We’re sure most of ugaiz know by now that PM Najib just replaced (now ex-) Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin with Zahid Hamidi, the current Home Minister. The surprise we felt at the announcement doesn’t just stem from the replacement itself, since there were rumors floating about already – plus at the rate Muhyiddin kept bringing up 1MDB, you kinda expected something to happen.
BTW, this article may contain some pretty unnerving conspiracy theories, so we’ll give you some advance warning with the Conspiracy Cat, like NOW:
Veteran newsman and former NST editor-in-chief Kadir Yasin who wrote on his blog back in May (here’s a news article for extra proof) that in order for PM Najib to wade through this crisis, he has to “further entrench himself,” meaning to solidify his power, by:
- Taking charge of the Home Ministry
- Reshuffling the cabinet to exclude Muhyiddin and possibly Shafie Apdal
- Replacing Muhyiddin’s position with Zahid Hamidi
- Replacing Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, possibly with senior UMNO lawyer Mohd Hafarizam bin Harun
We kinda picked the more sensational ones to highlight, but you should totally check out his blog for the full post.
/end conspiracy theory
Anyway, we digress. The surprise we were talking about came from the speed in which it happened. Like seriously, the news of a possible cabinet reshuffle came out at about 7am Tuesday (July 28th) morning,
The reshuffle (and new DPM) was reported sometime around 1:45pm,
Jokes appeared around 2pm,
And the Wikipedia page changed sometime between 2pm and 3pm. We know because we were on that page.
So fast, in fact, that even Muhyiddin himself only found out less than two hours before it was announced:
“He called me to meet him at Putrajaya and we discussed a few things. I asked him why I was called and if it had anything to do with the reshuffle. He nodded. … Then I asked him if he had something to tell me. He had a hard time saying so I asked is it that my name is not on the list. He nodded and I said ‘thank you’ and left” – Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, as quoted in The Star.
Which was still better than (now ex-) Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail who didn’t even know that he had been terminated.
But should we even be surprised at all? After all, this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Let’s take a very specific look into the role of the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) as a case study.
Here are all of Malaysia’s past DPMs (and what happened to them)
Let’s start with a quick and dirty list with all of Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Ministers in chronological order, how long they served in that post, and whether they became PM or not (condensed from Wikipedia):
- Abdul Razak Hussein (1959 – 1970) – Became PM
- Ismail Abdul Rahman (1970 – 1973) – Heart attack
- Hussein Onn (1973 – 1976) – Became PM
- Mahathir Mohamad (1975 – 1981) – Became PM
- Musa Hitam (1981 – 1986) – Resigned
- Ghafar Baba (1986 – 1993) – Lost elections to Anwar Ibrahim
- Anwar Ibrahim (1993 – 1998) – Sacked
- Abdullah Badawi (1998 – 2003) – Became PM
- Najib Razak (2004 – 2009) – Became PM
- Muhyiddin Yassin (2009 – 2015) – Sacked
If you were to look at what eventually happened to the DPMs, you’d see that five of them became Prime Minister while an equal number did not. So is there a link between the Deputies who didn’t become Prime Minister?
Before we go into the meatier stuff though…
Well, you know that “prophecy” that Najib will be Malaysia’s LAST Prime Minister? It’s stated that the initials of each Prime Minister spells out the name of our first PM, Tunku Abdul Rahman.
Rahman, Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn, Mahathir, Abdullah Badawi, Najib = RAHMAN
Well, we just discovered a possible prophecy for DPMs who didn’t get to become PM:
Ismail, Musa, Ghafar, Anwar, Muhyiddin/Yassin = I’MGAY or I’MGAM
So perhaps this is a sign that Muhyiddin is the last DPM with unicorns and rainbows in our future? Or perhaps there will be one whose name starts with an “E” (I’MGAME) after Zahid Hamidi becomes Prime Minister.
There are currently 3 ministers in PM Najib’s new cabinet that might fit the bill:
- Datuk Joseph Entulu
- Datuk Mas Ermieyati
- Datuk Douglas Unggah Embas
Yeah sorry, we happened to notice that and thought we’d put it in. But yea… on to the meat! Here’s the link we noticed…
Replacing DPMs became a thing under Mahathir’s Prime Ministership
Granted, we’re still a relatively young country so this comparison might be a little unfair but aside from Ismail Abdul Rahman (RIP) who died from a heart attack while still DPM; Musa Hitam, Ghafar Baba, and Anwar Ibrahim were all replaced during Dr. M’s tenure as Prime Minister. Let’s cover the backstory real quick:
1. Musa Hitam
Musa Hitam was Mahathir’s initial ally in opposing Tunku Abdul Rahman’s concessions to non-Malays in the early years, so it wasn’t a surprise that he was selected to be DPM when Mahathir became Prime Minister. Over time though, he resigned from his post due to “irreconcilable differences” with Dr. M., and teamed up with Mahathir’s one-time competitor Tengku Razaleigh during the Malaysian Constitutional Crisis which saw the party being split into two camps. However Tengku Razaleigh’s team lost to Mahathir’s by 43 votes at the UMNO General Assembly, and Musa Hitam retired from politics soon after.
2. Ghafar Baba
Although there was no drama between Ghafar Baba and Dr.M, the drama came from a very ambitious Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar was eyeing Ghafar’s UMNO deputy president post and challenged him for it. While Dr. M. initially asked Anwar not to challenge Ghafar, his fondness for Anwar plus the realization that Anwar wasn’t favorably seen in Ghafar’s eyes convinced him to take a neutral stance instead – particularly when he saw how much support Anwar was getting from the party and the rakyat. Ghafar was soundly beaten by 200 votes to 4, and was shortly after succeeded by Anwar as DPM and Mahathir’s new protegé. Mahathir was noted by his confidant to have felt guilt over the way he treated Ghafar.
