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Anwar powerless to sideline Umno court cluster from Cabinet appointments, says analyst

Publish date: Tue, 29 Nov 2022, 07:34 PM

While the prime minister normally has the prerogative to appoint the members of his Cabinet, Anwar Ibrahim may find his hands tied due to agreements made with other parties in order to form the government, an analyst says.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said the current government was not a Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration but rather a coalition government which could not have come about without the support of other coalitions like Barisan Nasional (BN), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS). 

"Anwar cannot determine who will represent BN," he said. 

"If BN decides that Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should be deputy prime minister, Anwar will have to accept it. Otherwise, he will be accused of going back on their agreement." 

Anwar was sworn in as prime minister last week after gaining, among others, the support of BN and its 30 MPs. 

He later said that he would take all views into consideration before forming his team to help govern the country. 

Some, including electoral watchdog Bersih, have warned against the inclusion of individuals currently facing charges in court. 

"Bersih strongly objects to the appointment of any person who has an ongoing criminal case against him/her to any Cabinet position as they would raise doubts about the integrity of Anwar's government and tarnish the reputation of our country," Bersih said yesterday, adding that PH leaders such as Lim Guan Eng and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman should not be made part of the new Cabinet, either.

Zahid, who defended his Bagan Datuk seat with a slim majority of 348 votes, was recently freed of 40 corruption charges linked to the foreign visa system, a decision which prosecutors are applying against.

He also faces another 47 charges of criminal breach of trust related to charity foundation Yayasan Akalbudi. 

Lim, meanwhile, faces corruption charges over the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project, while Syed Saddiq has been told to enter his defence in a criminal breach of trust case worth RM1 million. 

Anwar recently said that individuals were innocent until proven guilty, responding to calls to exclude MPs facing corruption charges from his future Cabinet.

Speculation is rife that Zahid will be appointed as his deputy, as well as another MP to be nominated by GPS. 

Zahid aside, BN deputy chairman Mohamad Hasan, the MP for Rembau, has also been floated as a possibility. 

Mazlan said Anwar's reputation and that of his government would be affected to some extent if such a scenario came to pass. 

Nevertheless, he said, the matter of principles would have to take a back seat as the prime minister did not possess absolute power. 

"According to the PH manifesto, the coalition is against anyone with questions surrounding their integrity to be part of the government.

"But Anwar will have to set this aside and look at other matters in the manifesto that are suitable for implementation," he said. 

As Umno president, he said, Zahid was in a very strong position due to the pledges of commitment he had received from his MPs which gave him the mandate to determine who BN would nominate for Cabinet appointments. 

"If the president wants to put himself forth as deputy prime minister, who will be brave enough to stand up to him?" he added. 

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