Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s perennial prime minister-in-waiting, is facing questions over his leadership after a humiliating performance by his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition in recent state elections.
The lack of votes left many wondering about its chances of success in national elections expected as early as next year.
Pakatan Harapan has been in opposition since a power grab in February 2020. Disgruntled elements within the coalition allied with politicians defeated in the historic elections of 2018 led to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the government’s collapse.
Anwar, who was Mahathir’s designated successor, has been trying to win back power ever since, but last month suffered an enormous setback with a hefty defeat in the Melaka state elections.
The PH coalition only managed to retain five seats in the 28-seat state assembly, while allies, the Democratic Action Party (DAP), won four and Amanah, one. Anwar’s party, the People’s Justice Party or PKR, failed to win a single seat despite fielding 11 candidates.
The dismal performance sent Anwar trending on Twitter with thousands of Malaysians panning him over poor electoral strategies, and some urging him to retire to make way for younger leaders.
Analysts say voters punished PH for fielding controversial figures, including former Chief Minister Idris Haron who had been sacked from the PKR rival, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), after he withdrew his support and helped trigger the collapse of the state government in October.
Political analyst Bridget Welsh told Al Jazeera, Anwar, in particular, should be blamed for the poor strategy to field “frogs” – a term used for party hoppers – especially Idris, who had been vilified by PH on their way to victory in the state back in 2018.
“He (Anwar) is the one who advocated for the ‘frogs’, he pushed to accept the ‘frogs’ and he insisted on Idris Haron contesting. These people are tainted. Idris Haron was the reason Melaka was won by Harapan in GE14 (the 2018 election) and what does Anwar do now, pick him as the candidate. Anwar clearly has no understanding of the ground,” she said.
Anwar has been one of Malaysia’s most prominent politicians for nearly 40 years. He emerged as a firebrand student leader, rose through the ranks in the UMNO, and was sacked from his position as deputy prime minister and finance minister by Mahathir in 1998 at the height of the Asian Financial Crisis.
The country watched agog as he was accused of sodomy and put on trial – a stained mattress hauled into court as a key piece of evidence.
Anwar ended up behind bars and has been jailed several times since, but his downfall and the protests that followed helped drive the rise of Malaysia’s first effective opposition.
Anwar’s wife founded PKR while Anwar was in jail – its flag a representation of the black eye he suffered at the hands of the country’s police chief while in custody.
Out of prison, Anwar transformed the party into a formidable force, building a coalition that put in an increasingly strong performance in elections throughout the 2000s.
In 2018, in the wake of the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal, and once again allied with Mahathir, Anwar’s former mentor, Pakatan Harapan was finally able to claim victory.
Anwar was pardoned and released from yet another prison stint shortly afterwards, and Mahathir named Anwar his successor.
But the transfer of power never happened.
After the PH government collapsed, it was veteran politician Muhyiddin Yassin who was deemed to have the backing of MPs and was sworn in as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister.
PKR Communications Director Fahmi Fadzil insists Anwar should not be blamed for the Melaka debacle.
“It is a collective decision, any decision made in PH is made collectively. At that point in time, to back Idris was a collective decision,” he told Al Jazeera.
It is not the first time that Anwar has failed to deliver.
Last September, the former deputy prime minister claimed he had a strong, formidable and convincing majority to form a government, but only saw his plan fail.
And after Muhyiddin resigned after losing support in August, Anwar again claimed a majority to form government – only to lose out to UMNO Vice-President Ismail Sabri Yaakob who became the country’s ninth prime minister.
Indeed, Anwar has been claiming to have the numbers as far back as 2008 when he gathered a mass rally claiming he had enough support to replace then-Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, but nothing came of it.
Al Jazeera requested for an interview with Anwar, but his office had not responded by the time of publication.
Among those seen as potential successors to Anwar are younger, fresher faces, such as his own daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, and PKR Vice-President Rafizi Ramli.
After the defeat, Rafizi, who has maintained a low political profile for the past few years, tweeted that he hoped Pakatan leaders would study the result, “reject ego”, and do better in the next general elections.
