Johor Sultan, Jokowi And United States – The 3 Recognitions For PM Anwar That Forced Muhyiddin To Accept Defeat
Even after Anwar Ibrahim has been officially sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia on Nov 24, former backdoor PM Muhyiddin Yassin refused to accept defeat. While the nation was celebrating the strengthening of the local currency – Ringgit – and the new confidence in the stock market, the sore loser held a press conference to undermine the new administration.
Insisting he had the support of 115 MPs before the 2pm deadline given by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) on Tuesday, Muhyiddin childishly complained to the reporters – “There were 73 MPs from Perikatan Nasional, 22 from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), 6 from Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), 1 from Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (KDM), and 10 from Barisan Nasional,”
It was quite astonishing that the thick-skinned man did not feel rude and traitorous at all in questioning the decision of the nine Malay Rulers, who approved the swearing in of Mr Anwar just nine kilometres away from his Perikatan Nasional office in Publika. Muhyiddin had even challenged the new PM to prove that he has the majority support of Member of Parliaments (which Anwar gladly accepted).
His challenge is both hilarious and shameful. Has Muhyiddin, who is too ashamed to even use his given name – Mahiaddin – forgotten he himself did not dare prove his legitimacy throughout his 17-month as Malaysia’s first backdoor prime minister? Has he forgotten how he locked the Parliament under the pretext of fighting Covid-19 to avoid a motion of no confidence against his regime?
If indeed Perikatan Nasional chairman Mahiaddin had the support of 115 MPs as claimed, why not publish all the names to prove it? Otherwise, even prisoner Najib Razak can claim he had 200 MPs who supported him as the prime minister. In reality, power-crazy Mahiaddin failed to scam King Sultan Abdullah with his dubious collection of statutory declarations (SD).
Muhyiddin must have missed the memo that statutory declarations are useless with the newly introduced anti-hopping law. As Barisan Nasional chairman, Zahid Hamidi has publicly announced that any such declarations signed by Barisan Nasional MPs were invalid. Muhyiddin was trying his dirty trick again, the same way he scammed the Agong (King) back in March 2020.
On the eve of Muhyiddin’s swearing-in on March 1, 2020, Mahathir had claimed to have 114 votes. The former prime minister had even pre-emptively published the list of 114 MPs who supported him as the next prime minister, along with a letter to the Palace (more than 112 minimum seats required to form a simple-majority government in the 222-seat Parliament).
Muhyiddin, however, failed or refused to publish a list of Members of Parliaments allegedly supported him, but was sworn in by the monarch anyway. His legitimacy was being questioned when he locked the Parliament under the pretext of fighting Covid-19. During his 17-month regime, the former backdoor PM had never dared hold a motion of confidence to prove his legitimacy.
Yes, not only Mahiaddin Yassin is a traitor who had betrayed his own friends and allies in the democratically-elected Pakatan Harapan government, he is also a disgraced scammer who throws tantrums after failed to scam the King for the second time. He did not dare publish the list of MPs claimed to support him in 2020, and again does not have the balls to do so today.
The best part was the incredible flip-flop about joining a unity government decreed by the Malay Monarch. Initially, Muhyiddin arrogantly and rudely rubbished the royal decree, only for his lieutenant Hamzah Zainudin to announce that they would join, but was quickly declined by Muhyiddin again, before PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin expressed his party’s desire to join, and then shot down again.
Finally, Mahiaddin reluctantly conceded defeat on Friday (Nov 25) after repetitively said he would not accept Anwar’s appointment as prime minister. Why did he suddenly admit defeat? As the news splash around the world, the message of congratulations started pouring in for the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia from the international community.
From neighbouring Singapore to the United States, and from Australia to the Arab world, not to mention from Japan to Europe, the legitimacy of Anwar Ibrahim as Malaysia’s new prime minister is being recognized. He even received a call from Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his first press conference as PM. Heck, Anwar even answered Erdogan’s call while having it on speaker for all Malaysians to witness.
This is called international politics – recognitions that Muhyiddin failed to get during his 17 months as backdoor PM from March 2020 to August 2021. When he snatched power from the legitimate Pakatan Harapan government, his regime was not recognized by the United States – there was no message of congratulation from the U.S. Embassy to Malaysia, let alone Washington.
Muhyiddin tried to suck up to Joe Biden, congratulating him on Nov 7, 2020 on being elected the 46th President of the United States. The backdoor Malaysian leader had hoped for Biden to reciprocate with a message – any types of message – that could be used as a recognition of his regime. But there was none, and Biden probably didn’t care or didn’t notice.
Like it or not, a recognition from superpower like the United States is of utmost importance because it would lead to more recognitions from other Western nations. At 5:18pm on Nov 24, just less than 20 minutes after Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in, U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia Brian D. McFeeters tweeted – “Congratulations to Anwar Ibrahim on his election as Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister.”
Likewise, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the 15th general election as “a demonstration of the power of democracy“. He congratulated Anwar – “On behalf of the U.S., I congratulate the people of Malaysia for their national elections and Anwar for his appointment as prime minister. We remain committed to working with Malaysia to advance a free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific region.”
