Umno's threat last night to leave the ruling PN coalition, just hours after Anwar Ibrahim's press conference on his audience with the Agong in the morning, beg the question: Does Muhyiddin still have the numbers?
Puchong, 14 Oct 2020: When some people learned that Anwar, during his audience with the Yang DiPertuan Agong, did not furnish the King with the list of MPs backing him for PM-ship, they smacked their foreheads and cursed out loud in disbelief, just as they would when a striker misses a sitter. Well, that's the beauty of the Malay political intrigue, it's never a straight shot at the goal. Like a Bollywood movie, there must be song and dance. Lots of it.
And so, if you thought Anwar's political career had ended at the Istana yesterday, you're disappointed. The dude is still standing, his claim of over 120 MPs backing him is still in play. The King, I was told, has received letters of support for Anwar from the party leaders (except him, of course, and Shafie Afdal apparently needs more time to get over his crushing election defeat that has put paid to his own dream to become PM).
An Anwar loyalist, once upon a time
The timing of Umno's move is most uncanny, to say the least. Let's admit it, there is no way it was a coincidence. Now, if the party pulls out of PN, that loose ruling coalition of BN-Umno, PAS and Sarawak parties led by the Muhyiddin's Bersatu, the Prime Minister's position would become extremely vulnerable. Many accused Umno of taking advantage of Abah Din in his most vulnerable hour.
A Reformasi hardcore saw it differently: "It means that Umno is still with us (Anwar)."
To be honest, I still don't know if that's for real or imagined. But what's real, an Umno veteran told me, is the party's anger towards Muhyiddin. "Sabah was the last straw. Muhyiddin has taken us for a ride too many times, Rocky. We had to make a decision," he said.
With Umno withdrawing its support for Muhyiddin, Anwar's numbers 'game', therefore, is far from over. The ball is now in the King's court. The YDPA will be meeting the heads of the other political parties to try and ascertain their support for Anwar.
The King will eventually summon the Prime Minister for an audience. All Muhyiddin needs to do is to convince the King that he still has the numbers. No need for dance and song, just the list of MPs still supporting him as PM. But does he still have it now?