Verdict in Zahid Hamidi case puts the cat among the pigeons

Yesterday, the supporters hated corruption. But today they worry about the rise of Perikatan, notes the writer


September 11, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – SO, you’re a Pakatan Harapan supporter angry with Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s DNAA (discharge not amounting to an acquittal) verdict for his court cases. What choices do you have?

A) Continue supporting Pakatan because you fear Perikatan Nasional taking over the Federal Government.

“Do you want PAS in power?” is how some Pakatan supporters rationalise their continued support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government even though they are upset with the Attorney General for halting proceedings against the Umno president in all 47 graft charges involving Yayasan Akalbudi funds he had faced.

Supposedly, the supporters hated corruption and bought into the Pakatan’s campaign about how a vote for it was a vote to put Ahmad Zahid in jail. But after the 15th General Election (GE15) in 2022, these supporters feared Perikatan Nasional – ie Islamist party PAS which dominates the coalition – more than they hated graft, it seems, as they gritted their teeth and continued supporting Anwar even as he tied Pakatan and Umno together.

For the Pakatan supporters who are unbothered by the DNAA, they understand the realpolitik of a sitting Deputy Prime Minister not going to jail (even if found guilty).

Also, they are practical: Their enemies are not permanent, nor are the issues, such as corruption, that they care about.

Yesterday, Ahmad Zahid was the enemy, while today, he and the 29 other Barisan Nasional MPs are the crucial foundation for the unity government’s stability. Yesterday, the supporters hated corruption, while today, they have bigger worries, such as the rise of Perikatan, which is making inroads in Pakatan’s stronghold states of Penang and Selangor.

They argue that it is a choice of who is the lesser evil. The interesting thing about this argument is the “lesser evil” is still “evil” but just “lesser”.

We rakyat, too, can be judge and jury. We decide who is guilty and innocent even before the court decides. For example, the Pakatan crowd rejoiced when the Attorney General dropped corruption charges in previous Finance minister and DAP stalwart Lim Guan Eng’s bungalow corruption case.

B) Boycott a by-election (there’s one coming up for the Pelangai state seat in Pahang) or GE16.

But would Pakatan supporters risk not turning up to vote? Because a low voter turnout in any by-election and future general election could result in Perikatan winning a seat in a Pakatan stronghold area, as seen in the recent Selangor state polls.

It will be a hard decision for these supporters. Yesterday’s Pulai parliamentary and Simpang Jeram state by-elections will indicate whether Pakatan voters were willing to lose a seat to show their unhappiness with Zahid’s DNAA.

C) Vote for Perikatan.

At this stage, it is difficult to foresee this scenario. Perikatan is the bogeyman for most Pakatan supporters.

Yesterday, Datuk Dr Dominic Lau, president of Gerakan – which is part of the Perikatan coalition together with PAS, Bersatu and the Sabah Progressive Party – told the media that Pakatan and DAP were good at “convincing the Chinese and Indians”.

“… to the extent that the communities think that if they vote for Perikatan Nasional, they cannot drink alcohol or consume pork, but this is not true – just look at Kelantan and Terengganu, there are no obstructions for the non-Muslims to do those things,” he said (“Gerakan charting out focus seats for GE16, says Lau”, The Star, Sept 9; online at

His argument, however, is too simplistic as Perikatan is spooking non-Malays with its 2R (religion and race) rhetoric.

D) Vote for the deer sandwiched between two elephants.

In Peninsular Malaysia, the voters mostly choose between two elephants (coalitions): Perikatan or Pakatan-Barisan. Based on the six state polls recently, the deer, ie Muda and PSM, lost their deposits trying to fight the two elephants.

Almost all the MPs in the unity government, except for Muda president and Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim of PKR, have not questioned Ahmad Zahid’s DNAA.

Most of the usual suspects would have made noise if they were in the Opposition and the Attorney General under an Umno government halted Ahmad Zahid’s graft cases. Now, these politicians are silent, unlike when they campaigned during GE15, when voters were told they would put the Umno president in jail if Pakatan came into power.

However, it’s interesting to note that most comments made in reaction to articles reporting Syed Saddiq’s opinions – such as “DAP has become Zahid’s ‘lapdog’” – are hostile towards the Muar MP. The Muda president has said that “the biggest red line [was] crossed” after Ahmad Zahid’s DNAA verdict, and the commentators have reacted by whacking him for being former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir’s lapdog.

But I have also seen a small number of commentators saying it is time to give Muda a chance as they are fed up with the decision to release Ahmad Zahid the from the graft charges.

PSM looks like a decent party with decent leaders, and yet the voters keep rejecting it at the ballot boxes as the big fight in Peninsular Malaysia is between the two elephants.

On the Borneo side of Malaysia, Sabahans and Sarawakians at least have a choice other than Perikatan or Pakatan-Barisan.

In Sarawak, it is either Pakatan or Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS). In GE15, Barisan did not contest in the state out of respect for its ally GPS. Perikatan did win a seat in Sarawak, but that was due to the personal popularity of its candidate, Datuk Ali Biju, the Seratok incumbent.

In Sabah, politics is more fragmented. The choice is Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), Barisan, Pakatan, Warisan or Perikatan. And who will ally with who is still fluid.

E) Push for a political reset in which the PM is from GPS (23 MPs) or GRS (six MPs).

Some have given up on the endless politicking in the country. They suggest the ultimate unity government – which should include the 72 Perikatan MPs representing Malay majority seats – should have a Borneon prime minister.

If you are a Pakatan supporter, tell us which is your choice: A, B, C, D, or E? Or none of the above?

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