Even the DAP’s Anthony Loke, a former transport minister, hinted PH should not be insistent on naming only Anwar for the top post, suggesting other names be considered too.
Pro-Anwar group, Otai Reformasi jumped to Anwar’s defence, saying he should not be made the “black sheep” for the outcome of the Melaka elections.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Amanah Communications Director Khalid Samad said Anwar had weaknesses but that did not mean he needed to go, especially given his contribution to changing the face of Malaysian politics.
“Anwar has his weaknesses but nobody is perfect. If we make a decision based on weakness, there will be no perfect candidate. We must sit down together and make a decision,” he said, referring to the coalition’s choice for prime minister. He did not elaborate on what he considered Anwar’s weaknesses to be.
Khalid, who represents the city of Shah Alam, was coy on who Pakatan should name to take charge in the run-up to the 15th general elections, but said it would be a collective decision of all PH parties.
“The PH presidential council will decide when the time comes. We are fighting for certain ideals, not certain individuals. Whoever brings these ideals and can bring all parties together is the obvious choice,” he said.
Finding a vision
The Melaka results have highlighted the problems facing the coalition as it tries to win back power in a country, which is 60 percent Malay Muslim, but has large communities of people of Chinese and Indian descent as well as Indigenous ethnic groups. An election in the Borneo state of Sarawak will take place later this month.
Analysts say that the top of the agenda is to win the ethnic Malay vote after the departure of Bersatu, once Mahathir’s party, but now under Muhyiddin and currently part of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.
Ei Sun Oh, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, says Anwar, who is often seen as too liberal by Malays and too religiously conservative by non-Muslims, had failed in his appeal to the Malays.
“The voters voted for PN which contains both a racialist Bersatu and a religious PAS. It is mainly the dilemma faced by a supposedly progressive and liberal PH that finds it difficult to capture an increasingly conservative, racialist and religious Malay voter base, old and young alike,” he told Al Jazeera.
Politicians within Pakatan are also concerned.
“The voter base is saying something. PH is in a quandary, we have no nationalist Malay party as we did in 2018 with Bersatu,” said DAP’s Klang Member of Parliament Charles Santiago.
Other than capturing Malay votes, PH also has to try and lure young people to the cause.
The coalition has seen its support among the youth evaporate, largely due to their failure to implement promised reforms when they were in power, such as the repeal of repressive laws like the Sedition Act, abolishing student loans, and acceding to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The plan was dropped after a mass protest by ethnic Malays.
PH’s former poster boy for youth, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, has also left the fold to found Muda, his own youth-based party. The party has yet to secure official registration, but has created a new rival in Pakatan’s efforts to attract young voters.
With Malaysia finally set to lower the voting age to 18 – a reform pushed through by Syed Saddiq when he was youth and sports minister – the youth vote is set to expand the electorate from 14.9 million during the 2018 elections, to 22.7 million in 2023, the deadline for the next elections.
DAP’s Assistant Political Education Director Ong Kian Ming says PH should push out a more youth-oriented narrative focusing on jobs, technology and education opportunities to capture the young people’s vote.
“PH has to regroup to present a new and more compelling narrative moving ahead. PH leaders must show vision and direction to the voters in Malaysia in order to change the current sentiment that is lukewarm and not supportive of PH,” said Ong, who is a member of parliament for Bangi on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
For analyst Welsh, the key is Anwar.
She says the 74-year-old veteran has to make way for those with more dynamic ideas – if PH is to challenge effectively in the next election.
“The issue here is he (Anwar) is clearly not willing to give way. A lot of people think it is about his personal ambition and he is losing the support of party members and the political base.
“You have to position younger leaders and rebrand as a coalition. In short, Anwar has to lay out an exit plan,” she said.
Canada has ordered family members of diplomatic staff stationed in Ukraine to leave the country, The Globe and Mail has learned.
The move was made a day after the United States, Britain, Germany and Australia announced similar steps, amid fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin could soon order an invasion of Ukraine.