3. Anwar Ibrahim
Anwar and Mahathir got along pretty well in the early years, to the point that Dr. M. publicly announced that Anwar would be his successor upon his retirement. According to the book Malaysia: The Making of a Nation (click the link to read the full excerpt!), this statement sparked the same ambitious streak in Anwar that pushed him to challenge Ghafar. Mahathir soon found himself challenged by his protegé – most notably during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis – where Anwar accused Dr. M. of “corruption, cronyism, and nepotism”. Taking a lesson from Ghafar Baba’s fate, Dr.M. was “determined to crush Anwar before Anwar could crush him”.
At a late night UMNO Supreme Council meeting in 1998, Mahathir used the same accusations of corruption, cronyism, and nepotism with some added homosexuality and stirred with kayu tiga to sack Anwar from all his posts and revoked his UMNO membership. It was apparently such an unpopular decision that Anwar’s supporters threw used paper cups at Dr. Mahathir when he left the meeting.
Well, we all kinda know what happened after that.
Is Muhyiddin “Najib’s Anwar”?
It would be fair to say that there are more differences than similarities. For one, Muhyiddin was plainly sacked while Anwar was (is?) continually prosecuted based on crimes that he may or may not have committed. Even their responses have been very different, with Anwar coming to oppose the ruling government while Muhyiddin has, on Facebook and an earlier press conference, stated his acceptance of the PM’s decision and that he will continue to support the party as needed. Also Muhyiddin retains his role as UMNO deputy president while Anwar was sacked from all roles and UMNO membership.
But what’s more important are the similarities. Both were terminated within a very short period of time, and, more importantly, both Anwar and Muhyiddin (and to a lesser degree Musa Hitam) were ousted from their No. 2 positions because they spoke out against the Prime Minister and became a threat to his leadership.
Najib has in turn defended his decision to replace Muhyiddin by saying:
“Members of the cabinet should not air their differences in an open forum that can affect public opinion against the government and Malaysia. … The decision to replace Muhyiddin Yassin was very difficult, but leadership is about doing what you think is right. To deliver for Malaysia, I must have a solid and unified team moving in the same direction.” – PM Najib, in televised address, as quoted by ChannelNewsAsia.
So yea, whether a Deputy Prime Minister or Vice-President, it ain’t easy being No. 2. In fact, it’s been known as a downright curse…
The “Curse of the No. 2”
The position of a DPM or Vice-President has always been one of “Always the bridesmaid but never the bride“. A DPM (at least in the UK) is not seen as an assistant leader but rather, a failed leader in which the post is given as a “consolation prize”.
But even worse, whether in the UK or the United States, the No.2 is almost always perpetually caught between his own political ambitions/responsibilities and loyalty to the PM or President.
“Vice presidents seldom get to take credit for the successes of the administration: That is a presidential prerogative. … A vice president who tries to stand apart from the White House will alienate the president and cause voters to wonder why the criticisms were not voiced earlier.” – Quoted from The Curse of the Vice Presidency by The American Prospect.
But perhaps more telling is what Roy Hattersley, Deputy Leader of the British Labor Party had to say about being No.2:
“I think I was a decent deputy leader because I was a very inactive deputy leader. I never behaved in a way which was a challenge to Neil Kinnock. I never confronted him over policies, over issues, over performance.” – Roy Hattersley, as quoted in The BBC.
So perhaps the best advice for a Deputy Prime Minister waiting his time to take over the top spot is to lay low and play ball. Preferably with those that belong to him.
So what’s gonna happen to Malaysia now?
The short answer is that we’re not political analysts nor anonymous Facebook commenters so we don’t know. But thanks to the power of slow writing, we know of several things that are already taking place…
The first is that the Opposition are moving to place a vote of no confidence against PM Najib, saying that all MPs regardless of party should “support it if they love Malaysia”. In case you’re wondering a “vote of no confidence” is a move to demonstrate that a majority of Parliament no confidence that (in this scenario) the Prime Minister can properly perform his duties. If this is successful, the PM has to either resign or dissolve parliament.
Second, Bersih is holding an overnight rally from August 29th – 30th demanding for PM Najib’s resignation. The rallies will be held in KL, Sabah, and Sarawak.
And the third, well… along with that fire that suddenly broke out in Bukit Aman, it’s time for another
Kadir Jasin, whose blog post predicted many of this week’s cabinet reshuffle events mentioned right at the beginning of this article also said this:
“Mohd Najib may want to take charge of the Home Ministry. The portfolio is essential just in case he is thinking of declaring an emergency should Muhyiddin or Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah launch a vote of no confidence against him in Parliament.” – Kadir Jasin, as quoted on kadirjasin.blogspot.com.
Know what happens during a state of emergency? Well, for one thing, you can kiss your Constitutional rights bye-bye cause all directives issued by the authorities will have the same power as the law, which will also rationing, curfews, and -at the worst – martial law. Don’t bother complaining to your local MP either, cause the PM (or whoever’s in charge) will have absolute power to suspend or fire Ministers and gomen officers, ignore or change normal government functions, suspend Parliament and shut down the Courts.
Well, the Home Minister is now the Najib’s No. 2, and the Opposition has invited Muhyiddin to join the no confidence vote…….
Let’s just hope Kadir Jasin got the next part wrong.