Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Lesson in British history for Anwar: The fall of the Mighty Thatcher

Bigdogdotcom wrote a posting entitled The Heseltine Gambit.

For the benefit of the Gen Y, since the historical event occurred in 1990 before they were conscious as human being, it was the ouster of the mighty British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher through a motion in Parliament voted by only Conservative Party MPs. .

Thatcher was in her 11th year as Prime Minister, which is considered a marathon for British politics. It is unlike Malaysia that could afford the same Prime Minister for 22 years and later chose the same person 15 years later. Undeniably, it place Malaysia as a gerontocrasy nation.

In November 1990, Thatcher faced the second challenge on her premiership from MP, Michael Haseltine, who was Defense Minister in Thatcher's cabinet.

It was a time of public uproar against her policies to impose poll tax, and privatisation and subsidy cut resulted in massive unemployment. Foreign Minister, Sir Geoffrey Howe and few other members had resigned in protest of her policies.

Thatcher won the first round of the Conservative contest, 204 to 152, but did not exceed a 15% margin for a first round KO. Absentee was high and Haseltine surprisingly did better than expected 120. Thatcher resigned to prevent Haseltine from being PM. The second round saw John Major won 185 to 131 and 56 against Haseltine and Douglas Herd.

An interesting lesson of British history for Malaysia to learn from. If the constitution and parliamentary rule permit, it could end the political deadlock that has been both the cause and hindrance to Malaysia economic progress and recovery.

Malaysia's problems

As Dato Najib pointed out yesterday in Parliament and the same reasons were uttered by foreign investors holding out from coming in, the Malaysian government under Pakatan Harapan is facing problems of political unstability, lacking clarity in its policies, inconsistency in the roll-out and public statements from its Ministers.

It is extending the present economic problem that came about from the lost in confidence by  investors and withdrawal of buyers/importers of Malaysian exports due to the new government that came into power.

The problem is amplified by the incompetent Finance Minister and his adviser which are myopic management than a wholesome economic understanding of the impact of their actions. And, there is the global economic uncertainty to contend with.

The root cause of Malaysia predicament is politics thus it needs a political solution to resolve the economic implication. Bulk of the blame is pointed at the gerontocratic 93-year old Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir from the 13-seater PPBM.

Though he has since increased PPBM seats to 26 by convincing and threatening UMNO MPs to crossover, the larger number of PH 139 seat majority remained with PKR and DAP. Increasingly, the possibility of an UMNO and PAS cooperation could lead PH to be a one term wonder.

Political situation

Michael Haseltine, later Lord Haseltine led the cabinet revolt

It is rumoured that Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim was to do a surprise motion for vote of no confidence against Mahathir for the current Parliamentary session. In his latest attack on PAS, he claimed they made up stories. It is obvious to political pundits that he was angered with PAS for revealing the plan and giving open support to Mahathir.

There is a claim that Anwar do not have the number as a note allegedly written by Wan Azizah viraled by Raja Petra showed Anwar headcount to be only 98 seats with some 20 PKR MPs supporting Azmin.

The list showed Sarawak GBS supported Anwar but there is the possibility that it may changed with Mahathir's recent willingness to secede to the MA63 demand. To the chagrin of DAP and PKR, PPBM commited to accept UMNO Sabah leaders, MPs and members.

Recently four MPs joined PPBM and independent Dato Seri Anifah Aman expressed support for Mahathir and join the government bench in Parliament.

However, an MP told this blog that Anwar claimed to have 125 seats which raised the possibility that DAP and PAN are solid behind him, while Azmin's supporter in PKR willing to go for Mahathir is only 8. Contrary to the shift in support from Sabah, the MP said Sarawak GBS remained with Anwar.

There is the likelihood that Warisan 8 MPs support could switch to Anwar following the move by Mahathir to bring into PPBM fold the faction of Dato Shafie Apdal's arch enemy, Tan Sri Musa Aman.

Shafie cannot make the wrong move and be on the losing side in a vote of no confidence political contest. MACC will conveniently reopen his KKLW corruption cases during his days as Minister under Najib's administration.

He still has to ponder over his long association with Tun Daim through his father-in-law, Dato Shuib Lazim.

In the meanwhile, Mahathir cannot take for granted PAS's statement of support as they have yet to submit the signed Statutory Declaration as per the format sample provided.

Despite mainstream media spin that acting UMNO President, Dato Mohamed Hasan gave his support to Mahathir, actually there was no such commitment. There was no discussion by the UMNO Supreme Council.

The Council did decided to do a civil suit of UMNO MPs that crossed over for breaching the legitimate expectation. Though there were report yesterday that there was a directive to withheld the lawsuit, the UMNO President on leave will insist to continue.

This is not a corporate entity that look into cost as an important consideration. The lawsuit is a political move and the sum heard of RM10 million should be sufficent to deter aspiring froggies and curtailed the effectiveness of former UMNO MPs. 

Both UMNO and PAS are likely not to support Anwar due to his partnership with DAP. The support for Mahathir remain up for grab.

Political solution to political problems

Najib's description of the problems with the current government is relevant. Unless the political solution is resolved, the government will remain to be wandering aimlessly. A leadership solution is badly needed. 

An extract in the UK's The Guardian article of December 2018 offers a hint:
It was not until the 1960s that the Conservative party allowed any democracy in the selection of its leaders, who often became prime ministers. Prior to that, leaders emerged after discussions among a “magic circle” of senior party figures; the first chosen under a system in which MPs voted was Ted Heath in 1965.

Party members first got a say in leadership contests in the middle of the last decade. The rules were revised under William Hague, and if a vacancy emerged, or a vote of no confidence in the leader was carried, MPs were allowed to whittle down candidates to two, who would then be put before the party membership.

The new rules were first used in 2001, when after three ballots, a contest between Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith went to the membership. Duncan Smith, a Eurosceptic, won handsomely, with 61% of the vote, but his leadership was not a success.

Two years later, Duncan Smith, the self-styled “quiet man” of British politics, was the first party leader to be ousted via a vote of no confidence, of precisely the type that May faces now. The then leader, who is a critic of May’s Brexit deal, was easily defeated by 90 votes to 75.
Such a system is not yet in place in the Malaysian Parliament. Since one can put any motion to Parliament, claimed a former MP, an obscure but ballsy MP of PH could put it in motion. After all, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are aligned to DAP.

A question would be: Who dare to do so because Speaker may need to inform Mahathir a day ahead?

Perhaps a more relevant question: Would the prospect of being made a Minister as a deal to withdraw the motion entice any MP of PH to do so? After all, the risk against the motion to carry is minimal because the votes of DAP, PAN and PKR are likely to out vote PPBM and renegade PKR.

Wonder whether the supreme political animal Mahathir pre-empted this probability. Maybe dissolve Parliament than giving Anwar the PM-ship?

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