KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his “unity government” will mark its first year in power with a three-day celebration beginning today in a grand event that analysts said is meant to trumpet the ruling coalition’s achievements and ability to maintain political stability.
Anwar’s administration, comprising his Pakatan Harapan (PH) bloc and members of rival coalitions, was sworn in a year ago amid speculation that it might not last beyond the state elections held in August, but PH kept all three states it governed even if rival Perikatan Nasional (PN) made inroads.
Today, the PH chairman enjoys over two-thirds support in the Dewan Rakyat to give rivals little chance to mount a serious challenge. Just recently five Opposition lawmakers declared support for the prime minister that opponents claimed was the result of political coercion. Anwar has denied the allegation.
The celebration, to be held in and around Bukit Jalil National Stadium, will be a platform for Anwar to reaffirm his leadership and the legitimacy of his coalition government, analysts said.
“I guess the best message is perhaps that the prime minister has been able to lead a stable government, something we did not see during the last parliamentary term. The celebration is an important platform for the prime minister to at least keep the government’s supporters on its side,” said Adib Zalkapli, director at Bower Group Asia, a political risk consultancy.
“I think it’s significant for Anwar on several fronts; to send a message that despite challenges throughout the year, this administration is as stable as it gets, and will be here for at least one complete election cycle,” said Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, associate director at Vriens & Partners, also a risk consultancy.
Today, the PH chairman enjoys over two-thirds support in the Dewan Rakyat to give rivals little chance to mount a serious challenge. — Bernama pic
The three-day celebration also comes amid talks of growing public uneasiness about stalled reforms.
Anwar’s popularity rating dipped to just 50 per cent from a high of 68 per cent according to a poll by Merdeka Center released last month and a year after the PH chairman took office, which survey respondents blamed mostly on high prices of basic goods, ringgit’s continued slide and the lack of high-paying jobs.
However, the same poll also said that Anwar’s government was rated higher than the previous administration in efforts to rein in corruption in the country, with 37 per cent of respondents saying they were satisfied compared to the 32 per cent rating that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s government had ended with back in August 2021.
The Anwar government had said it would see through the scheduled rollback of subsidies for petrol and some food goods and redistribute them in a more “targeted” way, likely in phases starting next year. Subsidies have been the reason why prices of goods in the country have remained relatively low and the announcement has caused some concerns that it would drive up inflation.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Finance has also made it clear that it has no immediate desire to introduce additional taxes such as bringing back the goods and service tax (GST), preferring instead to focus first on plugging leakages and unnecessary spending.
There is also said to be disquiet among some PH supporters and sympathisers over what they perceive as the coalition backpedalling on key election pledges made during the 14th and 15th general elections, like imposing a term limit on the prime ministership, decoupling the attorney general’s power from the prosecution and guarantee equal development funding for all lawmakers.
Earlier this week, reform advocacy group CSO Platform for Reform, in its one-year government performance review, highlighted concerns regarding certain institutional reforms despite commending the Madani economic framework whose initiative aims to enhance transparency in managing public finances and fiscal risks, especially concerning revenue, expenditure, loans, and debt with the enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act in October.
Workers preparing an exhibit for the Madani government one year anniversary programme at the National Stadium Bukit Jalil, December 7, 2023. — Bernama pic
Anwar has played down the finding as nothing more than the view of a small minority, even if he had regularly cited polls from the think tank to criticise government leaders when he was the Opposition.
The three-day celebration this week will feature music performances and “perks” such as a job fair and discounts for traffic summons ostensibly to entice support. The climax will be on Sunday when Anwar is scheduled to deliver a speech at 2pm.
Analysts think there will be keen interest in the message of Anwar’s speech, and the PH chairman could likely address some of the concerns around his commitment to reform.
“It is undoubtedly a political show engineered towards providing Anwar a platform to flesh out a ‘state of the nation’ address,” said Shazwan.
“Realistically, there should be little reason to celebrate a one year in power; what would be good is if PMX pads this up with some details on how he plans to prioritise his next four years in power, and what the government’s immediate, mid and long-term priorities are,” he said, using Anwar's moniker.
Anwar was sworn in on November 24 last year, after managing to corral rivals Pakatan Harapan, Barisan Nasional, Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah to form a federal coalition government which has now been dubbed “unity government” or “Madani government” — in reference to the Madani concept he introduced to the public.
His Cabinet was subsequently sworn in on December 2, followed by a special meeting on December 5.
Malay Mail had in March this year recapped the notable achievement of his administration after 100 days in power.
Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and Malaysia’s newly appointed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim take part in the swearing-in ceremony at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, November 24, 2022. — AFP pic