THE current political weather, rife with desperation and a highly divided landscape, is favourable to aspiring political kingmakers.
It is expected that no single coalition will gain a significant majority after the results have been announced.
PKR deputy president Rafizi Ramli pointed to a potential hung parliament for this reason, while Bersih expects the need for another confidence and supply agreement or memorandum of understanding between rival factions.
However, kingmaking benefits, if not relies, on a slim majority, allowing any side to gain victory depending on where the kingmakers put their support, thus giving them significant bargaining power.
Polling appears to put Pakatan Harapan (PH) ahead of the other coalitions, and uncertainties loom over Barisan Nasional (BN), which is seeing strong competition from both PH and Perikatan Nasional (PN).
The latter is also seen as the alternative avenue for Malay voters who don’t want BN, but are also hesitant to support PH.
We can observe this from the StrawPolls online polling result for Bangi yesterday, which showed a very close fight between the PH-DAP candidate and his PN-PAS rival.
Other candidates, including that of BN, were left far behind.
Understanding weaknesses in simple online polls, we assume the sampling is representative in that it was only among the people who vote in Bangi and random enough to avoid sampling bias.
The roughly 50-50 Malay/non-Malay make-up of Bangi, coupled with what is likely an almost equally strong anti-DAP and pro-Anwar sentiment goes some way to explaining the split.
This is but an example of what could happen nationwide, depending on the constituency.
In places where neither PN nor BN have an edge, even a slight edge (and the cumulative result thereof, or rather, the assumed outcome of a loss against PH), set the scene for the strengthening of the narrative of a PN-BN mega coalition.
This partnership of convenience or necessity could form a combined majority for them to be in power, ensuring PH doesn’t win outright.
This is not a surprise, because PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan has hinted at a plausible PN-BN partnership to form a government.
Although Takiyuddin appears to have taken back his remarks, it does give a glimpse of what could happen.
Anything is possible in politics, and last-minute U-turns are common – especially when political survival and careers are at stake.
Following this scenario, and assuming the PN-BN partnership results in a slim majority, this sets the stage for aspiring kingmakers to make their desired chess play.
Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA), a coalition led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, isn’t seen as a major contender but history has shown that it is unwise to underestimate the two-time former prime minister.
Should PN-BN come to fruition, it is not unthinkable that a seasoned politician such as Mahathir could devise a strategic partnership with his ally Mohd Shafie Apdal to bring in Warisan, and probably coerce other Sabah and Sarawak parties to swing the majority back to PH.
Should such a scenario be successful, PH would be indebted to Mahathir, allowing him to exert significant influence for the highest-ranking cabinet positions, while East Malaysia would be able to realise its dream of a native deputy prime minister.
This is not unlikely because PH has reportedly committed to more than one DPM. In fact, three were mentioned at one point, which would suit Dr Mahathir just fine: one from PH, one from GTA, and one from East Malaysia.
In this scenario, we can imagine Rafizi Ramli from PH, Mukhriz Mahathir from Pejuang, and Shafie.
Therefore, GTA and East Malaysia become the kingmakers. In this scenario, everyone’s dream comes through.
Anwar Ibrahim would finally become prime minister and he can appoint Rafizi as one of his deputies.
Past general elections have shown the trend of BN losing the popular vote but the coalition remained in power because of the split between opposing factions.
Therefore, the people would be happy if the popular vote also translated to the country’s leadership.
Through this hypothetical chess play, Mahathir gets to solidify his party and coalition, which is relatively new and untested, for future politics in Malaysia through his son.
Shafie gets to represent East Malaysia to push for Malaysia Agreement 1963 reforms and items on the Sabah-Sarawak agenda.
However, this is still a volatile combination as there are too many strong characters. The future will still be uncertain until and unless leaders are more united, and rule others justly.
Note that the above is just one scenario.
Potential kingmakers such as GTA and East Malaysian parties can also swing other ways.
As kingmakers, they may give their support to whichever side can give the best deal to them.
A slim majority situation is bad for stability but is the ideal situation for kingmakers.
We can only hope they would cast their support based on what is best for the people and the nation, and not merely driven by personal interests. – November 17, 2022.
* Ameen Kamal is the head of science and technology at Emir Research.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.