Global Affairs has issued a statement confirming the move: “Due to the ongoing Russian military buildup and destabilizing activities in and around Ukraine, we have decided to temporarily withdraw Canadian embassy staff’s children under 18 years of age and family members accompanying them.”
TRUCKERS ON THE ROAD – A group of truckers has garnered millions in fundraising dollars from droves of supporters as it drives across the country to protest vaccine mandates, despite the vast majority of big-riggers having been jabbed. Story here.
O’TOOLE OKAY WITH CAUCUS EMBRACE OF BATTERS – Erin O’Toole says he has no problem with Tory MPs from Saskatchewan confirming Senator Denise Batters as a member of theirprovincial Conservative caucus, even though Mr. O’Toole previously removed Ms. Batters from the national caucus after she publicly challenged his leadership of the party. Story here.
CHAHAL TO PAY FINE – MP George Chahal of Calgary says he has paid a $500 fine after taking an opponent’s pamphlet from a front door and replacing it with his own during last year’s election. Story here. Details of the Elections Canada notice of violation are here.
ONTARIO CLOSE TO CHILD-CARE DEAL: PREMIER – Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province is “very, very close” to a child-care deal with the federal government. Story here.
QUEBEC LIBERALS PREPPING FOR ELECTION – The Quebec Liberals have “the knife between their teeth” to win the October election, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade says. Story here from CTV.
FORMER B.C. LEGISLATURE CLERK ON TRIAL – A special prosecutor says the former clerk of the British Columbia legislature claimed expenses ranging from malt whisky to cufflinks on the public purse. Story here from The Province.
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons has adjourned until Jan. 31 at 11 a.m. ET.
TORIES CALL FOR MORE UKRAINE SUPPORT – Conservative critics are calling on the federal Liberal government to take immediate action to support Ukraine against Russia, with proposals that include providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine, and extending Operation Unifier, which has about 200 Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed to Ukraine to provide tactical-level training to the country’s security forces. They made the call in a statement from foreign affairs critic Michael Chong, opposition deputy whip James Bezan and public services critic Pierre Paul-Hus.
THE DECIBEL – In Tuesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Kelly Grant, The Globe’s national health care reporter, talks about her in-depth look at health care in Nunavut and the challenges its residents face accessing it. While there, she found that the lack of elder care in the territory was one of the most common complaints and one of the hardest issues to solve. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Private meetings and the Prime Minister attended a virtual cabinet retreat. Tuesday is the second day of the three-day retreat.
No schedules released for other party leaders.
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail)on the bill coming due for the federal Liberal government: “For almost two years, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by spending money at levels never seen in peacetime, to protect workers, businesses and the health care system. That spending was necessary. But this year the bill comes due. And it won’t be pretty. The federal deficit skyrocketed from less than 1 per cent of GDP in fiscal 2018-19, before the pandemic, to 15 per cent in fiscal 2020-21. The consolidated federal and provincial books showed a $326-billion deficit in 2020. Within the Group of Seven, we have gone from having one of the best debt-to-GDP ratios to middle of the pack: behind Germany, roughly on par with France and Britain, but ahead of the U.S., Italy and Japan. Outside the G7 our debt-to-GDP ratio lags Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Indonesia, Ireland, Latvia, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam, to name just a few.”
André Picard (The Globe and Mail)on why ‘I’m done with COVID’ is easier said than done: “Uttering “I’m done with COVID” as a mantra won’t stop the virus from spreading and mutating. It won’t end the threat of infection, especially to frail elders and other medically fragile citizens. It won’t free up surgical suites and hospital beds for hip replacements and treatment of cancer patients. It won’t get sick workers suddenly back on the job, diligently teaching children or stacking store shelves. “I’m done with COVID” is the equivalent of offering “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting. It’s a bromide, not a remedy.”
Deanna Horton and Roy Norton (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Canada can do more to support the U.S. in their special relationship: ”Canada’s brand in the U.S. is strong. We are naturally suited to leading collaborative efforts on initiatives that could resonate with Americans. The question is whether we have what it takes to expend, on a priority (and continuing) basis, the efforts necessary to make a difference? Maybe it’s time for Canada, in a concerted fashion, to try to sell the U.S. administration, Congress, state governments, business and labour leaders, think tanks and other influencers on big-picture solutions to both bilateral irritants and common challenges. Forging an understanding among Americans of the value of collaboration is both a worthwhile and viable goal.”
