‘Political factor was crucial’

Appeasing parties determined Cabinet line-up, say analysts

Tarrence Tan and Ragananthani Vethasalam

Tarrence Tan and Ragananthani Vethasalam

The Star


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December 5, 2022

PETALING JAYA – A wide range of views has emerged on the Cabinet line-up but most analysts agree on one thing – it reflects the current political set-up and the need to appease all the parties involved.

“I think it does reflect the strength and number of seats that each party has,” said senior fellow from Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research, Dr Azmi Hassan.

He described the appointments as “fair”, adding that they were made in tandem with the ratio of parliamentary seats held by each party.

The main factor in determining the line-up of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Cabinet was the need to please the political parties involved, he added.

This, he said, was to ensure that Anwar would have the support of the parties in the unity government.

“The political factor was crucial in determining the Cabinet appointments,” he added.

Azmi said the ministerial appointments might not please everyone.

DAP, he noted, has been relatively quiet since the Cabinet list was unveiled.

“I would understand why – they (Pakatan Harapan) needed to appease Barisan Nasional and thwart the advance of PAS,” he said.

The 28-member Cabinet includes 15 Pakatan ministers comprising four from DAP, eight from PKR, two from Amanah and one from Upko.

There are six Barisan Nasional ministers, five from Gabungan Parti Sarawak, one from Gabungan Rakyat Sabah and one without a political party – Datuk Mohd Na’im Mokhtar, a Syariah court chief judge who was appointed Religious Affairs Minister.

Presently, Anwar has the support of Pakatan’s 82 MPs, Barisan (30 MPs), GPS (23), GRS (six), Warisan (three), Muda (one), KDM (one), Parti Bangsa Malaysia (one) and two independent MPs.

International Islamic University Malaysia’s Dr Tunku Mohar Tunku Mohd Mokhtar said the Cabinet line-up was a result of negotiations between the Prime Minister and the component coalitions of the unity government.

“It reflects the proportionality of the components and party hierarchies,” he said.

He added that parties such as Muda and Warisan were not given ministerial positions, “but I think they would not protest about it”.

However, Tunku Mohar noted that Barisan chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s appointment as Deputy Prime Minister had compromised Pakatan’s pledge for good governance.

Ahmad Zahid is facing 47 charges involving criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering.

Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Azmil Mohd Tayeb said the Cabinet was one which Anwar could cobble up based on the current political arrangement.

“It’s much slimmer and appeases almost everyone,” he said.

However, he was of the view that Anwar should not have assumed the Finance Minister’s post.

The last prime minister to hold both portfolios was Datuk Seri Najib Razak from 2008 to 2018.

Back then, this had come under criticism with Pakatan pledging in its 2018 general election manifesto that the prime minister would not hold the finance portfolio.Azmil also had reservations about the appointment of Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz (International Trade and Industry Minister).

“I don’t think it is a good idea, while excluding someone like Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad,” he said.

Dr Dzulkefly, the health minister in the Pakatan-led administration from 2018 to 2020, had defeated Tengku Zafrul in the battle for the Kuala Selangor seat.

Political analyst Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said the Cabinet appointments could appease those supporting the unity government “for a while, perhaps”.

He said the political parties would be “temporarily satisfied” with their allocated representation in the Cabinet.

“But politics nowadays is so fluid that anything could change rapidly,” he added.

Oh, however, conceded that the ministerial appointments reflected the proportion of the various parties in the administration.

“It is, in essence, a coalition government,” he added.

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