The men who will not be prime minister

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT | First, let me qualify that when I talk about the men who will never be prime minister, I’m not discounting that women will never make it to the top executive post in Malaysia.

It is a fact that so far, no woman has ever expressed their ambition to be prime minister, at least not publicly. 

The closest is probably Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail who almost became prime minister on the night of May 9 last year. 

But she wisely stuck to the Pakatan Harapan agreement for Dr Mahathir Mohamad to be the interim prime minister after the historic electoral victory.Advertisement

Wan Azizah (left in photo) is the current deputy prime minister, but we all know that she harbours no ambition to be the premier.

She has repeatedly declared that she would leave the cabinet once her husband, Anwar Ibrahim, succeeds Mahathir.

It’s also interesting to note that only one of Mahathir’s deputies has made it to the top – Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2003. Other deputies in the past – Musa Hitam, Ghafar Baba and Anwar – did not.

So, there is no guarantee that a deputy premier will succeed the prime minister in this country, not when current political developments are so fluid, so much so that it is difficult to make predictions.

Gone are the early days of our Independence when things were more normal and predictable. Passing the baton from No 1 to No 2 was something expected. 

Abdul Razak Hussein succeeded Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1970, Hussein Onn took over from Razak in 1976, and Mahathir became prime minister in 1981, taking over from Hussein.

Others who have served as deputy prime minister but were unlikely to hold the top post are Muhyiddin Yassin and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Both were deputies to Najib Abdul Razak.

Muhyiddin could well make a comeback as deputy prime minister as he is also Bersatu president. There is every likelihood that Anwar would appoint him as his deputy if and when Anwar becomes prime minister.

But I think that is as far as Muhyiddin’s (photo) political career can go. Both he and Anwar are 72, and Muhyiddin is also not in the best of health.

Of course, Umno president Zahid is keen to become prime minister but I doubt he will ever make it, not with the slew of charges hanging over his head. 

Although younger at 66, I would place Zahid among the deputy prime ministers unlikely to wear the coveted crown. Many also do not consider him prime minister material.

Another Umno stalwart who will never be prime minister, in my opinion, is Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. He fought Mahathir in 1987 for the Umno presidency. 

After his defeat, he formed Semangat 46 but his new party did not make any headway. At 82, time is also not on Razaleigh’s side.

Razaleigh also failed to win the Umno president’s post, losing out to Zahid and the younger Khairy Jamaluddin last year. 

While the Kelantan prince will never helm Putrajaya, he should be proud that he holds the record of the nation’s longest-serving lawmaker. Razaleigh (photo) is now in his 10th term as Gua Musang MP.

I would also rule out a Sabahan or Sarawakian becoming prime minister. That will not happen, not in my lifetime.

A few months ago, Mahathir went to Sabah to open a Bersatu branch and mentioned what we have heard all too often: “It is possible that one day, a Sabahan or Sarawakian will become the prime minister.” 

Yeah, I think all of Sabah and Sarawak know that is only a dream.

In September 2017, Sabah Harapan chairperson Christina Liew proudly declared that a second deputy prime minister’s post would be created for Sabah and Sarawak if Harapan wins the 14th general election.

Fourteen months in, where is this post? Sabahans and Sarawakians are not even good enough to be No 3, let alone No 1. So, please spare us the sound bites.

Tug-of-war 

Right now, the nation is caught is what has been perceived as a tug-of-war between Anwar and his deputy in PKR, Mohamed Azmin Ali, for the premier’s post.

We know that both men are ambitious and dying to be prime minister. We also know that only one man can get the job, while the other has to wait his turn. 

The thing is, overly ambitious politicians are unable to see what we outsiders can clearly view.

In this case, I can agree with DAP lawmaker Ronnie Liu, who recently said that Azmin should realise he does not stand a chance of becoming prime minister over Anwar.

This, he said, is because the majority faction in PKR, as well as Amanah and DAP, are backing Anwar as the next prime minister.

Azmin was just the private secretary to Anwar when he was deputy prime minister. I believe that a private secretary’s post is equivalent to that of a chief clerk and below that of a political secretary in seniority.

If a clerk cannot wait for his boss to fulfil his ambition to be prime minister, then I sense something is not right somewhere.

At 54, Azmin is also 18 years younger than Anwar. He has all the time in the world. Patience is the keyword here.

I wouldn’t want to read too much into the “hidden hand” theory behind the factional struggle in PKR. 

What I wish, as I’ve often stated, is for the elected leaders in government to concentrate more on their work and less on meaningless politicking.

It would indeed be a sad day if because of their own undoing, both Anwar and Azmin would be placed in this category of ‘the men who will never be prime minister’.

That would be an ignominious display of ‘so near yet so far’, and surely one which they will regret for the rest of their lives.

  • Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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3 Responses to The men who will not be prime minister

  1. Ting Men Choon says:

    Francis, you can write something very few in Malaysia can write.

    It is unique and outstanding.

  2. Fauzi Kadir says:

    Mohamad Lim Kit Siang Abdullah could be a suitable PM8 after Mahathir.
    permadumalaysia.blogspot.com

  3. Yusof says:

    Unless Dr Mahathir drop dead prematurely!

Comments are closed.