Germany’s upcoming decision on whether to certify the controversial Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 pipeline is rapidly emerging as a key element in high-stakes diplomatic efforts to dissuade Moscow from invading Ukraine.
Delaying or cancelling the $11 billion project would have a significant impact on the Russian economy, depriving it of $3 billion US in annual revenue.
It also could serve to divide Ukraine’s allies as Russia continues to increase the pressure on the former Soviet bloc state.
Nord Stream 2 gives the new government of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “some leverage” over Moscow, said Matthew Schmidt, an associate professor and national security expert at the University of New Haven, Connecticut.
“They can exert leverage in a way that works in concert with the rest of NATO,” he said. “If they do it in a way that doesn’t work in concert with NATO, then that could be a problem. They could put NATO in a bind.”
During a recent meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Scholz hinted that his country could reconsider the project “if there is a military intervention against Ukraine.”
But the German government is under enormous pressure to relieve soaring natural gas prices — and Nord Stream 2 could end up heating up to 26 million homes in the country.
Playing the ‘pipeline card’
Holding out approval until there’s a peaceful resolution to the standoff over Ukraine would allow Russia to walk away with a win, said Schmidt. He said the U.S. did much the same thing to end the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when it withdrew its missiles from Turkey.
Schmidt said he believes Germany will hold on to the “pipeline card until the very end.”
In the meantime, Nord Stream 2 remains a source of division and irritation among Germany’s allies.
The pipeline is at the centre of a longstanding disagreement between the United States and Germany. Almost four years ago, then-U.S. president Donald Trump opened up a NATO leaders’ summit by attacking the project, warning it would make Germany a “captive” to Russian economic interests.
Nord Stream 2 was pulled back to the centre of allied politics earlier this month when Republicans in Washington pushed a bill that would have imposed sanctions on businesses involved in the project — despite President Joe Biden’s warning that such sanctions would have harmed relations with Germany at a critical juncture. Senate Democrats defeated the bill.
Ukraine stands to lose significant transit revenue when an existing Russian pipeline crossing its territory is shut down to make way for Nord Stream 2. Kyiv lobbied the U.S. Senate to impose the sanctions, while Germany argued against them.
Germany also has irritated Ukraine by blocking the sale of some defensive weapons to the government in Kyiv, which has been desperately canvassing the international arms market for high-tech systems to counter a possible invasion.
Schmidt said no one should be surprised at Berlin’s caution because the country’s export licensing policy places stringent conditions on the end uses of military equipment.
Great power politics is back on a scale not seen since the Cold War, said Roland Paris, a University of Ottawa professor of international affairs and former adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Putin ‘turned up the heat’
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “stress-testing the NATO alliance” looking for any division, real or perceived, among allies.
“Putin is flexible and opportunistic. He’s turned up the heat to see what happens,” said Paris. “If he can succeed in weakening the political unity of the NATO alliance, that will be a major accomplishment for him.”
Germany, he said, is “working out” how to deal with the threat of Russia using its energy supply as a weapon.
“There have been voices in Germany that have said Nord Stream 2 should continue regardless” of the crisis, Paris said.
NATO allies have been calling for unity as they confront a massive buildup of Russian troops on three sides of Ukraine, and as Moscow continues to demand that the alliance roll back the deployment of NATO troops in Eastern Europe.
Russia’s demands — including its insistence on an outright rejection of Ukraine’s bid to join NATO — have been shot down by the United States and its allies. Recently, Washington put up to 8,500 U.S. soldiers on heightened alert for a possible deployment to Eastern Europe.
Paris said now is the time for Ukraine’s allies to send reinforcements. He scoffed at Moscow’s claim that sending additional forces represents an escalation of the crisis.
“It’s a bit rich, [Russia] having invaded a sovereign country, and now to have over 100,000 troops poised to invade [Ukraine] and then saying NATO reinforcements are somehow the source of a provocation,” said Paris, referring to the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea.
