Opinion | Malaysia’s ‘Dubai Move’ may have been a mirage, but no detente is in sight

Is there anything more quintessential of Malaysian politics these days than the weeks-long non-event dubbed “Langkah Dubai” (the “ Dubai Move”)? In the simplest version, key instigators were to have met in the Middle Eastern city over the year-end festivities to engineer a withdrawal of support for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim among enough MPs through statutory declarations to the king in his capacity as head of state.
The alleged plot, the story goes, had to be executed in time before Yang di Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah’s five-year tenure ends in January under Malaysia’s rotational constitutional monarchy system, as his incoming successor is seen as much less inclined to entertain such representations.

There were just enough tantalising details to get the political news junkies excited. Clandestine gatherings. Scheming conversations. Monarchical interventions. Politicians on holiday. Oh, the scandal.

Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah (left) and walks with his successor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar of Johor (right) the election for the country’s king at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur in October. Photo: EPA-EFE

Yet, nobody knows how much of this was true. It’s unclear exactly who was supposed to have been in Dubai, whether they actually met and if so, what the contents of their discussions were. It is equally ambiguous why, if any scheming by a handful of political elites was indeed happening, it could not happen at any time in Malaysia? Nor is it clear why the king would countenance such overtures to begin with.

The current parliamentary arithmetic also makes ousting the government extremely improbable, as the numbers simply do not stack up. In recent months, five opposition MPs have crossed over, in all but name, and openly declared support for Anwar. On paper at least, the government now has the backing of more than two-thirds of parliamentarians. Some may be reluctant, disgruntled or reflecting on their party position. But however caveated, the support of more than 150 out of 222 MPs must surely count for something.

This is especially true since the leadership of every party in government remains in Anwar’s corner, with no apparent incentive for change. The top brass of Umno, led by the deputy prime minister, has pretty much staked every ounce of personal and party reputation on the altar of Anwar. No question of loyalty there.

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

The relationship with Sarawak state’s GPS may be less of a love-in but the party is comfortable in this arrangement and understandably uninterested in rocking the boat while it extracts concessions from the federal government. Sabah-based parties that back Anwar’s administration have deep misgivings about the opposition. In any event, they also have too few MPs to instigate anything consequential on their own.

In short, there is no realistic path to a repeat of the infamous “ Sheraton Move” of February 2020 when the-then government’s majority imploded.

Hence, the significance of the “Dubai Move” lies not in whether it can amount to anything, but in understanding the intense, unending politicking that serves as its backdrop.

The opposition, despite improbable odds, were happy to have people speculate about plots, giving off the impression that something was brewing behind the scenes. Never mind that, so far, it has proven to be a big nothing; if it has the effect of destabilising and distracting the opponent, it serves a purpose.

Dubai. It’s unclear exactly who was supposed to have been in the Middle Eastern city, whether they actually met and if so, what the contents of their discussions were. Photo: Getty Images

For its part, the government was not absent on that same field of play. In fact, the term “Dubai Move” was coined and made into respectable news by its communications arm.

On the face of it, a government effectively lending credence to a story about its own potential downfall is strange, given how keen it is to attract foreign investments via the message of political stability. But there was a tug in the other direction, too. By projecting a sense of being under siege, it might hope to garner goodwill and have the public channel righteous outrage at an opposition it can paint as anti-democratic. If that relieves some public pressure on itself, all the better.

It seems that in a post-truth world, even a non-event can be variously fashioned to play to opposing interests.

Malaysia ex-minister Daim slams PM Anwar for ‘political witch-hunt’ over probe

There is no detente in sight. On both sides of the fence, the stakes remain very high for members of the political elite. Some are embroiled in corruption investigations, including Daim Zainuddin, a close ally of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. A 58-storey tower in Kuala Lumpur owned by Daim’s family was seized by authorities a few weeks ago.

In such a highly charged environment, is it any surprise that what prevails is a sense of perennial jeopardy – whether of political power or personal liberty – to say nothing of how one may relate to the other. Ergo, in a sense, the “Dubai Move” is just the latest expression of that jeopardy imperative writ large.

Many had hoped that the general elections in 2022 might bring a measure of calm after years of instability, backbiting and scheming by the political class. When those election results yielded a unity government, some might even have believed that the novelty of erstwhile foes coming together could augur a more magnanimous politics from all sides. A year on, most Malaysians have been emphatically disabused of such rosy presumptions.

Shahril Hamdan was the Information Chief and Deputy Youth Chief of Umno before his suspension from the party in January 2023. In his post-political career, he co-hosts a current affairs podcast “Keluar Sekejap” (“Out for the Moment”) alongside running a corporate advisory firm and his activities as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

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