16 Sept dawned and set yesterday, with Abdullah Badawi remaining as Malaysia’s Prime Minister. Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim did not topple the government as threatened, but he demanded to see the Prime Minister to discuss a smooth transition of power after insisting once again that he had the numbers to take office.
He also declared that the ‘defectors’ included Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers. Abdullah dismissed the demand outright, telling Anwar instead to make the names public.
“He is just getting the people to focus on him and his political ploy. I do not need to see him,” he said.
If Anwar really has the numbers to form a government, “he will storm into my room with hundreds screaming behind him shouting ‘victory’,” he added.
“This is Anwar’s mirage. It is nothing. It is merely a dream.”
At a press conference Tuesday (16 Sept) at his party headquarters in Petaling Jaya, Anwar said he had pledges from more than 31 Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs willing to defect and bring down the BN government.
“It is a slight majority,” he told reporters at the packed conference.
But the opposition leader refused to name them, saying they would be harassed or even arrested by the authorities. He said he was willing to show the list to the Prime Minister.
Anwar had repeatedly said over the last few months that he had the numbers and was on track to topple Abdullah by 16 Sept.
He chose 16 Sept–the day Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaysia in 1963–as most of his targeted MPs were from those two states.
“We have received firm commitment from Members of Parliament in excess of the number required to form a new government, and our government will reflect the diverse makeup of Malaysian society,” he said Tuesday.
He stressed that he was not making excuses when he did not produce the defectors Tuesday, saying he wanted to ensure a chaos-free transition.
“We are choosing a softer option to negotiate with the Prime Minister,” he said.
In a letter sent to Abdullah on Monday (15 Sept), the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat requested a meeting and assurances that the ruling Barisan Nasional would not use strong-arm tactics such as arrests, emergency laws or other such measures to prevent defections, he said.
“We do not want documents and other assets of the government destroyed. I would like to advise the Barisan Nasional leaders not to abuse their powers, not to arrest or torture our leaders,” Anwar said.
But Abdullah said a letter he received from Anwar on Monday was not about a power transfer.
“There has been no letter sent to me regarding a power transfer. He (Anwar) sent a letter about general matters on the current situation in the country,” he said Tuesday.
Deputy Premier Najib Razak was also confident that the BN would remain the government. Speaking after the signing of a telecommunications agreement to develop a high-speed broadband project Tuesday, he said: “That is why we chose 16 Sept (to launch the project).
“This is another politics of deception by the opposition, which frequently does not come to fruition.”
Indeed, observers are divided over whether Anwar really has the numbers to form a government.
On the one hand, his demand for a meeting with the Prime Minister pushes his claim further than he has taken it these months.
But his failure to produce even a single defector Tuesday has dented his credibility, and may cast doubts in the minds of fence-sitters.
He also did not explain why he did not seek a transition of power much earlier since he has claimed to have had the necessary numbers for several months already. And his refusal to set a new deadline or to state his next move now that he has failed to meet the Prime Minister suggested that he may not want to be forced into another corner of his own making.
Anwar was non-committal when asked if he would seek an audience with the King to present himself as commanding the majority in Parliament, or if he would seek a motion of no-confidence against Abdullah when the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) resumes sitting next month.
He said these options would be discussed with other Pakatan leaders.
He insisted that he did not want to issue an ultimatum to Abdullah.
“(But) there is a limit to one’s patience, particularly when we have the numbers. We are firm that victory is finally at hand,” he said.
The BN has 140 Members of Parliament and the opposition has 81, with one independent.
The Straits Times