.

Then there is that troubling succession plan, with uncertainty in the timeline for the handover of power. It is troubling the component parties of PH as well as the people.

The government has made commendable progress in implementing institutional reforms during its first year in office, but there remain many unfulfilled promises.

The opposition leader is yet to be granted the status of a federal minister; and key positions in bodies such as the Election Commission, MACC, Human Rights Commission and the Judicial Appointments Commission still do not go under a parliamentary committee.

The unfulfilled promises, and a slew of other issues, make the people feel like they have been betrayed by the new government.

A recent survey by Merdeka Center showed that fewer than half of Malaysians approve of Mahathir as prime minister, amid concerns over rising costs and racial issues.

The survey showed that only 46% of voters were satisfied with Mahathir, a sharp drop from 71% in August 2018.

Some quarters take the view that Mahathir, his inner kitchen Cabinet and sanctum of power continue to practise the Machiavellian politics of divide and rule to preserve their stranglehold, power and authority over the nation.

If indeed there is truth to that perception, then it would appear that PKR and DAP are the two component parties of PH that are suffering the most from the fallout of the said divisive politics.

Factionalism within PKR continues to be a source of concern. It would appear that Mahathir and his coterie of advisers are using Azmin to put a check on Anwar Ibrahim.

Azmin has been greatly empowered by Mahathir with the senior portfolio of economic affairs, and enjoys great confidence of the PM.

There is even talk that Azmin is being groomed to take over from Mahathir at the expense of Anwar.

Naturally none of this has gone down well with Anwar’s supporters, hence the factionalism in PKR.

DAP too is being subjected to scurrilous attacks from within the PH government and is often put in bad light when it presses for better rights for the non-Malays and non-Muslims.

As was the case in the past, DAP is often used as the scapegoat to rally the support of Malay Muslims. In this respect, the race and religion cards being played are no different from those used by Umno and PAS.

All eyes are on Mahathir, the all-powerful PM, to guide and steer the country to a more harmonious future.

As he moves to complete the remaining timeline before handing over power to Anwar as his successor, the onus is really on him to improve the economy, bring about good governance and the rule of law to the nation, speed up the process of reform to the civil service and key government institutions, especially the law enforcement agencies, and strengthen the system of democracy.

Time is running out for him to do that. Unless he remains focused on nation building and is not sidetracked by politics of power and intra-party squabbling, he will find himself occupied with self-inflicted problems instead of addressing the real problems of the nation.

While firm and decisive leadership is necessary in the reform process, it should not be an excuse to return to the dictatorial ways of the past. The new narratives necessitate management by way of consensus and collective responsibility in matters of governance.

Mahathir should also rein in his advisers so that they do not overstep their boundaries of authority. He is a popularly elected prime minister while these people are only political appointees who should not be allowed to act as if they hold the power of attorney from him to do as they please at the expense of the Cabinet and the people.

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