Opinion | ‘Dubai Move’ a sign Malaysia’s politics set for another wild ride in 2024

There’s rarely a dull moment in Malaysia’s political arena, with the country spending these first few weeks of 2024 preoccupied with talk of a purported coup and other political machinations, while local media was filled with headlines about the nation’s favourite pastime: speculating on corruption.
While Malaysians were still recovering from their New Year’s hangovers, social media was already flush with accusations, denials and armchair assessments about how long Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration could stay in power after allegations emerged about the so-called Dubai Move to topple the government.
The accusation – first made public by a senior official in Malaysia’s community communications department, otherwise known as J-Kom – is that a group of senior opposition leaders held a meeting with at least two government MPs in Dubai to discuss plans to bribe pliable backbenchers to defect and bring down Anwar’s administration.

Weak Malay support, ‘Dubai Move’ rumours continue to plague Malaysia’s Anwar

The Perikatan Nasional (PN) opposition bloc, along with two senior government MPs said to be co-conspirators, denied there was ever such a plot. PN leaders, however, swiftly added that there was nothing unconstitutional about bringing down a government by way of parliamentary numbers.

The whole situation feels a lot like a tired retread of the politically fluid pandemic years, which saw unprecedented midterm changes to the prime minister not once, but twice, before the 2022 general election.

It started with 2020’s “Sheraton Move”, in which a group of MPs caused the downfall of the Pakatan Harapan coalition government by switching parties, only for the following PN administration to collapse in 2021 due to even more political instability and shifting allegiances.

Then, earlier this week, deputy prime minister and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was rumoured to have flown to Sabah state in Malaysian Borneo to mediate over internal bickering between leaders of his party’s state chapter, amid rumblings that a state election could be called later this year, well ahead of the 2025 deadline.
Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in September 2023. Photo: AFP

The rumours stemmed from a December 14 meeting between Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin and Warisan president and former chief minister Mohd Shafie Apdal, who are said to be planning to work together in the next state polls to clear out the current local government led by Hajiji Noor.

Hajiji, who won Sabah in a 2020 state election as a member of Bersatu – a key party in the PN bloc – formed an ad hoc coalition called Gabungan Rakyat Sabah after the 2022 general election and declared his support for Anwar’s government, depriving his former allies of the numbers needed to take control of the 222-seat parliament and the right to the prime minister’s post.

Ahmad Zahid denied there was any squabbling, telling local media he was there on a working visit, though he also held a meeting with leaders from Sabah Umno and other friendly parties.

Amid all of this political cacophony, anti-corruption officials have begun hauling up Anwar’s political opponents for questioning over alleged corruption.

Malaysia targeting ex-finance minister Daim because of his ‘success’, wife says

The most recent high-profile target is political veteran and former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, seen as a close associate of Anwar’s mentor-turned-nemesis Mahathir Mohamad.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission last month seized control of a Kuala Lumpur skyscraper linked to Daim’s family, and earlier this week called in his wife and two sons for questioning as part of their probe into Daim’s alleged wealth traced by the Pandora Papers released in 2021.

Others summoned for questioning over separate corruption cases include Umno leader and former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, the acerbic chief minister of Kedah state and a senior leader with the Islamist Parti Islam Se-Malaysia.

Anwar’s rivals have claimed political persecution, something that he himself had alleged when he faced criminal probes and jail time while leading the opposition.

While it remains too early to say where all this is going, it does look like we can expect another wild ride on Malaysia’s political roller coaster this year.

Joseph Sipalan is a correspondent at the Post’s Asia desk.

This article was originally published by a amp.scmp.com . Read the Original article here. .