We didn’t ask to save the world. But the reality is our planet is at an “all hands on deck” stage if we want a climate-safe future, so young people like us are stepping up.
To tip the scales in humanity’s favour, the ideas and energy of youth are needed at the decision-making table — in other words, in politics. According to a recent IPSOS survey,Canadian youth consider themselves to be most capable of making progress on climate change in the next five years (79 per cent), markedly higher than their confidence in their parents’ generation (55 per cent). Yet youth dissatisfaction and distrust of politics in Canada is high, as evidenced every time we have an election.
Elections Canada reports that voters aged 18 to 24 were the least likely to turn out in the 2019 federal election. Average turnout for this age group hovered just over 50 per cent compared to older demographic brackets, which all surpassed 60 per cent. Though the numbers are still being crunched, we know youth turnout dropped even further for the 2021 election due to the cancellation of campus voting programs.
Get top stories in your inbox.
Our award-winning journalists bring you the news that impacts you, Canada, and the world. Don’t miss out.
It’s not just voting: less than 30 per cent of young Canadians reported having been in touch with political parties or candidates in the 2019 campaign, and youth are running for office at lower rates. In fact, new research into candidate demographics for federal elections from 2008 to 2019 shows that, where age data was available, more than 80 per cent of candidates were over 35.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. While youth are not a monolithic group, many of us feel the system has excluded and failed us, prioritizing the growth of an economy dependent on fossil fuels while ignoring the science of climate change. We aren’t fooled when politicians throw around the latest buzzwords, take half-measures and don’t back up their commitments with clear pathways forward.
It’s no wonder why some youth don’t participate on election day. Beyond not seeing ourselves represented at the ballot box — in age or diversity — each election brings countless promises to fix an unsustainable system that are too often whittled down, tossed aside or forgotten in favour of short-term priorities that help win the next election.
To gain the know-how needed to push for change, we’re both working in politics through GreenPAC’s Parliamentary Internship for the Environment Program, though our routes to getting here are very different.
What people are reading
(Owen studied environmental policy in university, and after graduating, felt the best way to bring about better policy was to get involved directly. Camilla’s background and future career aspirations are in corporate environmental sustainability, but what she’s learning now will help her create the collaborations that are so critical to transitioning society towards a sustainable future.)
While new on the Hill, we’re quickly realizing that many of the factors that keep youth out of politics, like entry barriers and lack of representation, also helped create the climate crisis.
We’re learning first-hand that even MPs with the vision and ambition to drive environmental change face real obstacles in their path. These barriers aren’t going to break themselves down, which is one reason why our program holds an annual FLIP Summit (Future Leaders in Politics) — to shine a light on these barriers and help youth push back through a better understanding of these obstacles.
GreenPAC’s 2.0 FLIP Summit, held this past Saturday, dug into issues like the connections between our voting system and climate progress; how candidate nomination races can be untransparent and undemocratic; and how Indigenous solutions and the right to self-determination can get overlooked as climate policy gets made.
Opinion: By getting involved, youth can play a role in coming up with a better version of politics — one that stops excluding, disempowering and putting up walls against climate progress, write @CamillaStanley & @o_wilson99. #cdnpoli
We also heard from FLIP 2.0 speakers that the importance of youth involvement in politics cannot be overstated. Guest speaker Lisa Raitt, former deputy CPC leader, noted that it wasn’t the youngest party members who voted down the CPC’s resolution last year to acknowledge the reality of climate change — and that if more young people had been engaged, the outcome might have been different.
Alison Gu, Burnaby’s youngest ever city councillor (and alumna of our program), told attendees: Young people aren’t confined by the ways things have always been done.
By getting involved, youth can play a role in coming up with a better version of politics — one that stops excluding, disempowering and putting up walls against climate progress. As Amita Kuttner, interim leader of the Green Party of Canada told us after noting that change must come from the inside: “As a young person, as a queer person, as a trans person, as a racialized person, these systems were surely not built for me … so we change them. It is possible.”
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.