ANWAR Ibrahim is likely to name Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as one of two deputies as the new prime minister balances a stable administration against a strong Malay opposition bench, said party sources.
Zahid is a beleaguered Umno president and a controversial choice. He was the target of political foes, voters and even his party members in the November 19 election campaign, and barely kept his Bagan Datuk ‘stronghold’, scraping home by a 348-vote majority.
Despite that, Zahid turned Barisan Nasional’s (BN) worst-ever electoral showing in history of 30 parliament seats into a strategic kingmaker role – supporting Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) with 82 seats over Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasioinal (PN), which had claimed 73 seats 11 days ago.
“The reality is Zahid swung it for Anwar to be prime minister and that has to be recognised.
“He is also the only one who can keep those 30 BN seats intact,” a source, familiar with the talks in forming Anwar’s cabinet, said.
“The way we see it, give Anwar the freedom of choosing his deputies and cabinet. If it doesn’t work out, throw them out,” he added.
The other deputy is said to be from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), given that Anwar said he would name two to the position, which is a political convention rather than a constitutional provision.
The new cabinet can be named as early as today. However, The Malaysian Insight learnt the prime minister has until this weekend to produce a list to present to Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.
Anwar was sworn in as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister last Thursday, after the general election returned a hung parliament. The king then named Anwar, a day after inviting him and Muhyiddin to form a unity government, which the latter refused.
“Every coalition or bloc that joined Anwar has made requests but he is clear that it is a small government, so that means ensuring those in the cabinet can keep their supporters intact.
“That just leaves Zahid for BN. No one else can do that job,” an Anwar ally said.
Zahid and Anwar were allies in Umno. Zahid was detained for nearly two months in September 1998 under the now-abolished Internal Security Act a day after Anwar was arrested on charges of abusing power and sodomy.
Critics have been up in arms this week on speculation that Zahid could be a deputy prime minister, pointing out he still has 47 corruption and money laundering charges to answer for, even though he was acquitted of 40 bribery charges in September.
Anwar has said he would consider all views in naming his cabinet but has not ruled out anyone from the 147 other MPs in his government.
Apart from Zahid, the other BN frontrunner for the post is Rembau MP and Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan.
However, he had earlier said BN should be impartial and remain in opposition in the race to be government.
A BN source said Anwar had choices but the reverse could be said if BN had supported PN to be the government.
“We’re debating Zahid this week. Imagine if Perikatan was in power, we would be debating whether Hadi should be deputy prime minister. Imagine that first,” he said, referring to firebrand PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, now leading the largest Malay party with 43 seats in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat.
“Compared to Hadi, Zahid is a better bet – and he has been DPM before,” he added. – November 30, 2022.