This was something that Malaysia Today revealed months ago and since then we have been waiting for this day to arrive.
When Selangor Menteri Besar (MB) Azmin Ali announced that he agreed with Mahathir Mohamad that BR1M tantamount to bribery and corruption or ‘rasuah’ – contradicting what PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said: that BR1M was not rasuah – that, basically, was the official launch of Azmin’s move to take over the party presidency.
Azmin had actually met Mahathir in London 22 months ago in February 2015 soon after the ANC (Anti-Najib Campaign) was launched and the purpose of that meeting was to form an alliance so that the anti-Najib group or ‘Team B’ in Umno can unite with the opposition to try to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak from office.
But there was one snag, though.
One of the terms that PKR set for the alliance to happen was that Anwar Ibrahim’s pardon and release from jail has to be part of that deal.
Mahathir, however, disagreed.
Anwar must not be part of the deal because he was not the old man’s choice of candidate for prime minister (PM) in the event Najib was successfully ousted.
Azmin has waited 19 years so it is time for him to take over from the lame-duck Wan Azizah
In the beginning Mahathir wanted an Umno leader to take over from Najib.
If Anwar takes over from Najib then the former either has to rejoin Umno, which is never going to happen and which is also not part of Mahathir’s plan, or Umno would have to be kicked out and Pakatan Harapan takes over the government, which can only happen during the next general election if it is ever going to happen.
This was not what Mahathir wanted.
What he wanted is a repeat of what happened in 2009 when Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi resigned to make way from Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Najib.
Now he wants Najib to resign to make way for DPM Muhyiddin Yassin.
Muhyiddin would then need to appoint a new DPM, and this is where Mukhriz Mahathir comes in.
It was a simple succession plan that ultimately involved Mahathir’s son as next-in-line.
In short, Muhyiddin would be Malaysia’s Goh Chok Tong and Mukhriz Malaysia’s General Lee Hsien Loong – and Mahathir, of course, Malaysia’s Lee Kuan Yew.
All that, however, was 22 months ago and since then many things have happened.
The last two years of 2015 and 2016 have been more eventful than the last ten years from 2006 to 2016 when Mahathir launched his Anti-Abdullah Campaign meant to oust Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as PM as payback because Khairy Jamaluddin was blocking Mukhriz’s rise to power.
Yes, the target was actually Khairy but the only way Khairy could be killed off would be to first oust his father-in-law, PM Abdullah.
However, Mukhriz still lost the party contest in 2009 and then again in 2013.
In spite of the ‘baggage’ that Khairy was carrying and the advantage that Mukhriz had, being the son of Mahathir still did not help him get ahead.
This was when Mahathir realised that killing off Khairy alone was not enough.
Najib must also be killed off and replaced with a new PM who can guarantee Mahathir that his son was next-in-line as PM of Malaysia.
That was Game-Plan 2015, though, when Mahathir was still in Umno and Mukhriz was still Kedah MB.
But all that changed in 2016 when Mukhriz was removed as the Kedah MB and Mahathir sulked and resigned from Umno, as Najib knew all along he would.
That was the reason why Mukhriz was removed as MB.
Najib knew that Mahathir would sulk and resign from Umno and that must first happen before Lim Kit Siang and Pakatan Harapan would agree to do any deals with the old man.
If Mahathir remained in Umno, the opposition, especially DAP, would not touch him.
While Kit Siang and DAP had no qualms about dealing with Mahathir, PKR, however, did not feel the same way.
Anwar and his inner circle had no problems if they could use Mahathir to oust Najib and/or Umno.
But to allow Mahathir to take over from Anwar as the de facto opposition leader and Mukhriz to take over as Pakatan Harapan’s PM-designate is another thing altogether.
Mahathir knew that Anwar was going to be a problem.
After all, in February 2015 Mahathir did tell Azmin that he does not agree to a pardon for Anwar.
If Anwar was not pardoned and released from jail that means his political career was finished for good and he would never going to become Malaysia’s PM.
The issue is simple: if Anwar becomes PM then Mukhriz is never going to become PM and if Anwar does not become PM then Mukhriz has a chance of becoming PM.
So Anwar needs to be neutralised.
For that to happen Wan Azizah needs to be ousted as the PKR president.
The only PKR leader who can come close to being able to oust Wan Azizah is Azmin.
So Mahathir needs to work with Azmin to oust Wan Azizah so that Anwar loses his place in Pakatan Harapan and Mukhriz can become the opposition’s new PM-designate.
Mahathir wanted Azmin to make his move last year but he did not dare because the pro-Anwar sentiment was still very strong.
It really did not matter what PKR wanted because Azmin’s support in PKR was pretty strong and he could out-vote Wan Azizah easily.
It was Lim Kit Siang and DAP that Azmin was worried about.
DAP decides what happens in the opposition and, to start off with, DAP wanted Wan Azizah and not Azmin as the Selangor MB.
So it is crucial that DAP was on the same page and until and unless that happens, Azmin has to play it cool and not make his move yet.
Then, on Dec 3, 2016, when Mahathir and Kit Siang struck a deal whereby Mukhriz would be PM and Kit Siang DPM in the event Pakatan Harapan wins the next general election (GE14).
Azmin knew that Anwar was finished and it was now time for him to make his move on Wan Azizah and take over as PKR’s president.
Wan Azizah, of course, also knows this in spite of many calling her a scatter brain.
So when Mahathir said that BR1M tantamount to bribery and corruption or rasuah, Wan Azizah contradicted him.
That was her first signal that she is not entirely on the same page with Mahathir (in case no one noticed that Wan Azizah walked off when Mahathir visited Anwar in court on Sep 5, 2016).
Azmin, on the other hand, contradicted Wan Azizah by agreeing with what Mahathir said.
That, too, was Azmin’s first signal that he was on the same page with Mahathir and was opposed to Wan Azizah.
No doubt Azmin does not really believe that BR1M tantamount to bribery and corruption or rasuah.
After all, Selangor, too, has many welfare or aid programmes that were costing the state billions every year.
But this is not about what was true or false.
This is about demonstrating support for Mahathir and opposition to Wan Azizah.
These may appear as trivial issues but in politics it was the trivial issues that would bring down the fort.
Azmin knows that Anwar was a lost cause.
Kit Siang has agreed that Pakatan Harapan drop Anwar as PM-designate and replace him with Mukhriz.
In that same breath that means Wan Azizah, too, is finished and it is time for Azmin to make his move.
It is crucial that Wan Azizah was seen as not on the same page and an obstacle to Pakatan Harapan’s desire to march into Putrajaya.
After yesterday’s statement on BR1M, expect many more moves and statements to isolate Wan Azizah even further.
A clear demarcation has to be created with Mahathir and Kit Siang on one side and Wan Azizah and Anwar on the opposite.
Azmin, of course, will be on the Mahathir-Kit Siang side of the fence.
While Azmin is going with the flow, Wan Azizah is swimming against the current.
That makes her a sitting duck and ripe for the slaughter.
In this zero-sum game, a loss for Wan Azizah is a gain for Azmin – and a loss for Wan Azizah, also means a loss for Anwar and a gain for Mukhriz.
Kit Siang is okay with either Mukhriz or Anwar as PM because either way he was going to become PM anyway.
Currently, however, the Mukhriz route appears the best because that would ensure support from Mahathir and Pribumi plus from the stronger Azmin faction in PKR.