The congratulation from Blinken is not merely a recognition of Anwar as the prime minister, but a recognition that he is a democratically- elected leader – unlike Muhyiddin who did it through the backdoor. Without such recognition, a leader is considered a pariah in the eyes of the West. That’s why Ismail Sabri too did not get any congratulatory message from the Western powers.
Besides Washington, it’s essential for a Malaysian premier to also get endorsement from Indonesia because both nations are part of the Malay Archipelago, sharing common historical roots and cultural heritage. Because Malays in the country are considered descendants of the native Malay in Indonesia, a recognition from Jakarta is essential.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was the first foreign leader who congratulated the newly inaugurated Anwar Ibrahim through a telephone call from the Bogor Palace, West Java, on Thursday (Nov 24) evening. Jokowi said – “Representing the government and the Indonesian people, I wish to congratulate Your Excellency’s inauguration as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia,”
Jokowi also praised Anwar as a renowned figure in Indonesia and respected by the Indonesian people. The Indonesian president said he also believed that with Anwar at the helm, bilateral relations between Indonesia and Malaysia would be more prosperous. He said over the phone – “I hope we could meet soon to discuss ways to enhance our bilateral relations in the economic, border issues, and the protection of our people.”
More importantly, Muhyiddin backed off after Sultan Ibrahim of Johor congratulated Anwar Ibrahim on his appointment, the congratulatory message of which was uploaded to the official Facebook account of the Sultanate of Johor. Similarly, Crown Prince Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim also conveyed his congratulations to the 10th Prime Minister.
Interestingly, the Johor Sultan had never sent any message of congratulation to Mahiaddin, despite the fact that he was the 13th Chief Minister of Johor for almost 10 years (August 1986 – May 1995) – suggesting that even the monarch did not recognize the backdoor prime minister (even though Mahiaddin had conveyed birthday wishes to Sultan Ibrahim for obvious reason).
Ismail Sabri was luckier. He received a congratulation note from Johor Crown Prince when he took over from Muhyiddin in August 2021 as the 9th Prime Minister. But why is a recognition from the Sultanate of Johor so important? Historically, the Johor Sultanate was founded by Malaccan Sultan Mahmud Shah’s son, Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II in 1528.
Therefore, the Sultanate of Johor is considered the de-facto leader of the nine Malay Rulers in the country. That’s why Johor is the only state where the sultan has its own army. In Johor, it’s the sultan – not the chief minister – who decides when the State Legislative Assembly can be dissolved and who among the assemblymen can become the chief minister.
On May 21, 2018, Anwar Ibrahim, who was released from prison after receiving a full royal pardon from King Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan, had a closed-door meeting with Sultan of Johor. Accompanied by his daughter, Nurul Izzah, Mr Anwar was flown into Johor in Sultan Ibrahim’s private plane to the state. The close relationship is paying off now for Anwar.
Muhyiddin has been rude – even bullied – King Sultan Abdullah of Pahang. His disrespect for the Malay Ruler can be seen when he cheated the monarch in 2020 with a dubious number of statutory declarations allegedly supported him as prime minister. After he became the 8th Prime Minister, he again scammed the monarch into declaring a state of emergency.
When the King decreed that the Parliament can be opened even during the emergency, Muhyiddin and his gang in Bersatu and PAS Islamist party deliberately ignored the royal decree. The backdoor Perikatan Nasional government had even tried to usurp the powers of the Agong by faking the revocation of the emergency laws without the consent of the monarch.
There were basically 3 factors why Muhyiddin had managed to grab power in 2020, but not now. First, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) was on his side. After more than 60 years in power, UMNO has certain influence within all the royal houses. After defeated in the 2018 General Election, UMNO-led Barisan Nasional returned to power by joining Muhyiddin’s backdoor government.
The second factor was Mahathir, the former premier who went against the Malay Rulers to the extent of clipping their wings and removed some of the absolute powers of the Sultans. That explains why Pakatan Harapan, led by Mahathir for the second stint, was not given the chance to prove it had 114 MPs to form the government after Muhyiddin launched a political coup in 2020.
The third factor was the obsession to try a Malay-Muslim government for the first time. After 33 months under Muhyiddin and Sabri administrations, it was a complete disaster to the country. This time, Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan is forming a unity government with Barisan Nasional. The rising influence of Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional is a double-edged sword.
The rise of Malay conservative and extremist led by Muhyiddin and Hadi Awang has triggered the alarm over the Islamic extremism, radicalization and even violence that affect not only the country’s economy, but could also threaten the Malay Monarchs. It’s not rocket science that the Conference of Rulers was concerned about the Iranian Revolution in the country – if the extremists are not stopped now.
Sultan Ibrahim is one of the most liberal and open-minded monarchs, thanks to the proximity of Johor to Singapore. Crucially, he is the most influential among the nine Malay Rulers. You can send a crook into prison. But you cannot win a war against ideology such as the Islamic State propagated by ISIS terrorist groups, or the dangerous religious bigotry and racial extremism spewed by Perikatan Nasional.