The race is on for politicians to forge a coalition with 111 members of Parliament (MP), the minimum number required to form Malaysia’s next government.
On August 16, most of them were engaged in “horse-trading” to reach the magic number.
Currently, the big political blocs are DAP with 42 MPs, Umno (38), PKR (35), Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (31), PAS (18), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (18), Parti Warisan Sabah (eight) and Pejuang (four).
In a tight race for the prime minister’s post, the party with one MP or an independent MP are a precious commodity to get the desired 111 out of 220 MPs (two have passed away).
Parties with one or two MPs, such as Parti Bersatu Sabah (Kota Marudu’s Dr Maximus Ongkili), Upko (Tuaran MP Wilfred Madius Tangau), Sabah Star (Keningau’s Dr Jeffrey Kitingan), or Independents such as Julau MP Larry Sng Wei Shien, Tebrau’s Steven Choong Shiau Yoon and Kuala Langat’s Dr Xavier Jayakumar could tip the balance.
Some of them have their foot on both sides and could jump to the winning team at the last-minute.
So far, the biggest coalition is Perikatan Nasional 2.0. It consists of parties that were members of the Perikatan government, which collapsed on August 16 when Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin quit as prime minister.
Perikatan 2.0, which includes Umno, Bersatu, PAS, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and smaller parties and Independent MPs, has about 100 MPs. Their candidate for the top post is Umno vice-president and former deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
However, it is short of 11 MPs as a faction in Umno, led by its president Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, wants the party to decide who should be its prime minister candidate.
The faction led by Bagan Datuk MP Ahmad Zahid has about 15 Umno MPs, including former prime minister and Pekan MP Najib Razak and Wanita Umno chief and Parit Sulong MP Dr Noraini Ahmad.
On their shortlist to be prime minister are Umno’s Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Sembrong MP and former senior minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
Perikatan 2.0 is also partial towards the former senior minister so as to unlock the deadlock with the Ahmad Zahid faction.
However, Hishammuddin is reluctant to take up the post at this point in time.
GPS has gone on record that it supports Ismail Sabri as the next prime minister.
Its secretary-general and Kapit MP Alexander Nanta Linggi said the coalition, which rules Sarawak, had to go with Ismail Sabri because he was the Perikatan government’s deputy prime minister.
The other big coalition is Pakatan Harapan 2.0. It has 88 MPs from DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara.
Its candidate is Opposition Leader and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.
If the Port Dickson MP could garner the support of Warisan’s eight MPs, other opposition parties and Independent MPs or even former PKR MPs who ditched the party, Anwar could be in the running for prime minister.
He is also trying to convince GPS to join his coalition.
Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, led by former prime minister and Langkawi MP Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has four MPs but has said it was not supporting any party for the top post.
Warisan president and Semporna MP Shafie Apdal could end up the wildcard prime minister.
The leaders of the party from Sabah are tight-lipped on its stand as political parties race to cobble together a parliamentary majority.
They have yet to make an official stand as to whether they would back Anwar.
Some said the party might simply leave it to “the King’s wisdom”.
Warisan sources said that it was not necessary for the party, with eight MPs, to remain with its stand on the Opposition front.
“They are many political formulas on the table,” said a Warisan source. “The political situation is dynamic.”
Warisan, together with Selangau MP Baru Bian’s PSB, Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) pro-tem president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Upko president Tangau, are a block of 12 MPs.
Major political parties in the country were summoned on August 17 to Istana Negara, the National Palace and official residence of the King.
With all the jostling, none of the big names may be prime minister in the end. A dark horse could still win the coveted post.
THE STAR (MALAYSIA)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK